"Let Me Be Delivered From Those Who Hate Me" (Psalms 69-70) August 17-19
With Psalm 69 we come to the final group of psalms in Book II (Psalms 69-72). The Zondervan NIV Study Bible comments on these four psalms: "Book II of the Psalter closes with a cluster of three prayers and an attached royal psalm-in perfect balance with its beginning (...Ps 42-45). These three prayers [69-71] were originally all pleas of a king in Israel [stated to be David in the superscriptions of 69 and 70] for deliverance from enemies (apparently internal) determined to do away with him. They all contain certain key words that are found elsewhere in Book II only in Ps 42-44 and in the seven psalms (54-60) placed at the center of the Book. Another link between Ps 69-71 and 42-44 is the placement of a short psalm at the center of each triad. These placements have the appearance of deliberate editorial design. In the former cluster Ps 43 has been artificially separated from 42...while in the latter cluster Ps 70 repeats (with some revision) Ps 40:13-17 and was probably intended to serve as an introduction to Ps 71. The attached prayer for the king [also referred to as the king's son] (Ps 72) stands in similar relationship to Ps 69-71 as Ps 45 stands to Ps 42-44 and brings Book II to its conclusion. Thus, as with Ps 45, its placement here hints at a Messianic reading of the psalm already by the editors of the Psalter.... It should be further noted that in Ps 65-68 all peoples on earth are drawn into the community of those praising God.... Here in Ps 69 all creation is called to join that chorus (v. 34), and Ps 72 envisions that all peoples and kings will submit to the son of David (vv. 8-11) and be blessed through his reign (v. 17)" (note on Psalms 69-72).
Yet the resounding praise in Psalm 69 does not come until the end. Most of the psalm constitutes an urgent prayer by David for deliverance while lamenting over life-threatening circumstances and enemy persecution. While he meant himself as the sufferer, this was also prophetic. "The authors of the N[ew] T[estament] viewed this cry of a godly sufferer as foreshadowing the sufferings of Christ; no psalm, except Ps 22, is quoted more frequently in the N[ew] T[estament]" (note on Psalm 69). As The Nelson Study Bible states: "This highly messianic psalm presents a remarkable description of the sufferings of Jesus Christ. Whereas Ps. 22 describes Jesus' physical sufferings, Ps. 69 focuses more on His emotional and spiritual suffering. Yet like Ps. 22, this psalm was written by David approximately a thousand years before the events it describes. Both psalms begin with the sufferings of David but have their full meaning in the sufferings of Jesus. For these reasons, the apostles in the New Testament acknowledge that David was a prophet of God (Acts 2:30)" (note on Psalm 69).
David likens his anguish to sinking in mud and deep water, being swallowed by the ocean deep or the pit-that is, the grave (verses 1-2, 14-15). This imagery was also used in Psalm 40 (see verse 2), another messianic psalm quoted in the New Testament. Psalm 40 is part of the cluster of psalms closing Book I of the Psalter, just as Psalm 69 is part of the cluster of psalms closing Book II. A further link here can be found in the fact that the very next psalm, Psalm 70, is, as was noted above, a reprise of Psalm 40:13-17-and it seems like a quick summary of Psalm 69.
David has sought God so earnestly, through crying and constant prayer, that he says, "My throat is dry; my eyes fail while I wait for my God" (verse 3). While the latter expression may denote in part his eyes being swollen from crying, it probably also has to do with diminished joy and hope. (For more on the metaphor of eyes failing, see the Bible Reading Program comments on Psalm 38.)
David is wearied by his host of enemies who, he says, "hate me without a cause" (69:4). We saw this same description earlier in Psalm 35:19 and will see a similar one in Psalm 109:3-5. As pointed out in the Bible Reading Program comments on Psalm 35, this baseless antagonism was prophetic of Jesus Christ's experience-as He specifically declared it to be (John 15:25).
David does confess sins to God, but his point here is to say that God knows his enemies aren't opposing him for this reason (Psalm 69:5). As in other messianic passages, Jesus does not share the fault of sin-yet He did suffer for sins (the sins of others, including David's).
In verse 6, the implication is that others on David's side are praying for him. David prays that none of these will suffer shame and discouragement as a result of what happens to him. Indeed, Jesus no doubt prayed for His disciples this way in the time before His trial, crucifixion and death. In David's case, he was asking for God to rescue Him and thereby demonstrate that those who were praying for Him were in the right. In Jesus' case, He would have been asking for His disciples to be helped through what was happening until they were completely vindicated when God truly rescued Jesus from death by resurrecting Him. We should learn a lesson from the fact that Christ was not preserved from death but was ultimately saved out of it. If God does not deliver us from some circumstance in the here and now, we should not let that discourage us. Indeed, God is always alongside the believer, whether He rescues him now or not.
David further states: "For Your sake I have borne reproach...and the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me" (verses 7, 9). He is speaking here of the life of the righteous in general terms-of which his present circumstance is only an example. The godly suffer when they turn away from the world to obey God. They often go through difficulties not of their own doing: "Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered" (Psalm 44:22, NIV). As Jesus told His followers: "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12)-David having been one of these prophets. Jesus Himself was, of course, the premier example of being hated for following God.
In describing his devotion to God for which he is persecuted, David says, "Zeal for Your house has eaten me up" (verse 9). David was consumed with wanting to honor God-filled with desire to serve God's tabernacle and God's nation and to build God's temple. Christ's disciples recognized this passage as applying to Him after He ran the moneychangers out of the temple of His day-evidently already having understood Psalm 69 to be a messianic psalm (see John 2:17). God's people today should have this same zeal for His house, which at this time is His Church (see 1 Timothy 3:15).
David was in sore grief, which in itself became something for others to ridicule (verses 10-11). He was scorned by many at all levels of society-from "those who sit in the gate" (city elders) to drunk commoners singing mocking bar songs about him in the taverns (verse 12). Jesus also faced such contempt.
In verses 13-18 David returns to pleading with God to rescue him-"speedily," he asks (verse 17), trusting that he is praying "in the acceptable time" (verse 13)-also translated "in the time of your favor" (NIV). Considering the messianic nature of this psalm, it is interesting that God will later declare that He has heard His Servant (representative of both the Messiah and Israel) "in an acceptable time" (Isaiah 49:8; see also 2 Corinthians 6:2).
David can't find anyone to comfort him (Psalm 69:20). Consider that Jesus' disciples abandoned Him during His trial and suffering so that the only ones to turn to for pity were His adversaries and other onlookers, and they gave him none. David further states that those from whom he sought comfort instead gave him "gall" (denoting a bitter substance) to eat and, for his thirst (compare verse 3), vinegar to drink (verse 21). David was here employing "vivid metaphors for the bitter scorn they made him eat and drink when his whole being craved the nourishment of refreshment and comfort" (Zondervan, note on verse 21). Yet this was prophetic of what Christ experienced, both figuratively and literally (see Matthew 27:34, 48; Mark 15:23, 36; Luke 23:36; John 19:28-29).
For their mistreatment of him, amounting to defiance of God, David calls on God to curse his enemies with punishment (Psalm 69:22-28). Verse 25, combined with Psalm 109:8, is understood in the New Testament as prophetic of Judas Iscariot no longer having a place among the apostles following his treachery and suicide (see Acts 1:20). Indeed, we should understand David's words here more as a prophecy of judgment on God's enemies than as a model to follow in our own prayers. Jesus gave us the pattern of what to say during persecution when He was being executed: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). We are to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44)-the best thing we can pray for being that they will repent.
Of course, there are circumstances where it is proper to seek God's intervention and justice against those who refuse to repent. This, however, does not mean wishing people out of God's Kingdom forever. David's prayer about blotting his enemies out of the book of life and that they not be written with the righteous (Psalm 69:28) might seem to imply this-leaving them utterly hopeless. Yet we should consider that what David was really saying here is that God would not accept these enemies as they were at that time-giving them eternal life in spite of the evil they had done. And in fact God does not do this. None of the enemies David speaks of here may ever receive eternal life in God's family-until, that is, their repentance, acceptance of Christ's atonement for their sin and their transformation into wholly new people. The people they were will never be in the Kingdom of God. (Even David's old self-which, frankly, was his greatest enemy-will not be in God's Kingdom. And so it is with all of us today.) Indeed, knowing David's character as a man after God's own heart, we can be confident that if one of those of whom he spoke here sincerely repented and begged him for mercy, he would have shown it-making it clear that he did not mean that they should never be able to repent.
David's statement in verse 29, "But I am poor and sorrowful," again calls to mind Psalm 40: "But I am poor and needy" (verse 17), which is repeated in Psalm 70:5. As before, "poor" in this context does not mean financially indigent but, rather, broken in spirit (humbled) and in great need of help-as Jesus Christ also was in His fatal circumstances.
Yet David is confident of God's intervention, declaring that he will praise and thank God (69:30)-stating that the proper attitude is what God desires more than the ritualism of the sacrificial system (verse 31), as David also stated in Psalm 40 (verse 6) and in other psalms.
The humble seeking God on his behalf will then rejoice (69:32-33)-just as Christ's followers would later rejoice after His resurrection (and just as all His followers today will rejoice after His return in power and glory to rule all nations).
Verse 34, as pointed out earlier, calls on all creation to join in praising God. And verses 35-36 speak of the salvation and restoration of Zion and Judah. David may have been referring to present circumstances-perhaps to Jerusalem and outlying towns taken over by enemies during Absalom's or Sheba's rebellion afterward reverting to David and those loyal to him. Yet some contend that David did not write these words-seeing the specific reference to Judah and the need to rebuild its cities (in a literal sense) as an indication that verses 34-36 were added to David's psalm by a later king in Jerusalem, such as Hezekiah at the time of Assyria's invasion. That could be. In any case, the words here likely refer not just to ancient Zion, but prophetically to spiritual Zion today (God's Church) and to Jerusalem at the time Christ returns to establish God's Kingdom.
Psalm 70, as mentioned earlier, repeats Psalm 40:13-17 with several minor word changes-these changes perhaps suggesting a different tune. It is interesting that Psalm 70, being taken from Psalm 40, follows Psalm 69, which itself carries imagery over from Psalm 40. Thematically, Psalm 70 appears to be a condensed version of the material in Psalm 69-and it also seems to introduce Psalm 71 (compare 70:1-2; 71:12-13).
The superscription of Psalm 70, like that of Psalm 38, in the NIV says, "A petition." But the KJV and NKJV give the literal rendering of the words here as "To bring to remembrance." In the present case, this terminology could reflect this psalm being a reprise of the end of Psalm 40 and a summary of Psalm 69-i.e., a recounting of the need for deliverance.
One point of indirect contact between Psalms 70 and 69 is found in 70:3. This verse, with enemies saying "Aha, Aha!" (also 40:15), finds a counterpart in Psalm 35:21. These enemies, it is said two verses earlier in Psalm 35:19, "hate me without a cause"-a phrase that also appears in Psalm 69:4 (all of these being messianic psalms).
David focuses on God throughout his trial-continually praising Him (70:4) and seeking His help.