David has been falsely accused by “Cush – a Benjamite” and he is seeking God’s justice in this temporal situation. From a literary perspective, this psalm could be tied together almost like a sandwich (technically, this psalm forms an “inclusio.”) Verses 1-3 and 17 are like the bread – sharing similar themes. Verses 3-5 and 14-17 are the cheese and verses 6-13 are the meat. We will approach this psalm from that perspective.
In verses 1-3, we find that deliverance comes from the Lord – providing stability to the believer. Many times in the midst of false accusations, people are tempted to quickly turn to others around them and say, “Did you hear about what happened to me? Those people are such liars!” Sometimes, people might mope around in fear – never wanting anyone to approach them or even allow them to see the light of day. In and of themselves, neither of these responses are truly helpful. Psalm 7 reveals that our greatest hope is found in the Lord. David refers to the Lord as “my God” and the One in whom he puts his trust. Again, the phrase “my God” is similar in tone to the Greek phrase “Abba! Father!” It is a term of intimacy. David further reveals this closeness by saying that God is his refuge. Since God is David’s God and the One who protects David, David explains his need for God’s justice to be displayed at the present time. False accusations are rising up against him and are tearing him apart much like a lion tears apart its prey. In these verses, David does not say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Instead, David confesses the pain these words have caused, and calls on God to act accordingly – on behalf of His child. Words do have power, and people need to realize that power and act appropriately (see Jas. 3:1-12).
In verse 17, we see the conclusion of someone who finds refuge in the Lord. Since the Lord is righteous and good towards His children, David can rejoice! Note that David refers to Yahweh (aka – the LORD) as the Most High. This phrase was first mentioned in Genesis in the interaction between Melchizedek and Abraham (Gen. 14). This phrase is “descriptive of the universal rule of God, to whom his subjects sing praise” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 135). Having seen that all the Old Testament Scriptures point to the Messiah, and that Jesus is LORD, we also see that the phrase “Most High” prefers to Jesus as well. Therefore, we praise Jesus! He suffered unjustly. Jesus was lied about. Jesus endured the wrath of God on the behalf of sinners (Rom. 3:21-26). Then the Bible says that we ought to share in His sufferings (Rom. 8). But, the Bible does not stop there either. The Bible says that He is ruling and reigning today. He is the One Who is worthy (Eph. 4:8, Heb. 1:3). He sits at the right hand of the Father today – ever living to make intercession for us, while preparing a place for us, and also enjoying the praises of the heavenly hosts (Jn. 14:3, Heb. 7:25). This God is the God who has rescued David, and this God is the God who has rescued many throughout the ages! Therefore, if God be for His children, who can be against them (Rom. 8:31)? Rest your case at His feet.
Since God is the judge, David is able to entrust his enemies and even himself at God’s judgment. These truths we find in verses 3-5 and 14-16. In verses 14-16, we find the description of the wicked. Here are a couple of truths we find in David’s description: 1) “The wicked brings forth. . . .” Jesus says that it is not the things outside of us that makes us filthy, it is what is inside of us that reveals our filth (Matt. 15:10-20). This means that by nature we can only sin unless the grace of God enters to save us, 2) Within our own selves, human beings have an adulterous relationship against their Creator and bring about trouble and falsehood. Every human being was created in the image of God to glorify Him, and every human being somehow steals that glory for themselves by not actively giving to God the glory due to His name, 3) Death is the ultimate end of the wicked because their actions pursue an existence apart from God (see Lk. 16:19-31 for an example of a man who still tries to be in control in Hell).
All this said, David is not merely hoping for judgment on others. David really pleads for God’s righteous judgment to be displayed – even if that means for God to discipline David. Keep in mind, David believes he is innocent. He also knows that he is the Lord’s anointed (Ps. 2), but he realizes that God’s justice is more important. If he is wrong in this situation, God must reveal that. We see this truth communicated in verses 3-5.
David uses the dynamic use of three – “if, if, if.” He does not believe he is guilty, but if he is, he asks that he would be overtaken because justice must be seen in this scenario. Many times, we humans plead for mercy. We often think that mercy means no consequences for our actions. That can definitely be the case, but mercy also includes God’s abundant love towards His children to mold them into His image more and more. If a more severe consequence would keep His child from being conformed to God’s image, He will not allow it. If God’s child needs that consequence to be molded into His image, He’ll grant it – even if that means taking away things that you have worked hard for (hence David praying for his honor to lay in the dust). These are very strong words, and for that reason, I think this is why we find the word “Selah” here and nowhere else in this Psalm.
We have seen so far that God is the judge and that everyone will be judged by Him. Now we see more clearly that God will judge rightly (vv. 6-13). David again uses the dynamic use of “three’s” by asking for the Lord to arise, lift up, rise up. He believes he is innocent in this earthly matter and he is seeking God’s deliverance. There are three truths we see from verse six: 1) David seeks for God’s anger towards sin be displayed clearly, 2) David believes the enemy’s rage is so intense that they need to be stopped and shamed, 3) David believes that God’s faithfulness to His children requires that God answer him in this scenario.
In verses 7-8b, David addresses what I believe to be future reality. Basically David is saying, “continue to reveal your judgment on this earth since everyone will someday be judged around Your throne.” One commentator said, “. . .all of God’s judgments in this life are dress rehearsals for the final judgment” (The Preacher’s Commentary, p. 72). David quickly returns to his specific situation in verse 8b. He asks the Lord to judge his actions justly. Verses 12-13 talk about God’s direct punishment towards the wicked in sharpening His sword and making His bows ready. There will be a day when wickedness will come to an end (Rev. 19). At that final judgment, the righteous LORD will test hearts and minds. For all the righteous, Jesus will be their defense and their righteousness. And, since God is a just judge, He will justly punish the wicked (Rev. 20:10).
Now, where does this psalm point us to today? I cannot help but be reminded of Romans 1-3. Everyone is a sinner (Rom. 3). There are areas of innocence in earthly matters. God cares about those matters, and we ought to pray that His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven (Matt. 6). But with regards to our innocence in the heavenly courts, everyone is wicked.
Thankfully, Jesus enters the Heavenly Courts. The book of Zechariah gives a wonderful story of Joshua (the High Priest) coming into God’s courts with dirty clothes and God placing His clean robe on Joshua – symbolizing forgiveness (Zech. 3). In the same way, Jesus died and shed his blood on behalf of sinners so that they might have a robe of righteousness placed on them. Jesus enters the Heavenly Courts and says, “Judge them according to my righteousness, and according to my integrity within me.” When those who have been saved get to the judgment, we ought never to say, “Lord, didn’t we do many wonderful works in your name” as a means of gaining access into eternal life (Matt. 7:21-23). To those people God says depart from me. Instead, we ought to say with the song-writer, “I need no other argument or plea. It is enough that Jesus died, and that He died for me” (Eliza Hewitt, My Faith Has Found A Resting Place; see also Gal. 2:20).
So, what does David’s response to false accusations teach us? We too ought to remember God’s judgment, entrust ourselves to Christ and then focus on our glorious eternal future. In the final judgment there is either going to be people who believe on Jesus or people who have rejected Him. For those who believe, there will be glorying in Him with great admiration! We will say that God is our righteousness, our defense and our salvation. God’s children will say with verse 17 of this psalm, “I will praise the LORD according to His righteousness, And will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.”