As preached by John Keller.
1) Call on God
2) Continue to do Good
3) Celebrate God's Salvation
1 Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; \\ fight against those who fight against me!
2 Take hold of shield and buckler \\ and rise for my help!
3 Draw the spear and javelin \\ against my pursuers! \\ Say to my soul, \\ “I am your salvation!”
4 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!
5 Let them be like chaff before the wind, \\ with the angel of the LORD driving them away!
6 Let their way be dark and slippery, \\ with the angel of the LORD pursuing them!
7 For without cause they hid their net for me; \\ without cause they dug a pit for my life.
8 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!
9 Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD, \\ exulting in his salvation.
10 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?”
11 Malicious witnesses rise up; \\ they ask me of things that I do not know.
12 They repay me evil for good; \\ my soul is bereft.
13 But I, when they were sick— \\ I wore sackcloth; \\ I afflicted myself with fasting; \\ I prayed with head bowed on my chest.
14 I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother; \\ as one who laments his mother, \\ I bowed down in mourning.
15 But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered; \\ they gathered together against me;
wretches whom I did not know \\ tore at me without ceasing;
16 like profane mockers at a feast, \\ they gnash at me with their teeth.
17 How long, O Lord, will you look on? \\ Rescue me from their destruction, \\ my precious life from the lions!
18 I will thank you in the great congregation; \\ in the mighty throng I will praise you.
19 Let not those rejoice over me \\ who are wrongfully my foes, \\ and let not those wink the eye
who hate me without cause.
20 For they do not speak peace, \\ but against those who are quiet in the land \\ they devise words of deceit.
21 They open wide their mouths against me; \\ they say, “Aha, Aha! \\ Our eyes have seen it!”
22 You have seen, O LORD; be not silent! \\ O Lord, be not far from me!
23 Awake and rouse yourself for my vindication, \\ for my cause, my God and my Lord!
24 Vindicate me, O LORD, my God, \\ according to your righteousness, \\ and let them not rejoice over me!
25 Let them not say in their hearts, \\ “Aha, our heart’s desire!” \\ Let them not say, “We have swallowed him up.”
26 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!
27 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 his servant!”
28 Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness \\ and of your praise all the day long.
Good morning, if you have your Bibles with you turn with me to Psalm 35
Hear the word of the Lord:
1 Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; \\ fight against those who fight against me! 2 Take hold of shield and buckler \\ and rise for my help!
3 Draw the spear and javelin \\ against my pursuers! \\ Say to my soul, \\ “I am your salvation!”
4 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! 5 Let them be like chaff before the wind, \\ with the angel of the LORD driving them away! 6 Let their way be dark and slippery, \\ with the angel of the LORD pursuing them! 7 For without cause they hid their net for me; \\ without cause they dug a pit for my life. 8 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! 9 Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD, \\ exulting in his salvation. 10 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?” 11 Malicious witnesses rise up; \\ they ask me of things that I do not know.
12 They repay me evil for good; \\ my soul is bereft. 13 But I, when they were sick— \\ I wore sackcloth; \\ I afflicted myself with fasting; \\ I prayed with head bowed on my chest.
14 I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother; \\ as one who laments his mother, \\ I bowed down in mourning. 15 But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered; \\ they gathered together against me; wretches whom I did not know \\ tore at me without ceasing;
16 like profane mockers at a feast, \\ they gnash at me with their teeth.
17 How long, O Lord, will you look on? \\ Rescue me from their destruction, \\ my precious life from the lions! 18 I will thank you in the great congregation; \\ in the mighty throng I will praise you. 19 Let not those rejoice over me \\ who are wrongfully my foes, \\ and let not those wink the eye who hate me without cause. 20 For they do not speak peace, \\ but against those who are quiet in the land \\ they devise words of deceit. 21 They open wide their mouths against me; \\ they say, “Aha, Aha! \\ Our eyes have seen it!” 22 You have seen, O LORD; be not silent! \\ O Lord, be not far from me! 23 Awake and rouse yourself for my vindication, \\ for my cause, my God and my Lord! 24 Vindicate me, O LORD, my God, \\ according to your righteousness, \\ and let them not rejoice over me! 25 Let them not say in their hearts, \\ “Aha, our heart’s desire!” \\ Let them not say, “We have swallowed him up.” 26 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! 27 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 his servant!” 28 Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness \\ and of your praise all the day long.
Let us pray:
Lord, you are our protector, our deliverer. Let us run to you in times of trouble, in times of distress. Lord, when deceit, lies and slander surround us, when traps are set before our every step, let us not despair but turn to you. Let our souls be moved to praise you for your deliverance. Let our bones shake with joy when we see your salvation. Jesus, help us to see that the servant is not greater than the master. If the world hated you, it will hate us. Let us preserve, help us endure. Holy Spirit, help us. Let us not grow weary doing good. Help us have a heart for justice. Lord may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
When trouble comes, who are you going to call? I think for most of us, we would say it depends on the problem. A busted pipe, call a plumber. A rat infestation, call an exterminator. A sick child, call a pediatrician. A ghost, call a ghostbuster. For all of our problems both real and imagined, there is an expert we can reach out to for help. But what if your problem is that people are lying about you? That they are actively trying to undermine you, to trap you, to see you destroyed? What expert can help you with that? Perhaps a lawyer? Hey, we are a nation with laws and we can appeal to the law to stop these attacks. Perhaps a bodyguard? Look, you just need some muscle, a physical presence around you so people don’t try anything. A therapist? Hmm, these feelings sound a lot like paranoia. Have you considered talking to someone about this, perhaps a prescription will give you the peace of mind you need right now.
Those responses are perhaps how a modern person would address the issues David brings up in Psalm 35. A modern person may or may not believe in God, but even if he does, he does not turn to God and demand salvation from Him. He would never presume upon the divine like that. David, in contrast, tells God to wake up and do something. There is boldness and presumption in David’s song.
If the modern man does speak to God, he speaks in vague generalities that hint toward his true feelings. The modern man avoids specifics because of a claimed fear of limiting God, but instead he only limits himself away from God. He does not bring specifics because if God does not change the situation, the answer becomes then to change the modern man’s heart. This is not the case with David. David pours his heart out. David wrestles with God. David makes clear to God what God himself has promised and David places his heart and his life into God’s hands.
The modern man does not have faith. He does not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, who lived, died, and was raised from the dead. He does not believe that Jesus sits right now at the right hand of the Father. David did. Acts 2:29-36 tell us that David foresaw and prophesied about Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension to the Father’s right hand in his Psalms. David believed, and just like with Abraham, God counted his faith to him as righteousness.
It is from this faith that we can look at this Psalm, Psalm 35 and see how David models for us what it looks like to seek the Lord in times of evil, in times of abandonment, in times of deep trouble. Even deeper, David gives a prayer for the Messiah for when the Messiah himself was abandoned, mocked, slandered and slain. One thousand years before Jesus walked the earth, David was praying and leading his people to pray for and celebrate in the vindication of God’s coming anointed one.
What then can we take away from this Psalm? There are three points of application to make on this Psalm. First, Call on God. God is the answer to your troubles, he is the expert to reach out to. Second, Continue to Do Good. Do not repay evil with evil but forgive as you have been forgiven. Pray for those who persecute you. Third, Celebrate God’s Salvation. The Lord makes good on his promises of deliverance, and when he does, his people rejoice.
Call on God
Psalm 35 begins with a call to battle. It pleads for God to take up his weapons, his armor, and for God to give his signature battlecry, “I am your salvation!” What an image! Is that how you see God? As a superhero you can call anytime anywhere?
As a father, I get similar calls to action. “Daddy, there is a spider! Come quick! Ah, it’s moving!” When my children ask for my help in this way, they are both pleading and demanding my swift action in their situation. Why? Because of my relationship with them. I am their father. It is my duty to protect them, even from spiders. That circumstance with a big ugly spider is putting our relationship to the test, if my kids thought they were in imminent danger from this spider and didn’t call out to me for help, something is wrong. Either they didn’t believe I was near or that I was unable to help.
Is that the case with you and God? Do you feel that God is not near you or is unable or willing to help you? For some, God is not the solver of your problems. Yes, he saved you from your sins, but that was then. You have it figured out now. You have systems, plans, backup plans, and a host of resources that can deal with any problem that you face. Friend, if that is you, repent and call on God. He is your rescue, your savior, your deliverer. Yes he does often use means, but still cry out to God. Draw near to Him as a child draws near to her father. Do not be like the rich man who stored up wealth and treasure in storehouses only for the Lord to call his soul that very night. That man Jesus says in Luke 12:21 is one “who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
For others, you do not call on God because your problems are either not severe enough or you yourself are not worthy enough. God is holy and magnificent, who am I to demand from Him? Who am I to pray as if summoning the creator of the universe into action on my behalf? I am a wretched sinner dependent on God’s mercy, if he wants me to have deliverance, He will give it on His time. You feel bad praying to God for yourself. If that is you, know that you are being deceived! The Lord, when teaching the disciples how to pray, tells us to pray, “deliver us from evil.” It is good to ask from God for yourself, it is even good to demand from God what he promises, knowing that God will wrestle back. You may place your demands before God but God is still the one in control of all things. When Jacob wrestled God for a blessing, he walked away with a limp. When Job wrestled with God, he was humbled and put to shame for questioning God. Yet they both received blessing and grace from the Lord and grew as part of this experience. You, therefore, should do the same, lay your heart, your desires, your demands before God.
Let us look at how David calls on God.
He asks for reciprocation with his enemies in verse 1, 2, 5, and 6. Attack those who attack me. He asks the Lord to directly and clearly involve himself. David calls on the “angel of the Lord” to pursue his enemies. Who is the angel of the Lord? What is David referencing through this figure?
The angel of the Lord is a messenger, he speaks to people the words of God. He appears to Abraham to stop him from sacrificing Isaac. He appears in the burning bush and speaks with Moses. The angel of the Lord speaks to the Israelites after the death of Joshua and rebukes them for their failure to drive out the inhabitants of the land. He is the one who calls Gideon to battle against the Mideonites.
The angel of the Lord also intervenes. The angel of the Lord first appears ministering to Hagar in the wilderness, convincing her to return to Abraham. The angel of the Lord is the one who opposed Balaam as he went to curse the Israelites on his donkey. When David sinned against God, God sent the angel of the Lord to punish the Israelites.
In 2 Sam 24:15-17, “15 So the LORD sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning until the appointed time. And there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba 70,000 men. 16 And when the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the calamity and said to the angel who was working destruction among the people, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. 17 Then David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who was striking the people, and said, “Behold, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand be against me and against my father’s house.”
By invoking the angel of the Lord upon his enemies, David is asking God, in all his power and might, to deal with them. He is saying “Lord, just as you stood against Balaam and stood against me and my city, stand against my enemies.”
David also asks for his enemies to fail in verses 4, 7, and 8. Another way we call on God is by praying against the plans and attempts of our enemies. Have you ever prayed for failure before? Have you prayed against those who hate God? Have you pleaded to God for people to fall into their own traps? Praying for our enemies means both that their endeavors will fail and lead to humiliation, shame, and destruction as well as that they will realize their need for the gospel. We pray that they will repent and believe. We call on God for both their destruction and salvation. Just as God destroyed Paul’s sight and then restored it when he later had faith we pray for our enemies when they are being acted upon by God that they too would repent and be restored.
David appeals to God’s omniscience, his all knowing and all seeing, and asks God to speak in verse 22. He pleads for God to not abandon him. David even calls on God to wake up, to move on his behalf in verse 23. He needs the Lord to vindicate him, to rescue him. David does not hold back when he calls on God. Neither should we. If you feel like God is not looking at your situation, tell him. If you feel like God is asleep, try to wake him up! If you need rescue, call on him over and over and over again. God is your loving Father who knows what you need. But that knowledge does not mean we don’t petition or pray to God. Rather, it means we are free to do so and leave prayer with hope, assurance, and peace. Call on God, wrestle with him, knowing that either your circumstance or your heart will never be the same.
Continue To Do Good
We can see the Psalmist doing good things, even to his enemies. When they were sick and unwell, David changed his life on their behalf. When his enemies were at death’s door, David mourned and prayed for them (vv. 13-14). David had many enemies, from Saul to Absolom and many others, we see David repeatedly weep and grieve for his enemies. This kindness, however, is not often repaid. Verses 15-16 reveal that David is not offered the same courtesy. Instead, David’s enemies come eager to see him fall. They delight in his agony.
It is hard to continue to do good when the only return you receive is more evil. Imagine hearing your intrusive neighbor, who complains to you about your yard, your dog, and your kids, being very ill. You decide to get a get-well basket together with soup, crackers, gatorade, and basic medicines and go over to give it to them. They do not answer the door so you leave it at the doorstep. 10 minutes later you hear a knock on the door and it is a police officer. He is there because a neighbor claimed you were harassing them, trespassing on their property, and vandalizing it with garbage and drugs across their front yard. After you clear things up with the officer it may seem impossible to ever have a positive interaction with that neighbor again.
Whether it is your neighbor, coworker, or family member, we sometimes find ourselves in relationships with people that are very mean to us. They ridicule, they mock, they slander behind our backs and to our face. They seem to completely misunderstand who you are and what you are about. If we could, we would never interact with them again. But that is not what God asks us to do. It is not what God called David to do.
We know that David was a man after God’s own heart. So it should not be surprising to note that loving your enemies is something God teaches in both the New and the Old Testament. I think most of us would point to Jesus’ sermon on the mount when he says, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 5:44-45). But this concept is also in the Old Testament.
4 “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. 5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.”
“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head,and the LORD will reward you.”
Proverbs 25 and Exodus 23 show that God’s heart for justice is bigger than anything we could do. Continue to do good because God is the judge and sees all. The Lord rewards those who obey him by loving their enemies. They give all claims of justice and vengeance to him. They continue to do good even when repaid with evil.
Often the evil done to us is not clear at first. Verse 11 speaks of malicious witnesses coming up and asking loaded questions. “They ask me things I know nothing about.” There is deceitful motivation behind what they do but it may not be clear at first. They are laying out a trap for you to fall into. And the traps of the enemy are not often physical, that is, they are not usually a giant pit hidden with a well placed rug. Often they are accusatory questions, questions and statements so loaded that you don’t know where to begin. The goal of these witnesses is stated in verse 21, “aha aha our eyes have seen it.” They are trying to make you look and match the slander they have painted of you. If this seems unrealistic or unimaginable to you, remember that it happened to Jesus.
Think of Jesus on the night he was betrayed. He had served and loved Judas. He had served and loved the people of Israel, the people of Jerusalem. After Judas handed him over to the authorities, Jesus stood on trial against a host of false witnesses. The Pharisees were continually seeking, once again, to trap Jesus. This time, they claimed victory when Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. Beaten and sentenced to death, Jesus still did good. Jesus forgives his enemies (Luke 23:34). He comforts those who have faith in him (Luke 23:40-43).
What then does this have to do with us? Didn’t Jesus bear these things on our behalf? If Jesus fulfilled all righteousness, why should we expect to go through things like this? We can see the answer when Jesus addresses his disciples during the last supper. There he tells them of the world and its coming hatred of them. He says
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ (John 15:18-25)
The scripture that Jesus is saying is fulfilled is Psalm 35:19. Jesus is the fulfillment of Psalm 35, but the servant is not greater than his master. Those who follow Christ will still be hated by the world, even as it is passing away as John and Paul tell us in 1 John 2:17 and 1 Cor 7:31. As we live in the world we will face opposition from it. Therefore, we are still to do good in the face of evil. As Jesus forgave his enemies on the cross, we are to forgive those who hurt and slander us.
What does forgiveness look like for you? When someone betrays you, seeks to entrap you, and makes steps to take away safety for you and those you love, what does forgiveness look like? Do you pray for them, do you seek to help and serve them? Do you talk with them and seek their good, that is their salvation in the Lord? Or have you shut that door and closed yourself forever from them. Has fear and bitterness hardened your heart to not feel the way the Lord feels about them? If Jesus can pray these Psalms and fulfill these Psalms and still forgive his enemies, we can too. We must continue to do good.
Celebrate God’s Salvation
When do we celebrate? When do we cry out in jubilation? When do we gather together and rejoice? We celebrate birthdays. We celebrate milestones, accomplishments. We celebrate successes, victories. We celebrate deliverance, salvation. When a hostage is returned home safely, people gather to their arrival and cheer. When the king returns from his adventures and battles, the people go out and praise him.
In Psalm 35 we see the Psalmist thanking God in the midst of the people (v. 18), rejoicing in the Lord (v. 9), and praising God (v. 18, 28). Why does he do this, what is causing David to celebrate? The answer lies in verses 10 and 27. In verses 10 and 27 are two statements of praise, each attached to a reason.
First, in verse 10, David says that the Lord’s deliverance will move him so much that his very bones will cry out and 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?”
Who is like the Lord? No one. No one delivers the poor and needy like God. Because God is stronger than he who is in the world. We praise God because not only he is able, he actively intervenes and saves the poor from Satan, sin, and death. He vindicates those who place their faith in Him.
We are poor, we have no spiritual wealth to pay for our transgressions against the living God. We were dead in our trespasses and sins and Paul tells us in Ephesians 2. But note what he says about our salvation in verses 4-8, “4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” God is rich and gives freely mercy and grace to those who run to him, cling to him, and call to him. And faith too, a faith that seeks to Lord for help, for deliverance, for salvation, that faith is from God as well. That is why we celebrate God’s salvation, because it is total, complete, and everlasting.
Second, in verse 27, David calls on a group of people to praise God and say, “Great is the LORD, \\ who delights in the welfare of his servant!” This group of people is given in contrast to the Psalmist’s enemies. Unlike the enemies, this group of people loves God’s servant and rejoices in his salvation, his vindication, and his well-being. The Bible calls this group many things, God’s people, the congregation, people who love God and his law, those who take refuge in Him. David identifies this group with something else. He labels them as “those who delight in my righteousness,” that is who is singing these praises to God.
Who delighted in David’s righteousness? Do we? Did Bathseba or the prophet Nathan? Did the people of Jerusalem when the angel of the Lord stood over the city to punish it for David’s transgressions? No, David was not a man who lived perfectly righteous. He was a sinner, the same as all of us. Why then did God’s people preserve and sing this song generation to generation about being a people that delights in David’s righteousness? We must remember that David was not merely the king of Israel, but was God’s anointed one. Psalm 35 calls on us to delight and look forward to the salvation, vindication, and righteousness of God’s anointed one. David is writing a song that is not primarily true for himself or for God’s people, but one that is true for God’s promised anointed one, His Messiah, the lamb who takes away the sins of the world. And through that Messiah, this psalm becomes true for David and for us. We can delight in David’s righteousness because it is Christ’s righteousness. We can delight in our righteousness because it is Christ’s righteousness.
For these reasons, we can celebrate God’s salvation. We can praise God day and night because he saves the poor and needy. We can exalt the Lord as he rescues his servants. We can be jubilant knowing that the Lord saved his Messiah, even from death and now death has no hold over God’s people. Celebrate God’s salvation.
In conclusion, David leads us to call to God, to continue to do good, and to celebrate God’s salvation. Call on God with expediency, with expectation, and with expressive zeal. Call out with all your desires, dreams, and demands and leave them before him. Know that those who call out to God will be heard and will be changed. Call on God. Continue to do good as Christ continued, knowing that he is the Lord of all and sees all. Continue to love those who are against you. Those who speak lies to you and about you may never repay with good or acknowledge your love or kindness. They may continue to send evil your way. Continue to do good. Celebrate God’s salvation. Praise the Lord for His mercy and deliverance. Just as David was a sinful man, we too are sinners in need of a savior. We need Jesus’ righteousness. We need his vindication. We celebrate on Sunday because God the Father vindicated his Son, showing the world by raising him from the dead that Jesus lived the perfect life without sin and completing all righteousness. We celebrate His righteousness because he gives to his people, those who place their faith in him are saved and they rejoice when others experience this salvation. Celebrate God’s Salvation.