Pray for Justice (Psalm 7)
Pray for Justice: We Need You Lord
Roy Anthony Borges was a prison inmate who became a Christian. But he still had some serious lessons to learn. He had always been taught to hate his enemies, especially inside the prison walls. He had an enemy in the prison, named Rodney. One day Rodney stole Roy’s radio and headphones while Roy was playing volleyball in the prison yard. That radio was expensive and it had been a gift from his mom. The earphones were a gift from his sister. Roy was angry and he wanted revenge but with a new-found life in Christ, he decided to pray about it and seek God’s will.
Every day Roy wanted to respond violently to Rodney and knock that wisecrack grin off his face. But, the words of Romans 12:20-21 kept coming back to his mind. Eventually, Roy began looking at Rodney through God’s eyes and he had compassion on him. He began praying for him. He began trusting that God would do something in Rodney’s life.
Eventually, Roy’s hatred for Rodney began to fade. He found himself helping his former enemy and telling him about Christ. One day, Roy writes in an article about the experience, he saw Rodney kneeling down next to his bunk, reading his Bible, and he knew that good had overcome evil.
Being patient when injustice is done against us is one of the biggest challenges we face as Christians. Not only does it seem like “vengeance” is normal for the human heart but even as Christians, we want injustice to be punished. We want things to be right and fair. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen in this life.
You and I study 6 psalms each year and we begin our series on psalms for 2021 with Psalm 7…
You will notice the superscription of the psalm which says it was sung by David to Jehovah God concerning “Cush, a Benjaminite.” These superscriptions are as old as our Hebrew manuscripts but we have no record of any such person causing issues to David. The account of the story has not been preserved but it must have been early associated with this psalm.
It is also helpful to know that the Jews read this psalm during the Feast of Purim which story is told in the book of Esther. So, if you want to think of some historical background for the thoughts in this psalm, you can think of the story of Esther (although David wrote the psalm). We will study the book of Esther the Sunday before VBS.
A PLEA FOR INNOCENCE - 7:1-5:
Verses 1-2 - God is our refuge. David calls on God for salvation and for deliverance. David is facing some type of enemy or adversary whom he compares to a lion. The lion will tear his soul and drag him away; there is no one (else besides God) to deliver him. Notice in verse 2 that David says these enemies would tear “my soul” like a lion. The word “soul” can be translated throat or neck, which probably would be a good translation here, because it refers to the damage done by a lion, ripping the throat out.
Have you ever been verbally attacked by a co-worker or family member who attacked like a lion might? You are helpless to respond and the other person tears you apart with sharp words and you would like to cry for help but you know there is no one to save you?
Sometimes, the only recourse we have to injustice is to simply seek refuge in God. There may not be a resolution with mankind.
Verses 3-5 - David is not here recognizing that he is not perfect. He is not necessarily acknowledging sins. He is actually arguing against that; he is arguing, “God, if you look at my life, you will see that I don’t do any of these things.”
He begins by saying, “if.” Three times, he says “if.” “If I have done this…” “If there is injustice in my hands…” “If I have rewarded evil to my friend or have plundered him who, without cause, was my adversary…” In other words, David questions if he has responded inappropriately. Has he treated his friends improperly?
The word translated “friend” in verse 4 is related to the word “peace.” God, David prays, have I rewarded evil with someone who was at peace with me? You know, sometimes we treat poorly people who do not deserve it. We’re in a bad frame of mind; we’ve had a series of bad things happen to us, then we take it out on people who are innocent. We’re mad at the dog so we kick the cat.
Honestly, David prays, have I plundered him who was my adversary when there was no reason for him to be my adversary? Maybe he did not deserve my ill-treatment of him…?
So verse 5 has the “then” statement to the “if…then…” proposition David began in verse 3. “If I have done these bad things,” David prays, “then…”
Let my enemy treat me in these ways (he names 4). The word “enemy” here is related to the word “to hate.” This is someone who hates David. The king prays, “let him…:”
1. Pursue my soul.
2. Overtake my soul.
3. Trample my life to the ground.
4. Lay my glory in the dust. The word “glory” here carries the idea of honor, dignity, integrity.
The wording of this first paragraph pictures someone who is out of breath, running for his life from his enemies. At the same time, he finds in God a place of safety, a refuge - the only one in whom David can trust.
THE LORD JUDGES THE PEOPLES - 7:6-9:
Verses 6-8 - In this section, David calls on God to rise up in anger against David’s enemies, His adversaries. “Anger is holiness as it encounters sin” (Ash & Miller, 50).
At the end of verse 6, David is calling on God to be just, to be fair. David does not feel like he is being treated fairly so he asks God to treat him fairly by punishing, being just, with those who are mistreating David. Verse 7 sounds like David is saying the peoples, David’s enemies, surround God but they can’t overpower God. Then verse 8 says simply, “The Lord judges the people.” It is inherently important to understand that God will not and cannot - it is outside of His nature - to do something that is not just, right, or fair.
That’s David’s prayer. “God, please treat me fairly; my enemies are not.”
There are three imperatives addressed to God in verse six:
2. Lift up!
3. Arouse yourself!
So in verses 8-9, David asks God to set the scales of balance right. “Vindicate me,” David prays to God. “Show people that I am right. That I made the right decision. That I did the right thing.” When you and I choose to follow God instead of following the voice of the world, we often times question whether we did the right thing or not. This is true especially if we don’t see the immediate response to our decision. David says in verse 8 that he is righteous and that he is a person of integrity. David is not bragging. He’s not “tooting his own horn.” He is basically saying, “I’m faithful to God. I try to live by God’s commandments as much as possible. God, please show the world that I am right with you!”
In verse 9, David prays that God will bring the wicked to an end. David wants God to establish righteousness in the place of wickedness. David wants God to put to the test the hearts and minds of David’s enemies. The word translated “minds” is literally “kidneys.” It refers to the innermost part of the body, the source of emotions.
MY SHIELD IS GOD - 7:10-16:
Verses 10-11 focus again on God, on His nature. God is David’s shield; the One who protects David from the onslaughts of the wicked, whether literally and physically or metaphorically and spiritually. God saves the upright. Please observe that David has stated that he is “righteous,” a person of “integrity” (verse 8), and “upright” (verse 10). David knows and believes that God is a righteous judge (verse 11). He will always do the right thing. But in addition to doing the right thing, God is consistently angry at sin. He has “indignation every day” (verse 11).
Verses 12-13 - The wicked were compared to a lion back in verse 2. Here, they are compared to soldiers, men in battle. The enemy of David does not repent, in verse 12, but instead, he gets his weapons ready. Notice that even in the midst of David’s fear of his enemies and his desire that Jehovah God implement justice on these enemies, David desires first for his enemies to repent. David’s hope is that God will work to bring about that repentance but, he acknowledges in this case that the enemy does not repent. Instead, he refocuses on hurting David with his weapons:
He sharpens his sword.
He bends His bow and gets it ready.
He has prepared his deadly weapons.
He makes his arrows fiery shafts.
This enemy is prepared to attack David and to defeat him if not kill him.
Verses 14-16 - So David prays that God will balance the scales of justice. David’s enemy is the subject of the paragraph and he “travails” with wickedness. He conceives mischief. He brings forth falsehood. That’s how wicked the man is. Verse 14 uses the language of child birth, language normally associated with a woman, a mom. But here, it refers to a wicked man who gives birth to triplets: wickedness, mischief, and falsehood.
But in verses 15-16, David prays that God will bring his evil back around on the head of the evil. “Be sure your sins will find you out,” Moses said in Numbers 32:23. Here, David prays, “he has dug a pit and hollowed it out and has fallen into the hole which he made.” That’s an example of the wicked getting what is coming to them. That’s David praying for justice from God. Verse 16 - “His mischief will return on his own head. His violence will descend upon his own pate (the crown of his head).”
THANKSGIVING AND SINGING - 7: 17:
David’s response to this prayer of deliverance is the same response he always gives when he thinks about God, His works, and His nature. That is, David worships. He offers thanksgiving to God because of God’s righteousness. And he sings praises to Jehovah God. He worships.
Now, let us take a look at Paul’s words in Romans 12:17-21. In South Africa, there were two men who were enemies of each other. They spied on each other and did mean things just out of spite. One day, one of the men met the daughter of his enemy, a little girl who was picking berries in the forest. He abducted her and cut off both her hands and he cried out, “Now I am avenged!” And he sent her home.
Time passed by and the girl grew into womanhood and moved to another community. One day, a gray-headed beggar came to her door asking for food. The woman recognized him as her father’s enemy who had mutilated her years before. But, she prepared some bread and some milk and served him. He gobbled the food down because he was so hungry. When he had finished, the woman removed the towel that covered the stumps on her arms and said, “Now I am avenged!”
God tells us: Love your enemies. Let God take care of the vengeance. Now, we have to trust God to do what He says.
David illustrates to us that it is better for us to maintain our integrity as followers of Jesus Christ and suffer injustice than to sell out to evil and join the number of the unrighteous.
Take home message: God’s righteous nature is the basis of our prayers and confidence that our prayers will be answered. God will deliver the innocent and He will punish the wicked.