Psalms 34 and 35 must be recognized as a unit, both were of David. Both psalms were written after David had fled from Saul and his humiliating encounter with Achish the king of Gath. Explanation for the background of both psalms may be found on my previous blog entitled “Immanuel, Our Confidence,” and this is a continuation. The two psalms were utterances of trust and confidence in God notwithstanding the fact that he was still being hunted down by Saul and more.
David’s cry for God’s help may be seen through Psalm 35:1-3.
Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me! Take hold of the shield and buckler and rise for my help! Draw the spear and javelin against my pursuers! Say to my soul, “I am your salvation!”
David was still seeking God’s deliverance. This psalm (34 and 35) therefore was written before the death of Saul. God needed no weapons of war to rescue David. In Exodus, God simply parted the Red Sea for Israel to cross safely as they fled from the pursuing Egyptian. The same body of water then collapsed upon the pursuing Egyptians after Israel had safely crossed the Red Sea. David was a man of war. So he used battle metaphors of his time to illustrate his call for God to fight against his enemies.
Next, David justified his call for God’s help – he was innocent of any wrongdoings, yet his enemies wanted him dead. See Psalm 35:4-8.
Let them be put to shame and dishonor who seek after my life! Let them be turned back and disappointed who devise evil against me! Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them away! Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them! For without cause they hid their net for me; without cause they dug a pit for my life. Let destruction come upon him when he does not know it! And let the net that he hid ensnare him: let him fall into it – to his destruction!
Actually David wasn’t simply calling for God’s help, he sought God’s justice. See Psalm 35:9-16.
Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD, exulting in His salvation. All my bones shall say, “O LORD, who is like you, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, the poor and needy from him who robs him?
Malicious witnesses rise up; they ask me of things that I do not know. They repay me evil for good; my soul is bereft. But I, when they were sick – I wore sackcloth; I afflicted myself with fasting; I prayed with head bowed on my chest. I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother; as one who laments his mother, I bowed down in mourning.
But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered; they gathered together against me: wretches whom I did not know tore at me without ceasing; like profane mockers at a feast, they gnash at me with their teeth.
The lad David first served as armor-bearer for Saul (1 Samuel 16:21), as he went back and forth shepherding his father’s flock (1 Samuel 17:15). Next, he went to seek Saul’s approval to fight Goliath when no one from among Israel’s army dared to take on the Philistine giant champion warrior’s taunting and challenge (1 Samuel 17:33-37). Later, David continued to do battles for Saul and was victorious, therefore earning him the crowd’s victorious chant, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7). This caused Saul to become jealous of David so he wanted him dead (1 Samuel 18:7-8 & 18:25). David therefore fled from Saul (1 Samuel 20:1). Clearly then, David was innocent of any wrongs against Saul. It was due to such injustice that David called on God’s urgent deliverance. See Psalm 35:17-21.
How long, O Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their destruction, my precious life from the lions! I will thank You in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise You.
Let not those rejoice over me who are wrongfully my foes, and let not those wink the eye who hate me without cause. For they do not speak peace, but against those who are quiet in the land they devise words of deceit. They open wide their mouths against me; they say, “Aha, Aha! Our eyes have seen it!”
You have seen, O LORD; be not silent! O Lord, be not far from me! Awake and rouse Yourself for my vindication, for my cause, my God and my Lord!
LORD, all capitalized, “YAHWEH/YHWH” in Hebrew, with Lexicon Strong’s Hebrew Dictionaries #H3068, appeared first in the Bible in Genesis 2:4. “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven.”
Another Lexicon Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament reasoned that “apparently Adam knew God by this personal or covenantal name from the beginning.” In other words, “LORD,” all capitalized in the English translation of the Bible is the Covenant Name of God.
Throughout Psalms 34 and 35, twenty-five times David used the LORD’s covenant name in reference to God but three times in Psalm 35, “Lord” was used – “Adonay,” in Hebrew, with Lexicon Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary #136. One more Lexicon Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions explained Adonay, a title spoken of YHWH in Jewish display of reverence. It might not make much difference except that in Psalm 35:23, David said “my God and my Lord!” The exact utterance of Thomas in reverence to Jesus Christ; see John 20:28. “Thomas answered Him [Jesus], ‘My Lord and my God!'” Furthermore, in the Septuagint Greek translation of the Old Testament Bible, Psalm 35:23 has the same Greek words for “Lord and God” with that of John 20:28. David then was not merely calling upon God for his physical deliverance from his enemies but vindication at the Day of Judgment – the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to Judge the living and the dead. On the next verse, Psalm 35:24, David said: “Vindicate me, O LORD, my God, according to Your righteousness, and let them not rejoice over me!”
The apostle Peter, in Acts 10:42, explaining to Cornelius and the rest of the Gentiles in his household, said: “And He [Jesus] commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the One appointed by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.” (Acts 10:42)
David therefore was not merely seeking deliverance from his enemies rather he seeks God’s salvation. Many years later, God speaking through Daniel said:
But at that time your people [Israel] shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the Book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:1C-2)
Those destined to shame and everlasting contempt was spoken by David in Psalm 35:24-26.
Vindicate me, O LORD, my God, according to Your righteousness, and let them not rejoice over me! Let them not say in their hearts, “Aha, our heart’s desire!” Let them not say, “We have swallowed him up.” Let them be put to shame and disappointed altogether who rejoice at my calamity! Let them be clothed with shame and dishonor who magnify themselves against me!
Whereas, those bound for everlasting life were also described by David in Psalm 35:27-28.
Let those who delight in my righteousness shout for joy and be glad and say evermore, “Great is the LORD, who delights in the welfare of of His servants!” Then my tongue shall tell of Your righteousness and of Your praise all day long.
David, the man of God, therefore prophesied about Jesus Christ and His Great White Throne Judgment; see Revelation 20:11-12.
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it. From His presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.
Christ Jesus’ Day of Judgment then encompassed people who have passed away and were waiting in Hades, the place of death for both the righteous and the wicked, just as it was illustrated by the Lord through His parable of the “Rich Man and Lazarus” (Luke 16:19-31).
Oh yes, it was a mistake to teach that the righteous would go straight to heaven after death even before Jesus Christ return at His Second Coming. See John 14:3; Jesus Christ told His disciples, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may also be.”
Then in John 14:6, Jesus assured the disciples saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Despair not, for Jesus also told Peter with regards to John, “If it is My will that he [John the apostle] remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” (John 21:22)
Jesus Christ hinted that His return would be during the lifetime of the apostles, specifically while John was still alive. If Jesus Christ failed on His words, then He can’t be the Great Prophet Moses spoke about; see Deuteronomy 18:15. “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among you, from your brothers – it is to Him you shall listen.” Would you rather listen to your pastors or follow the traditional teaching concerning the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, or believe Jesus Christ our Lord and our God?
The apostle Peter, preaching in the Temple area, confirmed that Jesus Christ indeed was the prophesied Great Prophet of God, see Acts 3:19-23.
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets long ago, Moses said, “The Lord God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to Him in whatever He tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that Prophet shall be destroyed from the people.”
Back to our discussion. David could have given up on God when Saul kept on pursuing him, as well as when he was humiliated before Achish the king of Gath. Despite being known as a great warrior of Israel, in fear, he acted crazy before Achish (1 Samuel 21:12-15). But David did not gave up he kept the faith.
Our life’s journey will always have its ups and downs. There will be times that we may have lose control of our lives, tossed to and forth by the waves of our circumstances. In the midst of great storms or great waves of the sea, the sun remains but is covered by darkness. Similarly, Jesus Christ our Lord is not missing in moments of uncertainty or despair. Trust God, especially when all seems to have been lost.
In conclusion, David then was seeking God’s justice, not men’s. Rightly so, because it is good to be wrong before the eyes of men yet righteous before God. Seek not the approval of men but of God, because at the end of the day, it is to Him that we are accountable. David’s confidence rest not on his own righteousness but that of Christ Jesus our Lord whom he prophesied in Psalm 35.
Note: We haven’t explored Psalm 34. Lord willing, that shall be my next blog writing.
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