PSALM 59 Deliver Me, O God! part 1

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Tom Lowe

PSALM 59

Title: Deliver Me, O God! part 1
(To the choirmaster; Altaschith{2], a Michtam of David, according to Due Not Destroy, when Saul sent men to watch his house in order to kill him.)

Theme: An imprecatory prayer against the enemy

Psalm 59 (KJV)

1 Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God: defend me from them that rise up against me.
2 Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloody men.
3 For, lo, they lie in wait for my soul: the mighty are gathered against me; not for my transgression, nor for my sin, O Lord.
4 They run and prepare themselves without my fault: awake to help me, and behold.
5 Thou therefore, O Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, awake to visit all the heathen: be not merciful to any wicked transgressors. Selah.
6 They return at evening: they make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city.
7 Behold, they belch out with their mouth: swords are in their lips: for who, say they, doth hear?
8 But thou, O Lord, shalt laugh at them; thou shalt have all the heathen in derision.
9 Because of his strength will I wait upon thee: for God is my defence.
10 The God of my mercy shall prevent me: God shall let me see my desire upon mine enemies.
11 Slay them not, lest my people forget: scatter them by thy power; and bring them down, O Lord our shield.
12 For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips let them even be taken in their pride: and for cursing and lying which they speak.
13 Consume them in wrath, consume them, that they may not be: and let them know that God ruleth in Jacob unto the ends of the earth. Selah.
14 And at evening let them return; and let them make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city.
15 Let them wander up and down for meat, and grudge if they be not satisfied.
16 But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble.
17 Unto thee, O my strength, will I sing: for God is my defence, and the God of my mercy.

Introduction

King Saul kept some “dogs” around his palace—mean and savage men. More than once he had turned them loose on David. This psalm is about one such occasion.

Critics disagree over the date and occasion of the psalm, but the caption at its head serves our purpose well enough: “Michtam of David; when Saul sent, and they watched the house to kill him.” That takes us back to the early history of David. If the psalm was written at the time suggested by the caption, then it must have been one of the earliest that came from David’s pen. It is a michtam psalm, one to be engraved in the mind and memory, in the heart and life.

This psalm has a footnote which reads: “To the chief Musician upon Shushan-eduth,” which tells us that it was handed over by David for use by the temple choir and marked for special use in connection with the spring festivities, that is, the Passover. The word “Shushan” means “flowers” or “lilies” which bloom in the spring. The word eduth means “testimony” or “witness.” This psalm is evidently intended to bear a testimony to the goodness of God in preserving His persecuted saint.

Commentary

1 Deliver me from mine enemies, O my God: defend me from them that rise up against me.
2 Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloody men.

Saul had been elected king of Israel by popular vote; he had been the people’s choice because he was tall and outwardly imposing. But Saul had failed wretchedly, the Spirit of God had departed from him, and he was tormented now by evil spirits which twisted the cords of his heart into knots. Under their evil influence, depressing moods seized the king. His court and advisors thought that music would help to prevent his deep depression and demoralizing spirit, which infected with fear and dread, everyone with whom he came into contact. Inquiries were made, and David was hired to sing to the king and soothe his troubled soul with music on his harp. So far, so good.

But then came the Philistine invasion led by Goliath of Gath and Saul had more serious and demanding matters on his mind. David went back to the family farm. For a month and a half Goliath held the Israeli army pinned down in terror while he made a public mockery of both the Hebrews and their God. Then David returned, slew Goliath, and the love Saul once showed for his handsome musician turned into suspicion and envy. Again and again he eyed David and sought to slay him. He flung a javelin at him; he tried to get David killed in battle with the Philistines; he married his younger daughter to him in the hope that she might be a snare to him. He summoned his son Jonathan and his servants and issued orders that they were to kill David. At length Jonathan’s intercession for David prevailed and David was recalled to court. For a while all went well, but then there was a fresh outbreak of hostilities with the Philistines and again David distinguished himself. Saul enraged by jealous hate, flung another javelin at David. David fled to his home and confided in Michal, his wife and Saul’s daughter, that he was in terrible danger. Saul, meantime, had unleashed his human dogs to bay and bark at David’s house (1 Samuel 19:8-11a). Their instructions were simple—break in and kill him by morning.

This is probably the background to David’s plea: “Deliver me . . . defend me . . . deliver me, O my God.” The repetition of the phrase “deliver me” is for emphasis, meaning “to bring one out” of trouble and distress. The verb translated “defend” means “to set up on high” or “to a place out of reach of trouble.” “Save me” is the most common of the Hebrew verbs for salvation. It suggests “to give room to” or “to expand an area to breathe.” David, young as he was, had learned that God was a very present help in time of trouble.

In Psalm 59 the psalmist is being persecuted by harsh and bitter enemies— “workers of iniquity,” and “bloody men,” he calls them. Yet it is not under their murderous deeds that he is suffering, for the weapons of these enemies are not swords but words of abuse and slander. They have attacked him with accusations for which there are no grounds. So he comes to the Temple, where he prays to be saved from these accusers and to be placed beyond their reach by God. His petition is passionate and eager.


3 For, lo, they lie in wait for my soul: the mighty are gathered against me; not for my transgression, nor for my sin, O Lord.

There is something truly attractive about the sight of this princely young man kneeling by his bed and pouring out his fears to the Lord while his foes were drawing a cordon around his house, proclaiming their intention of putting an end to him as soon as it was light. Enemies become like wild animals on the hunt or enemy soldiers, for “they lie in wait” along one’s paths.

David reminds the Lord that he has done nothing to deserve all this. We can well imagine, however, the jealousy with which young David was viewed by some of the King’s toadies. He was good looking, he had a charismatic personality, he was young, he had been brought in and given a position of great potential influence with the king. Who did the king turn to when his tortured soul sank into demonically inspired fits of near insanity? David! Who was it who, with sweet voice and clever music, charmed away the depression of the king? David! Moreover, Saul loved David. Who could help but love a man like David! The self-seeking aristocrats were jealous.

David was able to bring relief to a half crazed tyrant. But he made enemies at court—people who resented his closeness to the king and who were out to get him at all costs. They know how they would use influence such as David had. They would use it to manipulate the king and eliminate all opposition to themselves. They imagined David was cut from the same piece of cloth. So they set to work to poison Saul’s mind: David was a traitor, David was plotting to seize the throne, David was stealing the hearts of the people, David was just biding his time, David would one day murder the king—until Saul believed their lies. These were his reasons, or so he said, for hunting him down.

David knew who to turn to; he told the Lord about the trouble he was in: “Not for my transgression, nor for my sin, O Lord,” he prayed desperately that menacing night. He was innocent of the things Saul was being told. In general terms he pictures his formidable accusers as evil men lying in ambush. Here “transgression” refers to treason against the king, the crime with which David was charged. There were times in David’s life when he knew that he was suffering because of sin in his life (Psalm 32). There were other times when he believed himself to be innocent of sin— “Not for my transgression”—but still he was hounded by wicked persons. This teaches us that we should habitually train ourselves to have consciences void of offense towards God and men “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16; NKJV).

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