In Psalm 35, a victim of betrayal and injustice calls for fire in militaristic fashion. He pleads for God to fight against his opponents. He cries out for God to put on his armor, “Take hold of shield and buckler and rise for my help! Draw the spear and javelin against my pursuers. Say to my soul, ‘I am your salvation” (verses2-3).
The psalmist reveals his enemies’ strategy of deception and abuse of the innocent: “For without cause they hid their net for me; without cause they dug a pit for my life!”(verse 7). He describes how they testify against him and how they berate him in heartless interrogations. As he prays, he contrasts how they treat him with how he treated them when they needed assistance:
“But I, when they were sick – I wore sackcloth; I afflicted myself with fasting; I prayed with head bowed on my chest. I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother; as one who laments his mother, I bowed down in mourning” (verses 13-14).
They instead rejoice at his weakness and assault him; “they gnash at me with their teeth,” he tells the LORD.
“How long, O Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their destruction, my precious life from the lions!” In verse 17, he cries out in desperation for God to save him. He recognizes that others also suffer as he does and prays that God will deliver them as well. These enemies “do not speak peace, but against those who are quiet in the land they devise words of deceit.” He appeals to God’s hatred for falsehood and desire for justice as he asks for God to intervene and destroy his enemy with a devastating counter attack. In verse 8, he prays “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!” In verse 26, he summarizes his appeal, “let them be put to shame and disappointed altogether who rejoice at my calamity!”
He concludes his call for fire with a prayer that those who delight in righteousness will “shout and be glad” as they say, “Great is the LORD, who delights in the welfare of his servant!” and a promise, “Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness and of your praise all the day long” (verses 27-28).
When it seems that pain increases and opponents multiply in direct correlation to our own attempts to be faithful, we question God’s presence and his power against evil. We wonder how abuse of the “poor” and the “quiet” abounds in a universe ruled by a loving God. We ask how long will God allow this to continue. In the prayer of Psalm 35, the abused and the vulnerable, the swindled and the deceived, read a message that goes to the heart. The prayer is our prayer. Hope revives when we remember that God does “delight in the welfare of his servant.” He does care; he will judge the abuser and liar. Then the focus falls on us: will we “tell of [his] righteousness and of [his] praise all the day long?” Let us pray for God to act against evil, but let us also rejoice and thank him when he does. God delights in setting right what has gone wrong. Pray hard, my friends, and tell boldly what God has done to rescue you.