This Psalm speaks unambiguously about God’s wrath. I can easily imagine many people therefore turning away. If you fear God then I beg you to read, pray and trust that this too is in God’s Word for your best good.
O Lord my God, in thee do I take refuge;
save me from all my pursuers, and deliver me,
lest like a lion they rend me,
dragging me away, with none to rescue.
David opens by admitting his sense of helplessness in the face of ravenous enemies who appear to be both powerful and skillful.
O Lord my God, if I have done this,
if there is wrong in my hands,
if I have requited my friend with evil
or plundered my enemy without cause,
let the enemy pursue me and overtake me,
and let him trample my life to the ground,
and lay my soul in the dust. Selah
Here David in effect confesses that he is a fallible man, capable of self-deception. Although he is convinced of his righteousness in this situation he yet places himself in God’s hands. For only God can judge rightly. Note also that David is willing to accept God’s judgement even if it goes against him. This is what it looks like to truly trust God. Are we willing to place ourselves in God’s hands regardless of the outcome? This is in fact where we sit regardless of our belief. Perhaps we would more carefully search our consciences and more honestly confess our sins were this our attitude towards the Most High God.
Arise, O Lord, in thy anger,
lift thyself up against the fury of my enemies;
awake, O my God; thou hast appointed a judgment.
Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about thee;
and over it take thy seat on high.
The Lord judges the peoples;
judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me.
David yet dares to call upon God’s wrath against his enemies. Although he asks God to judge himself according to his righteousness, he is confident that his enemies have earned God’s punishment. Although his enemies appear to be invincible by worldly means, they are powerless to withstand God’s justice.
O let the evil of the wicked come to an end,
but establish thou the righteous,
thou who triest the minds and hearts,
thou righteous God.
My shield is with God,
who saves the upright in heart.
God is a righteous judge,
and a God who has indignation every day.
Although I have never been physically threatened my good name and livelihood have been repeatedly assaulted by persecutors. I am certain that in all of these cases I was not blameless for the situation. However, I yet considered myself to be generally in the right.
How can a frail, fallen man dare to judge himself to be on the whole righteous in a specific situation? Here are some questions that I have used to gain insight.
- What actions in word or deed might I have taken to cause this situation?
- What were my motivations throughout the events that precipitated the situation?
- Once the situation was upon me, are my thoughts focused on the seeking of a resolution and/or defense against unwarranted attack? Or, are they focused on the personal and/or professional destruction of my adversaries?
- When the crisis has passed, is my goal restoration and forgiveness or am I harboring anger and looking for a means of future attack to “level the scales of justice?”
If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword;
he has bent and strung his bow;
he has prepared his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts.
This is a straightforward and clear statement about God’s wrath. No one who has trustingly, comprehensively and honestly read the Bible can doubt that this passage describes a real and fearful aspect of God’s character. But, since the Bible is so ofter read with skepticism, selectivity and dishonesty, there exists a huge segment of believers (let alone nonbelievers) who don’t know or meditate upon it. Great danger to our souls is the result.
Behold, the wicked man conceives evil,
and is pregnant with mischief,
and brings forth lies.
He makes a pit, digging it out,
and falls into the hole which he has made.
His mischief returns upon his own head,
and on his own pate his violence descends.
The wicked become ever more consumed by the evil they have welcomed into their lives. They spend massive time planning how they can destroy their adversaries. They ever more easily and completely justify lies to obtain their corrupt ends.
But hatred and arrogance blinds them to the utter self-destructiveness of their path. Yes, they may prosper for a time. Yes, many may appear to escape judgement in this world. But they have raised Hell itself into their minds and souls. Their every waking moment becomes consumed by the scheming necessary to maintain massive card-houses of lies and fortresses of good appearances. They grow more hateful with time. No success is sufficient, no setback causes self-reflection. They live in a self-made Hell on earth and then face their Maker unclothed by Christ’s perfect grace and righteousness. Yes, they are to be resisted and defeated. But even more they are to be pitied.
I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness,
and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.
David ends with his eyes firmly fixed upon God. For He is the ultimate source of righteousness. It is He alone who deserves our worship. It is in Him alone that we must find our help and hope in this fallen world.
Praise be to God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit now and forever more!