THE BATTLE BELONGS TO GOD
Lord, we pray that You plead our cause, as the psalmist prayed.
Read PSALM 35
1 Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me.
2 Take up shield and armor;
arise and come to my aid.
3 Brandish spear and javelin[a]
against those who pursue me.
Say to me,
“I am your salvation.”
4 May those who seek my life
be disgraced and put to shame;
may those who plot my ruin
be turned back in dismay.
5 May they be like chaff before the wind,
with the angel of the Lord driving them away;
6 may their path be dark and slippery,
with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.
7 Since they hid their net for me without cause
and without cause dug a pit for me,
8 may ruin overtake them by surprise—
may the net they hid entangle them,
may they fall into the pit, to their ruin.
9 Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord
and delight in his salvation.
10 My whole being will exclaim,
“Who is like you, Lord?
You rescue the poor from those too strong for them,
the poor and needy from those who rob them.”
11 Ruthless witnesses come forward;
they question me on things I know nothing about.
12 They repay me evil for good
and leave me like one bereaved.
13 Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth
and humbled myself with fasting.
When my prayers returned to me unanswered,
14 I went about mourning
as though for my friend or brother.
I bowed my head in grief
as though weeping for my mother.
15 But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee;
assailants gathered against me without my knowledge.
They slandered me without ceasing.
16 Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked;[b]
they gnashed their teeth at me.
17 How long, Lord, will you look on?
Rescue me from their ravages,
my precious life from these lions.
18 I will give you thanks in the great assembly;
among the throngs I will praise you.
19 Do not let those gloat over me
who are my enemies without cause;
do not let those who hate me without reason
maliciously wink the eye.
20 They do not speak peaceably,
but devise false accusations
against those who live quietly in the land.
21 They sneer at me and say, “Aha! Aha!
With our own eyes we have seen it.”
22 Lord, you have seen this; do not be silent.
Do not be far from me, Lord.
23 Awake, and rise to my defense!
Contend for me, my God and Lord.
24 Vindicate me in your righteousness, Lord my God;
do not let them gloat over me.
25 Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!”
or say, “We have swallowed him up.”
26 May all who gloat over my distress
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who exalt themselves over me
be clothed with shame and disgrace.
27 May those who delight in my vindication
shout for joy and gladness;
may they always say, “The Lord be exalted,
who delights in the well-being of his servant.”
28 My tongue will proclaim your righteousness,
your praises all day long.
a Psalm 35:3 Or and block the way
b Psalm 35:16 Septuagint; Hebrew may mean Like an ungodly circle of mockers,
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“You will not have to ﬁght this battle. Take up your positions; stand ﬁrm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you… the Lord will be with you” (2 Chron. 20:17).
Today’s psalm pulsates with strong, hot emotions, as the complaints pile up: the injustice of conspiracy (4,7), the agony of betrayal (11–16), and the anguish of hateful attacks (19–21). Does this psalm endorse a vengefulness that contradicts both Jesus and Paul (Luke 6:27,28; Rom. 12:14,17)?
Jesus clearly understood the psalmist’s emotions: he applied verse 19 to his own experience: “They hated me without reason” (John 15:25). Paul, furthermore, commanded, “Hate what is evil” (Rom. 12:9).
However, we should see the psalmist’s impassioned outburst not as hateful vengeance but as an honest venting of feelings before God. Walter Kaiser, in Hard Sayings of the Bible, explains that the psalm is “imprecatory”—an “invocation of judgment, calamity, or curse in an appeal to God who alone is the just judge of all beings.”
Underlying the imprecation is the recognition that vengeance belongs to God and that salvation and judgment are but two sides of the same coin. Hence, pleading for God’s deliverance, or praying “Thy kingdom come,” is also to invoke his judgment upon evil-doers. Kaiser continues: “These imprecations only repeat in prayer what God had already stated elsewhere would be the fate of those who were impenitent and who were persistently opposing God and his kingdom.” C. S. Lewis, in Reflections on the Psalms, writes, “The ferocious parts of the psalms serve as a reminder that there is in the world such a thing as wickedness and that it (if not its perpetrators) is hateful to God.” Psalm 137:8,9, the harshest of the imprecatory psalms, is quoted by Jesus in his lament over Jerusalem (Luke 19:44).
Although Paul warns against retaliation—“Do not take revenge”—he adds, “but leave room for God’s wrath…” (Rom. 12:19). In the face of attack, the psalmist not only turns to God, but turns over the ﬁght to God (1,23).
When unfairly attacked, falsely accused or painfully betrayed, don’t lash out at your opponents—take your pain to a righteous, compassionate, covenant-keeping God.
Lord, give us the grace to be able to turn injustices against us over to You, for You are the perfect arbiter.