To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
It is not clear when David wrote this psalm. But from the tenor of it, it appears to have been written while David was fleeing from Saul and in exile. David was clearly in distress and suffered a series of setbacks. Yet, even though he was under a heavy burden, stressed and concerned for his life, he calls to the Lord. He does not submit to the strain and pressure that Saul has put him under. Even while he was pursued, he had hope in God.
David pleads twice to be heard by God, “Answer me when I call” and “hear my prayer.” This indicates the extent of David’s grief and the earnestness of his prayer. David knows that he will only be heard by the graciousness of God. “Be gracious to me.” So too, when we pray and ask for anything from God we ask according to His mercy and grace. He refers to God as “God of my righteousness.” With this praise David sets God in contrast to the whole world.
David then addresses is enemies. Again showing his anguish he asks, how long will his enemies continue in trying to destroy him. But then immediately reflects back on his hope in the Lord. “The Lord has set apart the godly for himself.” David trusts the Lord to deliver him from his enemies. “The Lord hears when I call Him.” We too need to remember that our hope is in the Lord and that the Lord hears us when we cry out to Him.
The result of David’s pray was a resurgence of David’s courage. The fact of the matter is that since God was defending David, it was lunacy for men to think they could destroy him. David was being slandered. Yet God was defending him. David addresses his enemies as “O men.” He addresses God as, “O God of my righteousness.” The contrast is dramatic. It is as if he is saying to his enemies, “You pitiful, pitiful things. You are just men up against an all-powerful God.”
God had shown Himself to be David’s defender. But yet David’s enemies were determined to disgrace him. So David asks, how long will you continue in this madness? He asks how long will they love vain words? The sinner loves vanity even when it defies God and perhaps because it defies God.
David goes on and says that God has set apart those who are His. God will never withhold His assistance from those who belong to Him. Therefore, we should never be afraid that our efforts are in vain so long as we are in His will.
David then exhorts his enemies to repent. Rather than pouring out their anger against him or others they should look inward and take an assessment of themselves. By doing this they will abstain from sin. The best remedy to cure their rage is and prevent them from further sin would be to wake up from their laziness and begin to fear God. When they placed their head on their pillow at night and as they awoke in the morning, David asks that his enemies pause and ponder their condition and how they were fighting against a righteous God.
David asks his enemies to give a right sacrifice. David’s enemies said he was the corrupt one. It was David who was outside the will of God. After all Saul and the rest of David’s enemies had Ark of the Covenant. They had free access to the temple. They were making sacrifices to God. But David denies that God is pacified by mere outward ceremonies, since God requires pure sacrifices. Implied here is the contrast between pure sacrifices and those vain spiritual rituals performed by counterfeit worshipers.
David next seems to turn to not his enemies but those who are following him. “There are many who say…” They appear to grow tired of the chase. They long to go home. They are asking for some physical, tangible evidence that God is with them. David in this seems to imply that they are fools. They want prosperity rather than seeking the favor of God. Even though they were on the correct side they were not part of the Kingdom of God.
David’s delight is in the Lord. He is not envious of his enemy’s wealth or the pleasure they enjoy. Rather David is content with his own lot. He would much rather have the favors of the Lord than all the pleasures of his enemies. In fact, he rejoiced more with the favor of God than other men do with all their earthly goods.
As with many psalms this one concludes in stark contrast to the way it began. It began with David begging God for an answer, “How long?!” He concludes, by stating, that he is protected by God’s power. He is enjoying the security and quiet as if he had been defended by all the garrisons on earth. Nothing has changed in an earthly sense from the beginning of the Psalm until the end. But from a spiritual sense much has changed. David has spent time with God. He has reflected on the power, and promises of God. As a result, he can now be at peace.
That is the lesson of this Psalm. We need to reflect on the power and promises of God. Only then can we be at peace.