O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge;
save me from all my pursuers and deliver me,
lest like a lion they tear my soul apart,
rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.
O Lord my God, if I have done this,
if there is wrong in my hands,
if I have repaid my friend with evil
or plundered my enemy without cause,
let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it,
and let him trample my life to the ground
and lay my glory in the dust. Selah
Arise, O Lord, in your anger;
lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies;
awake for me; you have appointed a judgment.
Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you;
over it return on high.
The Lord judges the peoples;
judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me.
Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end,
and may you establish the righteous—
you who test the minds and hearts,
O righteous God!
My shield is with God,
who saves the upright in heart.
God is a righteous judge,
and a God who feels indignation every day.
If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword;
he has bent and readied his bow;
he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts.
Behold, the wicked man conceives evil
and is pregnant with mischief
and gives birth to lies.
He makes a pit, digging it out,
and falls into the hole that he has made.
His mischief returns upon his own head,
and on his own skull his violence descends.
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 pleads for safety from his accuser. Saul sought to destroy David. He sought to destroy David’s property, life, and reputation. David was unjustly accused. David points out how injustice concerns God’s glory. God executes judgment against the ungodly. Then David reflects on the goodness of God. This inspires him and bolsters his confidence. Once his spirit has been encouraged he derides his enemy’s folly and vain attempts to destroy him. David relies on God’s character. That is all he needs.
David boldly asks God to examine his deeds. He says if I have done wrong then let my enemies destroy me. David knows God’s character. He knows that God hates injustice and will not let it stand. David is counting on the steadfastness of God.
How can David make such a bold request of God? Does David really believe he is so righteous as to withstand the examination of a pure and righteous God? The answer lies in the last stanza of the psalm. David points out what will happen if a man does not repent. If a man does not repent, he will die. He will receive justice. By implication, if a man repents, the opposite occurs. He lives. He is made righteous.
David concludes with thanksgiving to the Lord. Why? Saul is still after him. Saul is still trying to kill him and destroy his reputation. The situation has not changed. However, David knows the God’s character. David knows God is just. David trusts in God’s righteousness.
As we attempt apply this scripture, it is natural to see ourselves as David. We have all suffered injustice. However, David is repeatedly shown as an archetype of Christ in scripture. Do you really want a Holy God to exam you? Do you really want to pray, “:…if there is wrong in my hands, if I have repaid my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause, let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust.” We have all done wrong, repaid with evil, and harmed our enemies without cause. As a natural man that prayer is not only dangerous, it is downright foolish.
The fact that God is a just God ought to scare us to death. We have sinned against God. A creator who has given us all we have. We draw our next breath only by His mercy. Yet we have rejected His goodness. God’s justice requires Him to destroy us because we have all done evil. It may be more proper to see this psalm with us in the role of accuser not accused.
Our relief can be found in Paul’s words, “But God….” But God has fulfilled the requirement for justice by taking the punishment Himself. Christ died as a punishment for our sin. Therefore, like David, the only safe place for us is in God. We have been granted a righteousness that is not our own. It belongs to Christ. We have been cloaked with Christ’s righteousness.
Once we have Christ’s righteousness we can say with confidence, “Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness.” We can pray that with confidence because our righteousness is not our own. It is Christ’s. Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us.