The Psalms are always known for their emotive power. This is part of what makes them to be such a loved book of the Bible. The psalm that is before us tonight is certainly no exception. The Psalm begins with tears and ends with peaceful elation. There is, in one sense, a jubilant tone to it. But it is mixed in with sadness and feelings of fiery passion.
And we see that during this attack David let his heart run to God and he certainly did not hold back in letting his feelings be known.
So this Psalm is here for us, to help us when we find ourselves under attack. When the enemies of God oppress us, we must remember that our defense is in the God who hears our prayers.
Now, as we make our way through this psalm, I want us to keep in mind its three different segments. The first three verses we see the basis of David’s prayer. Then in verses 8-12 we see what it is David actually prays for. In other words, verses 8-12 tell us the content of his prayer. And then, we will finish tonight by looking at the confidence that David has in the prayer.
But let’s begin by talking about the basis of David’s prayer.
I. The appeal he makes to God [1-6]
David’s enemies are attacking. So he looks to God for help. And we see his appeal is based in the abounding sympathy God has for his people.
A. It is based in God’s abounding sympathy for his people
Look at the first two verses. He beings with the words, “Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray.”
Some of you who have a different version may have something a little different for the end of verse 1. The ESV says, “Consider my groaning.” If you have the KJV, it says, “Consider my meditation.” If you have the NIV, it says, “Consider my signing.” The commentators say that this word has to do with soft murmurs that arise out of deep emotions. In other words, the pain you experience is so much and so overwhelming that you can’t even begin to formulate a real prayer. Even your thoughts (i.e. your meditations) are all jumbled together.
You ever experience that? Have you ever had a time when you wanted to pray, but couldn’t. Maybe you fell on your bed crying out to God, but weren’t able to actually pray. You merely sobbed and groaned and signed.
That is what this is talking about. David is so gripped with pain over the incident that there’s a sense in which he can’t pray. He’s so hurt that all he can do is groan.
This is what Spurgeon says, “There are two sorts of prayers - those expressed in words, and the unuttered longings which abide as silent meditations. Words are not the essence but the garments of prayer.”
The apostle Paul puts it this way in Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
But the point is that God hears him despite the fact that he not really able to pray. The moans of agony are, in essence, stirring up God’s sympathy.
It is a lot like how you mothers react to your children. You know there are different kinds of crying. Your kids can cry because they are not getting their way, and you’ve learned to block that out. You know that kind of crying does not necessitate any kind of urgent reaction.
But there are times when your child cries because he or she is hurt. If your child has fallen down and taken a good spill, you know that kind of cry. That’s a different kind of cry. You know the sound of the cry that needs immediate attention. And when you hear that noise, you react instantly because motherly senses tell you to. That child has been hurt and, as a parent, you well up with sympathy.
Now your kid probably didn’t say anything coherent. But that didn’t prevent you from responding. The groanings was the only thing that you needed to hear.
That’s what this is talking about. You’re relationship with God is not based in any eloquence or astounding oratory prayers that you can address to heaven. God isn’t waiting for you to compose a perfectly formulated speech. It isn’t like you have to appease the Propriety Regulations before the Lord will come to your aid. He abounds with sympathy for his people. He is filled with infinite measures of compassion. And when, you, his child cry out to him—even with the garbled expressions of muffled speech, the Lord hears and reacts.
What I want to guard against is this idea that God requires perfect decorum from his people. Sure, we don’t want to be disrespectful or profane—obviously. But we shouldn’t have this notion that we have to perform perfectly or have to have every i dotted and every t crossed in order to come to God. We need to understand that God hears us, not because we are able to articulate things properly, but because he loves us.
David isn’t relying on his superior ability to communicate with God. No. He’s completely relying on God’s infinite measure of sympathy for him.
But you’ll notice that’s not the only thing upon which David bases his prayer. Verses 4-6 tell us that his appeal is also based in the infinite hatred the Lord has for sinners.
B. It is based in God’s abounding hatred for sinners
Notice how intense the words of verse 4 and following are. “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.”
As you read these words, it is almost as if the intensity of them increases. First, he simply does not delight in wickedness. If it were to stop there, you’d think that God was just a little annoyed with sin. It would kind of be like how you feel towards someone who is a little annoying. You might be at a dinner party together, but you could tolerate hanging around with the guy.
But he ups it a notch by saying, “Evil cannot dwell with him.” So, if we return to the dinner party idea, this means you’d have to leave the room. The guy was so annoying, you’d have to step out.
But the language continues to become more inflammatory: He hates all evildoers. He destroys those who speak lies. He abhors the bloodthirsty & deceitful.
The way this is structured it is almost as if you can see God’s anger erupting. It comes to the point where the Lord is seething with anger.
But what I want you to see is the relation between God’s sympathy and his anger. If you are an unbeliever, God’s anger is something to be feared. (And we’ll talk more about that in a second). But for those of us who are his children, God’s anger is what fuels his sympathy for us. God’s anger is something that we rest in and take comfort in. It is our assurance that his sympathy is not a wash of blathering emotion.
If the Lord did not get angry—if he did not foment with rage at those who perpetrate these atrocities, then what kind of God would he be?
This is the kind of God that I think is quite common today. A few years ago there was a big tadoo over the book “The Shack”. The god that it depicted was a god who was full of compassion and poured emotion into the hurt one. But it wasn’t a god that was incensed with anger at the vile things that had been done or the people who did them.
There is no comfort in a world where there is no justice. And it is only when you know that God truly abhors evildoers and liars, that you can really find any sort of hope.
And that brings us to the second half of the psalm. We’ve been talking about the basis for David’s prayer, but we have not talked about the real business of his prayer yet. It isn’t until verse 8 that we find the real content of this prayer.
II. The request he makes from God [8-11]
But when we look at these verses we find that there are basically two things for which he prays. The first thing for which we pray is our personal preservation.
Look at verse 8. It says, “Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.”
Now this could mean that David is asking God to lead him in what is morally right. He acknowledges that he is a sinner and his enemies are sinning. So he could be praying that God would help him to do what is ethically right given the situation.
Or he could be praying that God would, by his providence, lead him so that he is physically preserved. His life is likely in danger and so he’s asking for that kind of protection.
But his prayer is more than that he would simply be personally preserved. His prayer extends to his enemies. And he prays that they might be corporately cursed.
Look at verses 9 and 10. It begins by describing how evil humanity really is. It says, “For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.”
Then in verse 10 we have a threefold imprecation. It first says, “Make them bear their guilt, O God.” The idea is that they are guilty, so treat them as such. Then it says, “Let them fall by their own counsels.” Finally it says, “because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.”
Taking it all together David is asking God to bring his judgment down upon them. They have done all kinds of evil (and they are planning even more). So David recognizes that they deserve to be cursed by God and removed from power. David is merely asking God to carry out his just sentence upon them.
This lines up then with the rest of the passage. In verses 11-12 it talks about how the people may rejoice and enjoy the protection of God. This is simply what we experience in the aftermath of God’s having come in judgment upon his enemies. God acts as our shield and bestows his favor on us when he brings the ungodly into judgment. As he takes action against his foes, God relieves us of our distresses and allows us to be furthered in the estate of blessed happiness.
This is some heavy stuff. Some even wonder if we are to pray this way today. We’re basically praying for the downfall and condemnation of our enemies. Are we not supposed to love them?
Keep in mind that David is not praying this because someone has stolen his pew. Of course, we are to remember that we don’t pray such things when we’ve been personally offended or marginally slighted. These kinds of prayers are when our circumstances are dire and the enemies of God are seeking to strangle the entire kingdom of God.
But when we are put to the straits and when there is little that can be humanly done to combat it—and when the enemies of God are ready to blot out the Name of God, we are to make our recourse unto God. We should then pray that our enemies would be crushed and their guilt be brought to bear upon them.
And all those who set themselves against God should know that it is only a matter of time before their end comes. God will not let their guilt go unpunished. Even as the New Testament says, “All liars will have their part in the lake of fire.” The God whose intense hatred for sin will ensure the doom of those who work iniquity.
And this leads us to the last point we need to make. Before we leave we must talk about the confidence David has in his prayer.
III. The confidence he has in God 
Look back at verse 7. In verse 7 David says, “But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you.”
This is an important verse, because David recognizes that he gets to enter into God’s house. He gets to enter into the temple to meet with God. And why is it he gets this privilege? It’s certainly not because David is some upstanding fellow! It’s all because of the abundance of God’s grace.
Let’s retrace our steps here. In the earlier verses it tells us that God hates all evildoers. He don’t just hate the sin and love the sinner. That’s what we are often told to do. People tell us that we are to hate the sin and love the sinner. And the reason they say we are to do that is because they say that’s what God does. But that’s not true. That’s not found in the Bible. God doesn’t just hate sin. He hates the sinners who are committing those sins.
Then in verse 9 it talks about those who are deceitful and whose throats are open graves. Some of you may recognize that this is the verse that Paul uses in the book of Romans when he describes the depravity of all of humanity. All of us are liars. All of us have mouths that are full of death and destruction. All of us are inwardly corrupt. And, as a result, we should all bear the wrath and curse of God.
David, like you and me, should not be allowed to stand in the presence of a sin hating God. But God in his grace allows him to dwell in his house—his company. That’s because another one has born our guilt. We can stand in the company of God because Jesus Christ was hated by God in our place. Christ, on the cross, bore the iniquity of our sins and felt the utter abhorrence of God.
This is why David can have such confidence. This is why we too can have the assurance that we may stand before God. Thus, he can rejoice in the Lord and have the confidence that God’s wrath will not come upon him.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.