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Bible passage: Psalm 35

Psalm 35

Of David.
 1 Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me;
       fight against those who fight against me.

 2 Take up shield and buckler;
       arise and come to my aid.

 3 Brandish spear and javelin
       against those who pursue me.
       Say to my soul,
       "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, O 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 my soul forlorn.

 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;
       attackers gathered against me when I was unaware.
       They slandered me without ceasing.

 16 Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked ;
       they gnashed their teeth at me.

 17 O Lord, how long will you look on?
       Rescue my life from their ravages,
       my precious life from these lions.

 18 I will give you thanks in the great assembly;
       among throngs of people I will praise you.

 19 Let not those gloat over me
       who are my enemies without cause;
       let not 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 gape at me and say, "Aha! Aha!
       With our own eyes we have seen it."

 22 O LORD, you have seen this; be not silent.
       Do not be far from me, O Lord.

 23 Awake, and rise to my defense!
       Contend for me, my God and Lord.

 24 Vindicate me in your righteousness, O 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 speak of your righteousness
       and of your praises all day long.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society


Challenging command
When Jesus taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44), I’m not sure this psalm is what he had in mind. David is definitely praying for his persecutors here, but not in a way that seems very loving! Jesus’ command is extremely challenging, especially when you’re under attack.

Simply not fair!
Psalm 35 was written when David was fleeing from Saul. He had gone from being a favourite in the royal household to a fugitive and outcast. And this without David himself having done anything wrong or changed his behaviour in any way. It simply was not fair! To say that he was feeling down and under pressure is to put it mildly. David himself describes the feeling as bereavement (vs 12,14). 

Take it to God
When it seems that people are against us, our natural response is usually revenge. David had a band of men with him who were ready for a fight (1 Samuel 22:2). He could very easily have taken matters into his own hands. But David chose instead to pray; he asked God to fight for him (vs 1–3). This is an important lesson for us all. When we are angry at someone or feel betrayed or under attack, we should take it to God in prayer. Like David, we can pour out to him our anger, bitterness and pain. And like David, we can trust that God will fight for us.

Alison Allen


Are you feeling angry or bitter towards someone? Talk to God about it. 

Deeper Bible study

Today’s psalm seethes with strong, hot emotions, as the complaints pile up: the injustice of conspiracy (vs 4,7), the agony of betrayal (vs 11–16), the anguish of hateful attacks (vs 19–21). Does this psalm endorse a vengefulness that contradicts both Jesus and Paul? (Luke 6:27,28; Rom 12:14,17)

Jesus clearly understood the psalmist’s emotions: he applied verse 19 to his own experience, ‘They hated me without reason’ (John 15:25). Paul, furthermore, commanded, ‘Hate what is evil’ (Rom 12:9). However, we should see the psalmist’s impassioned outburst not as hateful vengeance but as honest venting of feelings before God. Walter Kaiser explains that the psalm is ‘imprecatory’ – an ‘invocation of judgement, calamity or curse in an appeal to God who alone is the just judge of all beings’.1 Underlying the imprecation is the recognition that vengeance belongs to God and that salvation and judgement are but two sides of a coin. Hence, pleading for God’s deliverance, or praying ‘Thy kingdom come’, is also to invoke his judgement upon evil-doers. Kaiser again: ‘These imprecations only repeat in prayer what God had already stated elsewhere would be the fate of those who were impenitent and who were persistently opposing God and his kingdom.’2 CS Lewis, in Reflections on the Psalms, writes, ‘the ferocious parts of the psalms serve as a reminder that there is in the world such a thing as wickedness and that it (if not its perpetrators) is hateful to God.’ Psalm 137:8,9, the harshest of the imprecatory psalms, is quoted by Jesus in his lament over Jerusalem (Luke 19:44).

Although Paul warns against retaliation – ‘Do not take revenge’ – he adds, ‘but leave room for God’s wrath ...’. (Rom 12:19) In the face of attack, the psalmist not only turns to God, but turns over the fight to God (vs 1,23).

1 & 2 Kaiser, Hard Sayings of the Bible, IVP, 1996

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year.

Genesis 26,27

Matthew 10

Like David, like Paul, like Jesus

This modern psalm is offered for the use of all who are beleaguered like David, Paul and Jesus were.

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Awesome God (Your Voice)
Vicky Beeching
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Buy this and other great worship songs at www.vineyardrecords.co.uk

‘Search me oh God’
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Copyright: © 1997 Thankyou MusicYou can buy this and other great worship songs at www.integritymusic.com

  • Oakley Bookworm | Saturday, 12 January 2019

    A modern hymn set to the amazing Welsh tune, Llangloffan. Thank God for Welsh composers. For congregational singing, in my opinion, they are unrivaled. HYMN: O God of every nation, or every race and land, redeem the whole creation with your almighty hand. Where hate and fear divide us and bitter threats are hurled , in love and mercy guide us and heal our strife-torn world - William Watkins Reid WORDS & MUSIC (LLANGLOFFAN) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_A7pqFdY6I

  • Rachael Hampton | Saturday, 12 January 2019

    Praying ‘Thy Kingdom come’ is to invoke judgement on those who oppose God. Interesting. I found Tanya’s commentary helpful and enlightening on this touchy subject. Jack, I know it’s hard to get past the view of God as ‘cosmic child abuser’. Why indeed would anyone trust or love such a God? Alison’s comments above, about David having armed men spoiling to get in and right the wrongs Saul was inflicting on him reminded me of Jesus in the garden and at His arrest. He said that He could call on a great army of angels and He’d be out of that terrible situation in the blink of an eye. Yes, He was obedient to His Father’s will, but it was a glad obedience, done for the joy of restoring you, and me, and all who respond, into His Father’s family. Hard to see child abuse in that. But back to the Psalm, and the awareness that many in WL and multitudes in our global family are suffering injustices of some degree. May these people know Your understand and care Father, in abundant measure. May Your Spirit enable them to keep trusting You. Amen.

  • Rachael Hampton | Saturday, 12 January 2019

    Dear Joy, with your grief so fresh you made time to share with us the wonderful news of your husband’s new found faith. That is glorious, and the joy of it will help sustain you in the coming days, I am sure. Amen to Angela’s prayer.

  • Oluwatoyin Olajide | Sunday, 13 January 2019

    Joy- May you experience the comfort and strength from God in Jesus name. Thank God that your husband is asleep in the Lord.

  • Jack Russell | Sunday, 13 January 2019

    Rachael - I like the way you have responded to the idea about cosmic child abuse. Indeed why would anyone trust or love such a God? Yes Jesus had the power to be out of the situation but his joy for us, love for us and mission outweighed his own suffering for him so he chose to suffer. And in Jesus we see the Father. It was the Father's will that humanity be restored to him and he loves humanity so much as to not impose his will. Humanity showed its dark side, it's shadow, it's falling short of the glory of God, its not being without sin in both the secular and religious conspiring in the crucifixion of Jesus. Him being judged a rabble rouser, a false messiah by the religious and the secular carrying out the crucifixion to appease the religious. Interestingly we see the inclination we all have humanly speaking to be adverse to suffering in the psalm today. We tend towards wanting to avoid suffering. Jesus showed this in Gethsemane "if it be possible let this cup pass me". And so we can relate easily to both David and Jesus. What one of us does not want justice when going through suffering? But then long suffering, or resilience is a fruit of the Spirit. Sometimes we don't get a choice over out suffering. And if as with David we suffer at the hands of others then the only thing we can do about that is choose how we engaged with the suffering. The suffering is not going to go away, at least in the here and now. On the other hand we do know that David caused others to suffer, even committing murder. So, we face choices in difficult and easy times. Whether to endure suffering or do what is immediately expedient to relieve suffering. And whether to indulge desire or exercise self control. So yes hard indeed to see child abuse in what we have described about God, at the same time we are to work through our salvation "in fear and trembling". "T'was grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fear relived".

  • Eileen Smith | Sunday, 13 January 2019

    Thank you JOY for sharing this wonderful news in the middle of your grief. — God bless & comfort you as you begin a new way of living with Jesus leading the way .

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Sunday, 13 January 2019

    As I read this Psalm it reminds me of the times when the Devil has influenced my thoughts with false evidence appearing real. I thank God that the more I get to know Him, the more He is able to be an influence in my thoughts, then my words and deeds.

  • Jack Russell | Sunday, 13 January 2019

    Gilvin - amen to that. May you continue to know the power of God bringing you comfort when lies are being said about you and be an empowerment for you in pushing back against dark forces in the world and spirits in the heavenly realms.

  • Oakley Bookworm | Sunday, 13 January 2019

    As the UK begins a week of political theatre, that is probably the most significant thing to happen to our country in a generation, today's prepare hit me straight between the eyes.

  • Angela Munday | Sunday, 13 January 2019

    Jesus always transforms everything with His eternal gift of grace and the outpouring of His divine love; He offers mercy and understanding to all who come to Him. Grace allows us to join with David in this Psalm “O, LORD, oppose those who oppose me........I did them no wrong.” We are welcomed to bring our feelings before our God and we can offer our prayer “Your Kingdom; come.” Amen.

  • Roger Hall | Sunday, 13 January 2019

    As Oakley says, Prepare is Prophetic. I agree. The Lord is my Fortress. He is unchanging.

  • Christine Campion | Sunday, 13 January 2019

    Sons of Korah are a great Australian band who only sing the Psalms - putting them to music and giving live audiences helpful insights into the background of the psalm. Here’s their rendition of Psalm 35: 1- 10a: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfoyhlSJ9f8&;

  • Pete White | Sunday, 13 January 2019

    Thanks for sharing that hymn, Oakley.

  • Pete White | Sunday, 13 January 2019

    Prepare was an inspired word to our nation.

  • Pat Nelson | Sunday, 13 January 2019

    In this week of political turmoil the “Prepare” section is so appropriate and so greatly needed at this time especially.

  • Barbara Sabin | Sunday, 13 January 2019

    Prayer is vital this week. May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May He send you help from the sanctuary and sustain you from Zion. May He remember all your gifts and look favourably on your burnt offerings. May He give you the desires of your heart and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy at your victory and raise a banner in the name of our God. May the LORD sanction all your petitions. Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed; He answers him from His holy heaven with the saving power of His right hand. Some trust in chariots and others in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. O LORD, deliver the king. Answer us on the day we call. https://youtu.be/xT_8r4iqrxE

  • David Chipchase | Sunday, 13 January 2019

    "Heavenly Father, God of governments and nations, we commit the people of (insert nationality) to you as they enter a year in which they’ll vote for a new president. We ask you to bless the electoral process and move powerfully to bring about change: a return to tolerance, pluralism, and peace for all of (nation’s) citizens. Amen." This is a Christian Solidarity Worldwide prayer published about a month ago and used with their permission. I felt it was very relevant to Oz with our Federal election due within four months, and the sentiment is very relevant to the USA and can be modified for the UK. I will join you in prayer for the UK and USA this week.

  • Roger Hall | Sunday, 13 January 2019

    I am wondering how The Lord thinks about Gt Britain at the moment! I don't really know how to pray into His Will in the situation. So at Morning Service, we prayed "Thy Will be Done!" We asked for forgiveness of our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. "All Glory to You Oh Father, for ever and ever and ever. "

  • Ogechi Ngemegwai | Monday, 14 January 2019

    All the coments have been very inspiring to me . The catch of t odays scripture is that David still took all his worries to God to effect vengence,and of course David prayed like a normal person when going through a very dark moment. Praise be to God.

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