David’s psalms: Psalm 68–70, 86, 101
King David was a prolific poet and songwriter, and some of his work has been passed down to us through the psalms. Many of these have no event recorded with them, so at the end of David’s life, we have a large group of ‘unallocated’ psalms. Psalm 69 was written by David, possibly when he was being persecuted by Saul, or possibly when he was fleeing from Absalom. It was a time when David had a lot of enemies who could do him damage:
Psalm 69:4 More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; many are those who would destroy me, my enemies who accuse me falsely.
Jesus quoted this to his disciples in the time before his arrest:
John 15:23-25 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It was to fulfil the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’
When Jesus cleaned out the Temple, his disciples remembered verse 9 of this Psalm:
John 2:17 His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me’.
Jesus’ last moments on the cross were described by the Psalm, thousands of years earlier:
John 19:28–30 Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine [vinegar] was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When Jesus had tasted it, he said, ‘It is finished!’ Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.
The difference between Jesus and David was in how they wanted their enemies treated. Jesus’ prayer was to His Father to:
Luke 23:34 Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.
Whereas David’s prayer was for his enemies to suffer (see verses 22 to 28 of this Psalm). This contrast marks a shift from the adversarial interpretation of God to an approach that drives us to love our enemies. Paul saw this. He took the curses from verses 22-28, and applied them as a temporary state. The Jews (Israel) wouldn’t suffer judgement forever. They will see God’s grace again:
Romans 11:75–11 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, … And David says, ‘Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling-block and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and keep their backs for ever bent.’ So I ask, have they stumbled so as to fall? By no means! But through their stumbling salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.
Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. 4 More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; many are those who would destroy me, my enemies who accuse me falsely. What I did not steal must I now restore? O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you. 6 Do not let those who hope in you be put to shame because of me, O Lord God of hosts; do not let those who seek you be dishonoured because of me, O God of Israel. It is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that shame has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother’s children. 9 It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me. When I humbled my soul with fasting, they insulted me for doing so. When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them. I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me. But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me. With your faithful help rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. Do not let the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the Pit close its mouth over me. 16 Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. Do not hide your face from your servant, for I am in distress—make haste to answer me. Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free because of my enemies. 22 You know the insults I receive, and my shame and dishonour; my foes are all known to you. Insults have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. Let their table be a trap for them, a snare for their allies. Let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and make their loins tremble continually. Pour out your indignation upon them, and let your burning anger overtake them. May their camp be a desolation; let no one live in their tents. For they persecute those whom you have struck down, and those whom you have wounded, they attack still more. Add guilt to their guilt; may they have no acquittal from you. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous. But I am lowly and in pain; let your salvation, O God, protect me. 30 I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs. Let the oppressed see it and be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive. For the Lord hears the needy, and does not despise his own that are in bonds. 34 Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them. For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah; and his servants shall live there and possess it; the children of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall live in it.