Sha’ul Sent Men to Kill David

Psalm 59: 1-17

For the director of music.
To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” Of David. A miktam (a title, probably a musical term)
When Sha’ul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him.

DIG: Whom does David credit for his escape? Is he out of danger yet? Why does David include all Gentiles in his plea? What are his enemies like? What is their attitude toward God? What comfort and hope does David draw from the promise of God’s personal and worldwide judgment? What does judgment show about God’s view of injustice in the world? What would it mean if God did not judge evil? How did ADONAI answer David’s prayer (see Ap – Sha’ul Tries to Kill David)? Is this what he had in mind?

REFLECT: How should we pray for those who persecute God’s people? How do you balance the hatred of evil with the love for your enemies? How would you relate this psalm to the B’rit Chadashah teaching that suffering is redemptive (First Peter 4:12-13; Colossians 1:24)? David could easily have become cynical. Why didn’t he? How could David’s use of joyful worship be your freedom to cynicism?

David’s escape at night from an upper story window of his house (see Ap – Sha’ul Tries to Kill David) sets the scene for this psalm. David was in the presence of a gathering cloud. When we first encounter David in Sha’ul’s presence as a young man, he came and stood before the king. Sha’ul loved him greatly, and David became his armor-bearer (First Samuel 16:21). But jealousy set in when the women sang, “Sha’ul has slain his thousands,” and “David his tens of thousands.” From that time on Sha’ul kept a fearful eye on David (First Samuel 18:7-9). But Sha’ul was afraid of David, because ADONAI was with David, but had departed from Sha’ul (First Samuel 18:10-12). Then he stood in awe of him (First Samuel 18:15); then he was even more afraid (First Samuel 18:29). Sha’ul, tried to pin David to the wall with his spear while he was playing the lyre. But David eluded him as Sha’ul drove the spear into the wall. That night David made good his escape (First Samuel 19:8-10). Therefore, he sent men to David’s house to watch it and to kill him in the morning (First Samuel 19:11). Can you see the cloud relentlessly rising over the horizon ready to burst at any time?

But before we go any further I would pause to ask if you are facing something like this? Is the pressure on you being applied until it has almost overwhelmed and broken you? As far as you know you are clear of guilt; you have done nothing to justify the attack that is being made upon you, yet this cloud has gathered. You saw it coming and you tried to avoid it, but you could not; you find yourself in the middle of a cyclone, and there is no escape. How real is the pressure of a gathering cloud!

A. Prayer for Deliverance: David begins this psalm by casting himself upon the LORD for deliverance, saying: Deliver me from my enemies, O God; be my fortress against those who are attacking me. Deliver me from evildoers and save me from those who are after my blood, thirsting for my life. See how they lie in wait for me! Fierce men conspire against me for no offense of sin of mine, ADONAI (Psalm 59:1-3).

B. Innocence and Protests: I have done no wrong, yet they are brazenly ready to attack me, openly gathering themselves to execute me. Arise to help me; look on my plight! He accumulates all the titles he can think of to call heaven to his aid in this crisis: LORD, I need all of You, ADONAI Elohei-Tzva’ot, God of Isra’el, arouse yourself to punish all the nations; spare none of those wicked traitors (Psalm 59:4-5 CJB). In the teeth of the wind that is now against me, in the thick of the clouds that are engulfing me. I need every bit of Your omnipresence. Selah

That prayer was not at all presumptive. David knew that he was innocent, therefore he described his enemies as snarling dogs. Where did his confidence lie? David knew that Sha’ul was fighting against YHVH. Samuel had told Sha’ul that he was rejected and David had been anointed king. Therefore, David knew the pressure was coming from an enemy that was actually doing battle against the will of God. In his attempt to take David’s life, Sha’ul was deliberately seeking to frustrate the will of ADONAI.

C. The Wicked and God: They return at evening, like snarling dogs, and prowl about the city after dark searching for food. The metaphor changes: See what they spew from their mouths – the words from their lips are sharp and deadly as swords, and they think, “Who can hear us?” By their words and deeds they showed themselves to be arrogant, thinking that not even God could hear them. But David was confident that his enemies would not succeed: You laugh at them LORD; You scoff at all those nations (Psalm 59:6-8).

The God who adds a little dewdrop upon a flower in the morning is the same God who puts the stars in place and designed the path of every constellation in the heavens. And if ADONAI can care for all that, then surely He can care for you and me . . . That’s David’s argument.66

C. Hope in God: These verses, celebrating the turning point that has now been reached, are basically repeated in verse 17 to round off the psalm. ADONAI is stronger than any enemy. David declared: You are my strength, I wait (Hebrew: shamar) for You. Ha’Shem was his secure anchor in the middle of the storm. You, God are my fortress, You are my God on whom I can rely. God will go before me (Psalm 59:9-10a). David prayed himself out of any panic (if he had any), out of fear or doubt into confidence and then into joyful song. His circumstances didn’t change, but his cry for deliverance became a calm waiting on YHVH and then a song of victory even with the enemy pressing him on all sides.

B. Imprecation on the Wicked: God, let me gloat over those who slander me. But don’t kill them, or my people will forget. The prayer don’t kill them is not absolute. It asks only for the unhurried course of judgment until the bitter end. Instead, by Your power, make them wander to and fro in humiliation as outcasts and fugitives, a visible monument and sign of God’s righteous judgment. Bring them down to Sh’ol, Adonai our Shield. David spoke not only for himself but for all the congregations of God. He is concerned with more than his own danger, he also thinks about the effect upon the entire nation when such lawless men are its leaders. Hence, the reference to my people. For the sins of their mouths, for the words of their lips, let them be exposed, caught in their pride. This is the climax of David’s call for judgment. First, in the near historical future, he wants his enemies scattered but not killed. He wants their own lies to find them out. But in the far eschatological future, he wants Ha’Shem to destroy all the wicked, proving that ADONAI is the true and living God.67 For the curses and lies they utter, consume them in your wrath, consume them till they are no more. Then it will be known to the ends of the earth that God rules over Jacob (Psalm 59:10b-13 CJB). Selah

A. Confidence in God’s Response: David was confident that despite the presence of his enemies, he would praise God. They return at evening, like snarling dogs, and prowl about the city. The whole night is spent in searching for their prey, but it passes without finding any success. Their mission fails. But I will sing of Your strength, which frustrated their plot and enable me to survive the persistent and determined attempts upon my life. In the morning I will sing of Your love; for You are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. What a sense of relief he feels, to know that that danger is over and he came through the ordeal unharmed. You are my strength, I sing praise to You. Many a hard-pressed child of God has learned to put Jesus Christ between themselves and the enemy, and start singing. You, God are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely (Psalm 59:14-17).

Ultimately, our enemy is the Adversary and his demons. He is the one who revolts against God, works injustice and is out for our blood. It is also he who growls like a dog, using his tongue like a sword to lie and deceive. He is also the source of all pride. Thus, in calling ADONAI to defend us, we are really asking Him to deliver us from the evil one (Matthew 6:13). Here we have the deep assurance that the God who is our shield and our hiding place is also the God who has come in His Son to overpower the devil and his followers. So Yochanan writes: You are of God, little children, and have overcome, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (First Jn 4:4). Later, he adds that because YHVH keeps His children, the wicked one cannot harm them (First Jn 5:18). Indeed, the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work (First John 3:8).68


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