Daily Family Worship

Psalm 140: The Cry of a Hunted Soul

by | Jul 7, 2024

psalm 140

Upon the first reading of this Psalm, one might be inclined to think that there is some fierceness and bitterness in it, which is hardly consistent with the character of a child of God, such as David was. And yet a little more examination of the language of this Psalm will lead us to believe that we are doing David wrong in affixing anything like a meaning or desire of vindictiveness to his words. Assuredly, we can find no fault with one who takes his wrongs in prayer to God; and who – like Hezekiah – takes the scroll full of his cares and sorrows and trials, and spreads it before the Lord. And this is exactly what David does in the very first verse: “Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man; preserve me from the violent man!” A person who does this – who, when smarting under a sense of injury and wrong, goes at once to God and lays open his heart to Him – is not likely to go very far wrong. For even though he may have begun in somewhat of an unkindly spirit, yet prayer opens before us such a sight and sense of our own guiltiness and wrongs to God – and thereby exercises such a humbling, as well as healing and soothing, influence over our feelings toward others – that we might almost be assured that he whose prayer begins with a vehement enumeration of his own wrongs would end with something very like a determination to bless those who cursed him, and to do good to those who hated him. 

Observe also how – from beginning to end – David leaves his cause in the Lord’s hands. He did not rely upon his sword and his bow to help him; he counted them vain things to help a man; and therefore, as he had so often said in other Psalms, “The Lord was his shield and his defence.” And since God had already shielded his head in the day of battle, he prays for the same protection against his enemies now.

There could not be a kinder wish, nor a more faithful prayer for the wicked, than that the Lord would not grant their desires nor allow their plans to be carried out (verse 8). Even the desires of God’s own children would often prove hurtful to them if they were granted; and therefore, in mercy, they are sometimes denied or withheld. And yet when the Psalmist goes on to pray that burning coals may fall upon those who sought his life, and that they may be cast into the fire – what does he mean? Is he praying that they might be literally and utterly destroyed? “If thine enemy hunger,” said the Apostle, “feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” “Oh, but that was in the Gospel-days,” you might say, “when love to enemies had been proclaimed as a rule for New Testament believers!” Yes, it is true that Paul said these words; but Paul was quoting from the writings of a man whose own father had taught him, “Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings, and the years of thy life shall be many. I have taught thee in the way of wisdom.” And that son was Solomon, and that father was David! Therefore, we may bring this very precept up to David’s own days. And what was David’s conduct toward Saul? Did he not, in this sense, heap coals of fire upon his enemy’s head, when his life was in his power? Did he not spare him who would have shown no mercy to himself? And in regard to Doeg, that evil speaker and false accuser – when David declares that evil shall hunt the wicked man to overthrow him, it is only a reiteration of our Lord’s own sentence: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.”

There is something very striking in David’s words in verse 12, when he says, “I know…”  “Out of the very depths have I cried unto thee,” he had said in a preceding Psalm, “and thou heardest me!” And so here, in the same depths of trouble and distress, there is no wavering of distrust! There is no decrease of his assurance. He ends his prayer with these words of confidence: “I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor!” And then he went on his way rejoicing.

Lord, we praise You for being our Helper, even though our enemies are alive and mighty! Thank You for the assurance that You will carry us through all our troubles and bring us home – more than conquerors, through Your grace helping us! Amen.

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