PSALM 69 - Save Me!
Psalms 69 through 72 are the last psalms in the second book, or division, of the psalms. They are an abrupt change from Psalm 68, which was a praise of God’s mighty acts in creation and redemption. They are a return to the lament. Psalm 69 is a personal lament of David, with one section that is imprecatory, calling for the punishments of the wicked who oppose him.
The psalm is also known as a messianic psalm, because several of its verses are applied to Jesus in the New Testament.
Drowning in Despair
David’s plea is that God will save him from his circumstances. He describes his feelings: he is overwhelmed. He feels like water is rising to drown him and that he is stuck in slippery mud where he cannot get his footing. This is a person who feels like his troubles are about to defeat him and he can find nothing solid on which to take a stand. He is going to drown or be swept away.
To make it worse, David has been crying out to God so long that he is wearing and has a sore throat. He has cried so much he cannot see well.
Most of us can understand this, because we have been overwhelmed at times. Either we had more to do that we could get done, or everything in our lives seems to have gone bad. We have asked God for relief, but relief has not come yet.
The problem causing David despair is spelled out in verse 4. Many people hate him for no without cause. It is like they want him to restore something he did not steal. His enemies are many and they are mighty.
David’s enemies did have reasons, but they did not have just reasons, so he could say they hated him without cause. He had done nothing wrong But, they may have hated him just because he was devoted to God, as the next section indicates.
Jesus experienced the same thing. In fact, he applied this very verse to himself in John 15:25. That verse comes at the end of a passage where Jesus tells his disciples that they would experience the hate and persecution he experienced. And, he said, they hated him that the word might be fulfilled that “they hated me without a cause”. So, David, who was a man after God’s heart and God’s anointed king, was hated without cause, and his descendant, the Greater David and ultimate Anointed One, was hated even more and killed.
Although David maintained he was hated without cause, he did not claim to be without sin. He knew that God saw his sins and his follies, or foolishness. It is a good reminder to us that God sees all. All that we do and say are before him. We cannot hide from him, so we should live in acknowledgment of that fact.
The Reformers said we live “coram Deo”, which means before the face of God. It is good to remind ourselves of that when we are tempted to sin. To live coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God.
A Prayer for Others
David asked that other who hoped in the Lord would not be put to shame or dishonor because of him. He was asking God to protect others even as he asked God to deliver him.
You may have heard the term “guilt by association”. You can be judged guilty of something because of the way your friends act. That happens both with good and bad friends. The Pharisees impugned Jesus by saying he ate with sinners and tax collectors. They implication was he was a sinner, too. (Matthew 9:10-17)
Remember Peter John becoming known to the Sanhedrin as those who had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)
While David prayed that others would not suffer because of him, he pointed out to God that he suffered because of God. He said it was for God’s sake that he suffered reproach and dishonor. (7) He had even suffered alienation from his own brothers.
Of course, Jesus suffered this also. His brothers did not believe in him until the resurrection, and even accused him of being crazy. (John 7:5; Mark 3:21) Following the Lord can mean you lose popularity even with your own family.
David suffered reproach because of his zeal for the Lord’s house, the tabernacle at that time. He brought the ark back to Jerusalem and prepared a place for it. He organized extravagant worship there, paying singers and musicians to create worship music. David also desired to build the temple. Even though the Lord would not allow it, David gave lavish gifts of materials and money for its building.
Jesus also had zeal for the Lord’s house, the temple. John 2:13-17 tells us the story of Jesus going to Jerusalem at Passover, going into the temple and driving out those who sold animals for sacrifice and changed money for payment of the temple tax. The Holy Spirit then cause the disciples to remember this psalm and the words “zeal for your house will consume me”.
In David’s zeal, he fasted. He repented of sin wearing sackcloth and weeping. This brought him further reproach. Moving from good church attender to devoted disciple can alienate people you attend church with. You have moved from fan to fanatic and now make people uncomfortable. If you do not believe me, tell all of your friends and relatives you are preaching on a busy street corner every weekend night. Poor David, even drunks made up songs to sing about him with derision.
The Patient Prayer
Remarkably, though he suffered reproach and hate, David was willing to wait patiently for the Lord, even as he cried for relief. He asked the Lord to act in “an acceptable time”. (13) In other words, David asked the Lord to act in the Lord’s timing. Even though he suffered greatly, he was willing to submit to the Lord’s timing in his deliverance.
David also acknowledged God’s steadfast love. This refers to his covenant keeping love. God had made a covenant with Israel, but also with David, and David asked God to act knowing he was the beneficiary of God’s love and God’s commitments to him.
In verses, 14-15, David returned to the theme of the first two verses. He asked for deliverance from sinking in the mire and from the water sweeping over him. But he also added deliverance from the pit. The pit refers to death or the grave. David is asking God to preserve his life.
Again in verse 16, David appealed to God’s steadfast love, as well as his abundant mercy. He acknowledges these traits of God and asks God to act according to his perfect traits in coming to David’s rescue. He says this in multiple ways for emphasis: turn to me, do not hide your face, make haste to answer, draw near, redeem and ransom me. (18)
God Knows the Situation
David acknowledged the God knew the situation. He knew David’s reproach, his shame and his dishonor. He knew who David’s enemies were. (19) David had no one to give him comfort. He said, metaphorically, that he was given poison for food and sour wine for his thirst.
For Jesus, on the cross, this verse became reality. When Jesus said he was thirsty, someone put a sponge in a jar of sour wine and offered it to him. (John 19:29) He then said “it is finished” and gave up his spirit.
Jesus identified himself with these verses in the psalm, showing that he got no pity from men, but God knew his reproach and dishonor, because that was part of his atoning death for our sins. He who had no sin was made to be sin. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.
This passage gives the psalm it imprecatory nature, as David responds by asking God to punish his enemies. He is asking God for vindication by inflicting punishment on them, both physical and spiritual. He wants them to suffer in their bodies, their dwellings destroyed, and finally, that they they are blotted out of the book of life. He is saying, in effect, make them hurt, kill them, and sent them to hell. It is pretty graphic.
In contrast, Jesus, the Greater David, prays that God will forgive those who killed him. He prayed “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. (Luke 23:34) He showed us in the Lord’s prayer to forgive those who trespass against us. He told us even to love our enemies and pray for them. (Matthew 5:44) In the New Covenant, we do not look for vindication until Jesus returns and judges the world. In the interim, we are to model the love of God and the forgiveness with which we have been forgiven our sins.
David wanted his enemies put down, but in verse 29, he says he is down and asks God to set him on high, to lift him up. That would show that God is in control and that David is God’s man. It would vindicate him.
Praise To God
David ended the psalm with a doxology, a praise. In verse 30, he offers both thanksgiving and praise. He reiterates a major theme of the Bible, that God is more pleased with an attitude of thankfulness than he is with animal sacrifices.
David also encouraged the humble to be revived when they see David worship, knowing the Lord hears the prayers of the needy and the prisoners.
David’s confidence in God’s deliverance is set forth in the last two verses as he affirmed that God would save Zion and preserve it for those who love his name.
God will do that, but in a greater way than David could have imagined or hoped, for God will give those who love him a new earth, a New Jerusalem, where there there is nothing detestable or false, where God’s people live by his light in a beautiful city, where the river of the water of life runs through it, and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be.
And that is the hope we live for.