1 god’s big plan
The bible is a story of epic proportions. It tells of God’s creation of this world, of his creation of mankind and of Lucifer’s opposition and success in drawing mankind into his rebellion. It speaks of the impact of Adam’s sin on all of mankind and contrasts the first Adam with the last Adam, Jesus Christ through whom all of mankind can be rescued. It is through the Lord Jesus Christ that the ultimate victory is to be won and through whom God’s kingdom of peace and righteousness will come on this earth.
King David was given a specific and big part in this story. God made three specific promises to David. These promises fit into the big bible narrative of a coming king who will establish an eternal kingdom on earth. The promises to David are threefold with each intrinsically linked to the other. Firstly, God promised David that he would establish a ‘house’ for him. David’s line of descent would endure forever. When we trace the line of descent from King David to the Lord Jesus, we see that this promise was indeed realised, despite some unsavoury characters in David’s family! Secondly, David’s kingdom in Israel would be established forever. There would for sure be times when the kingdom would not function as it should, but nonetheless the kingdom would endure forever (2 Samuel 7: 16). Finally, God promised David that his specific throne would be established forever: David’s ruling authority would be established forever. It’s interesting that as we read of Jesus’ first coming to this world that, all the main characters mention these promises. Zechariah spoke of a ‘horn of salvation in the house of David.’ The angel Gabriel announced to Mary that ‘Gloating .’ The angels spoke of one born in the town of David. Joseph was specifically addressed by the angel of the Lord as ‘son of David.’ The Magi found the one ‘born king of the Jews’ in David’s town, Bethlehem.
David and his family indeed were to play a significant part in God’s big plan.
2 David’s expereince
David had outperformed the king at that time, King Saul. It was David who defeated Goliath and it was David who repeated ran successful military campaigns against Israel’s enemies. The people loved him, but Saul’s envy grew into a nasty hatred of David. The situation turned from sporadic bursts of hate, to a systematic effort to kill David. David had to run for his life.
It seems that it was under these circumstances that David wrote Psalm 35.
The Psalm calls for God to intervene in David’s situation and to deal with David’s enemies and as we study the Psalm, we should consider with great care the contrast of God’s great promises to David and how these fit in to God’s big plan and David’s day-to-day experience of life at the time the Psalm was written. There is surely a big lesson for us here.
The Psalm seems to be structured with three specific statements of praise to God, in verse 9, David says, ‘my soul will rejoice in you.’ In verse 18, David says, ‘I will give you thanks in the great assembly,’ and in verse 27 he states, ‘The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.’ Each of these statements comes after a long list of troubles!
In the first section, David specifically asks God for help and protection from his enemies, and for the defeat of his enemies. David recognizes that the problem is one he cannot solve on his own – he has the resources of the Israeli army against him, only divine help will do! In his request, David appeals to God’s justice, it seems that David is aware of the big picture of God’s character and of the need for God’s intervention to bring justice and righteousness to his situation.
In the second section, it is not David’s life that is at risk but rather his reputation: his enemies slander him, mock him and work to undermine him behind his back. In response, David prays and fasts, but his prayers are unanswered, in verse 17 one can imagine his frustration when he cries out, ‘how long, Lord, will you look on?’ As David considers his eventual rescue, he once again gives thanks and praises God.
In the third section, it seems that David’s enemies sense that the victory over David (and God’s plans for him) is now secured, they gloat over him and ‘maliciously wink the eye.’ Winking of the eyes is mentioned 4 times in the Old testament and is always associated with sin: with conceit, pride and rebellion. David again prays for God’s intervention and for his enemies to be ‘clothed with shame and disgrace.’ David looks forward to the day when he is vindicated and when there is joy and gladness and praise of God for his protection.
It is notable that in the structure of the Psalm each section is 9 verses long and each ends with a sort of summarizing response in verses 9, 18 and 27. These summarizing verses speak of joy and praise for God. It’s a remarkable feature of the Psalm, that David is under extreme pressure and danger from his enemies and when he brings his request to God, his response to having made the request is joy and praise for God. Perhaps David knew that God could and would answer according to his great plans and purposes. There is no doubt a lesson for us in this.
One should not be too speculative, but I note that David seems to have carefully divided the Psalm into three 9 verse segments. Interestingly, the number 9 in Hebrew is associated with pregnancy (not such a surprise), but one wonders if David deliberately used the 9 sequence to refer to the idea that he was awaiting release from a period of pain and waiting for God’s deliverance. Possibly.
The final verse of the Psalm is ‘My tongue will proclaim your righteousness, your praises all day long.’ There was not a lot that David could do about his enemies, but there was something that he could do: praise God for his attributes. David was experiencing a great injustice as his reputation was trashed and as he feared for his life by a wicked and jealous king Saul, but he knew that peace of mind and rest could be found in the one who will ultimately ensure that justice and righteousness wins.
3 what about us?
There is no doubt that we face difficulties too. We may even face gross injustices in our lives, we may have asked “why is this happening/has happened to me?” We may wonder if there will ever be any justice and resolution to our difficult situations. Like David, we can be sure that there is a big story being played out, a story that will bring a solution to our individual and collective problems. Perhaps we can say with David, My tongue will proclaim your righteousness, your praises all day long. As we do, we will surely know the joy and peace of mind that David experienced too.