There is nothing more disturbing than to have enemies pursuing your destruction. Whether they are societal, governmental, personal, or unseen, to be pursued by evil is a terrible thing. David, before he was king, was pursued by King Saul. Jonathan was the eldest son of King Saul as well as a close friend of David. He would warn David that his life was in danger.
(1 Samuel 19:1-3)1NIV New International Version Translations – Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan had taken a great liking to David and warned him, “My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there. I will go out and stand with my father in the field where you are. I’ll speak to him about you and will tell you what I find out.”
One of the great legacies of King David are his Psalms. When all seemed to be failing in his world, David could pray like few people could pray. Psalm 35 is one of David’s prayers that we can learn a few things from. It is also an excellent prayer to use yourself as part of your prayer life. David is under the pressure of a death sentence from Saul. He prays for his personal safety (Psalm 35:1-3). The prayer takes an interesting turn and David prays the confusion of his enemies (Psalm 35:4-8). His confidence in God is reinforced (Psalm 35:9-10). Most striking, is that in Psalm 35:11-16, David prays for kindness to those who had rewarded him evil for his good. His prayer then takes the form of an appeal to God against them (Psalm 35:17-26). David prays for those who befriended him and praises God for His goodness (Psalm 35:27, Psalm 35:28).
1Contend, 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 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; 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.
David begins his psalm by asking God to intercede on his behalf. Plead his cause! Shield him, confuse his enemy’s skills in battle, block the spears they use. The Psalm does not take the form of a personal attack against David’s enemies. He is asking God to do all the “blocking and tackling.” This is one of the important lessons for all us. We don’t have to defend ourselves alone!
Next, he does not disparage the souls of his enemies. Psalm 35 is not a personal attack against anyone as a person. Instead, David asks that God confuse their schemes and plans. The idea of a net and pit speak to David’s feeling of entrapment. David is asking God to use their own traps against them. He asks that shame and confusion be placed upon his enemy’s plans. He is not asking for their direct death or destruction.
Prayers can include the use of one’s imagination. David imagines the angels of God removing the chaff (the useless part of a grain harvest) as if an invisible wind just blows his enemies away. His imagination and prayer see his enemies retreating through darkness, through a morass of thickets and bushes. Remember, thickets and bushes tear at your skin as you run through them. His enemies in their fearful retreat are being snagged by their own hidden snares (traps). This is the justice David is seeking from God.
David foresees God’s success. He shares his forthcoming joyfulness knowing that God is going to save him. He also knew that there would be an onslaught of unfounded charges brought against him. Charges that he never even heard of, and false witnesses who would be ready and willing to corroborate his enemy’s lies. This is much like what happened when Jesus was brought before the Jewish church and Roman state for blasphemy (See Matthew 26:59, Matthew 26:60). It still happens today in our world. Agendas, fake facts (lies), corrupt witnesses are a few of today’s hurdles to get over. David is confident God can handle this too.
David does a bit of introspection. He looks at how he has treated his enemies. David re-states that when they were sick, weak, he humbled himself with fasting and prayer. What did his enemies do? They rejoiced in David’s adversity. Some of these verses seem to be prophetic of the treatment of Christ. In a moment of sorrow, David asks God, how long will you let this go on before you save me from destruction? It should be the prayer of every Christian today. How long God, how long?
David closes his psalm with his promise that “many people” will hear the story of God’s victory on his behalf. In his summary, he is asking God not to give his enemies something to be rejoiceful about. David restates that his enemies do not seek peace. They are deceitful, contemptuous. David restates his faith for a resolution are in God’s hands. “Let my friends shout for joy and be glad for me. Let my enemies be confounded.” Most of all, David praises God for his mercy and kindness to him.
Now what would you call our enemies, the evil that attacks us today? Is it the elimination of borders that bring in drugs, trafficking of children? Is it the removal of voter integrity laws that will assure evil wins at the polls? Maybe it is the prosecutors that send criminals back to the streets over and over? Do you feel like David, insecure, fearful for your safety? How about the war on our law enforcement? Want more, what about an educational system that teaches against our constitutional republic? Does printing trillions of dollars scare you? It should! What about the war on life itself where thousands of unborn are killed daily?
It is time for all to pray like David prayed. We are being placed under a death sentence. You are being asked to adopt political, economic, and social principles and policies that your parents and grandparents fought to eliminate. Psalm 35 simply asks God to turn the enemy’s own nets and pits, their traps, against them. It worked for David, it will work for us today!
David never witnessed the defeat of the Israelites under Saul. Saul was mortally wounded by the Philistines. His sons, including Jonathan, were killed. In a last act of heroism so that he, the king of Israel, would not be captured, Saul committed suicide by falling on his own sword.
- What does your list of enemies against humanity, against Christianity, against you look like?
- Ideas to Explore: Is the lack of respect for life itself being promoted by the attitudes toward abortions? What do the violent movies and war games to our children? Has removing God from our society made it a more fearful place?
- Do you think that there is a difference between just hating your enemies and praying for them to fail in their plans?
- Ideas to Explore: What is causing the hatred of today? Is it really all about a person’s color or religion? Does this hatred blind us in our choice of people for leadership roles? Is the hatred spread by outside forces? How do we sort through the lies of a wicked world?
- Christ came in peace. They hated what He had to say. Why does Truth cause hatred?
- Ideas to Explore: How does the world’s truth differ from God’s Truth? Is truth different today? How do we teach our children what is truth?
- Do you see the confusion, the incompetence of our enemies as a sign God is working on our behalf?
- Ideas to Explore: What changes poor behavior in people? Do you think what we are seeing today in our society is punishment from God? If not, what is causing it? The world says it is the conservative Christian views that are the blame!
- 1NIV New International Version Translations