When we are hurting, we want to lash out. In anger, or in despair, we abandon love. We flee from trust, even as we crave to trust and long to be trusted. In Psalm 7, a psalmist under attack prays for victory against his oppressors:
“Arise, LORD, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God, decree justice” (Psalm 7:6 ).
He voices his despair. He pleads for God to exact justice. In Psalm 7, the words of the prayer differ from the message of many prayers for justice. The writer of this psalm prays that God will judge him along with his enemies. When angry or hurt, we may ignore factors that explain the perspective of others and explain away actions of our own that are unjust or selfish. As the Psalmist prays, he holds himself accountable:
“Lord my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands – if I have repaid my ally with evil or without cause have robbed my foe – then let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust” (Psalm 7:3-5).
He restates this willingness to be judged in verse eight when he prays that God will vindicate him “according to [his] righteousness, according to [his] integrity.” He stages this assertion after placing it in the context of an assembly of the nations in the presence of God the judge on his throne. Not only his enemies, but he himself will be judged so that God can “bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure” (verse 9). As he prays that God will end the violence of the wicked, he acknowledges that no one can deceive or hide from God, our judge who is able to probe minds and hearts. In verses seven through nine, he recalls that God “has prepared his deadly weapons.” The armor and weaponry of God is ready for him to use it as he judges and disciplines humanity.
He continues his prayer with confession that serious consequences stem from evil thinking and actions:
“Whoever is pregnant with evil conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment. Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit they have made. The trouble the cause recoils on them; their violence comes down on their own heads” (Psalm 7:14-16).
In this prayer, a humble of servant of God confesses his fear that his own sins have fueled the struggles and opposition he is enduring, even as he asks God to rescue him from those who threaten to tear him apart. Despite his fears, He confesses his faith in God’s righteousness, justice, and power both to avenge and to save. He concludes his prayer with gratitude, singing, and praise. When I was in the Army, I repeatedly heard leaders remind their soldiers to take care of their equipment and to trust that it would work. This man of prayer realizes that God is his best defense, his shield, against all that threatens him.
This psalm reminds you and me that when we pray, it is crucial that we are honest with ourselves and with God. We cannot hide from him, but we can deceive ourselves. I’ve learned to critique my own emotions and motives before assuming the worst in others. It was not an easy lesson to learn. I encourage you to pause to evaluate yourself before you pray. Remember God’s justice and power to discipline and punish, but also remember his love and his power to save those who strive to walk in righteousness. God values truth-telling highly. Let’s testify to our own faithfulness by seeking to speak (and to post on social media) truth at all times. Let’s pray with the psalmist that God will arise to save the righteous. May we be among those he rescues.
- Quotes from the Bible are from the New International Version 2011.