For yesterday’s message, I returned to the book of psalms. Psalm 7 is a cry for justice. I was struck about how in the West, we can easily dismiss these psalms and others (especially the imprecatory psalms) as somehow un-Christian. In many nations, where the rule of law is respected, there are legitimate ways of obtaining justice. However, in many parts of the world, in Bible times and now, justice is not to be found through earthly judges. Often God’s people have no earthly hope of justice outside of God’s work on their behalf.
So we should not dismiss psalms like these. If you have been on the receiving end of injustice, then you can make this psalm your own. If not, and you are privileged to live in a country where the rule of law is respected, then we can pray this psalm for others around the world.
The notes under the video were produced for members of my church who do not have access to the internet.
When someone does something wrong to us, what do we do?
We live in a fallen world, a world of injustice. Sometimes the unfair things are small, sometimes they are very serious. In some parts of the world, they can be a matter of life and death, where our brothers and sisters in Christ face dangers every day. Human justice fails so often. We need to remember who the judge is and how perfect a judge He is.
This psalm deals with the reality that most people at some point in their lives will face injustice done against them, whether it is something big or small. It helps us to get the right perspective, whether it is us on the receiving end of injustice or danger, or it is others that we are praying for.
We don’t actually know what the problem was. We read, in the title, that this is what David sang to the Lord concerning the words of Cush, a Benjaminite. There is no record of this event in the Old Testament but verse 3 says, “If I have done this…” So it seems that this Cush, whoever he is, has accused David of something that he didn’t do and, as a result, David is now in danger. So, he’s facing an unjust accusation and he is in trouble from evil people. He also prays for other believers (v9), “Let the evil of the wicked come to an end.”
We can pray when we or others face injustice, danger or both.
1) Crisis (v1-2)
He presents the problem to the Lord. As we’ve seen in other psalms, he tells the Lord what is going on, and how he feels.
What is going on: v1b: he is being pursued and he is in danger. v2b: it looks like he is on his own (there is none to deliver).
How he feels: v2: it feels like being chased by a hungry lion, that is attacking not just his body, his soul. Within himself, he feels like he is being torn apart.
But there is a measure of hope. He says (v1a): “O Lord my God.” The covenant keeping God is his God. And, “in you do I take refuge.” This God is not a God far off, but the Lord who is near. This is present protection (“I do take refuge”) even though the situation is not yet resolved. He can bring his broken soul for protection and comfort immediately, and so can we.
2) Confession (v3-5)
He is confessing to the Lord his innocence of the accusation and entrusting himself to the justice of God. He isn’t saying that he is innocent of all sin, but that he is innocent of this particular sin.
While we are always guilty before God, there are times when we face injustice at a human level. We can appeal to the God of justice at specific times when we are wrongly accused.
Yet, we need to be aware of the danger. If we are going to pray like this, we need to be sure that we have not done the thing that we are being unjustly accused of.
3) Cry (v6-9)
He moves on to asking God to act in response to this injustice, although he repeats his claim to innocence – “judge me” (v8b) has the sense of “vindicate me” Again, he is not saying he is innocent of everything, just of this that the enemy is saying about him.
This prayer may seem strange to our modern ears.
It is unusual in the way that he asks: “Arise… lift yourself up… awake…” (v6). He is telling the Lord to get moving! This is great boldness. Our God never sleeps, our God is always at work, He is carrying out His perfect purposes. Yet, David’s urgency overflows into this boldness. There doesn’t need to be a disconnect between the urgency in our hearts and the words that we use. The Lord knows our hearts anyway.
It is unusual in what he asks for. He is asking God to “arise… in Your anger” (v6). He is desiring God to show His wrath!
He speaks of God’s judgement over the nations (v7). This is the image of God gathering the nations before Him and sitting (over the assembly of the nations) on the throne of judgement. David is looking forward to the final judgment (v10a, the Lord judges the peoples), but also asking that the Lord will demonstrate something of that judgement now.
Is this right? Is this Christian? Today we emphasise the love of God, the gospel of grace. That is right. We are in the year of the Lord’s favour (Isaiah 61:2), and we need to use that time to preach the gospel and to pray for the lost. Even in this psalm, David warns his enemies (v12).
So, we must call for repentance, share the gospel, and love of God in Christ. However, if we ignore that He is a God of justice, we fail to serve the lost, and we ignore the need for justice in this fallen world. Generally in the West, we experience relatively minor injustice and danger. We have bosses who cut pay or make redundant unjustly. But what do you say to the parents whose daughter has been kidnapped by an old man and forced to marry him, and the police ignore them? Or the villagers who have their homes and churches burned and the local authorities encourage it? Or the people falsely accused of blasphemy in Pakistan and other places and so placed in great danger?
It is right to cry out to God for justice, to ask Him to act. While they may pray for the enemy’s salvation, they cry out to God to act in great power to deliver His people, to deal with the enemy and to rescue the suffering one. If we just have in our minds a God of love, we do not have a gospel and we do not have a final place of justice.
He is the God who “tests the minds and the hearts” and He is the “righteous God” (v9). So we need to look up to the God of justice who is upon the throne. It is right to pray for that earthly justice now, but if we have to wait, we can be sure that justice will finally be satisfied. Prayer for justice will always be answered.
When we are wronged we don’t seek personal vengeance. We may seek legal justice like Paul did, but we can always appeal to the God of justice. This is also the remedy for bitterness. There is no need for us to hold onto bitterness when justice is in the hands of the Lord.
Also for whom he asks. He says “for me” (v6). Yes, God rules over the whole universe, but His eye is upon each one of His children. I don’t know how He can rule galaxies and nations, and cities, and presidents, and generals and judges and everything and still be concerned for each individual child of His – but He can and He is.
Yet David doesn’t only pray for himself. Verse 9: “Oh, let the evil of the wicked come an end, and may You establish the righteous.” His concern is for that justice for all of God’s people wherever they are. This is the prayer of the saints in Revelation that have died for their faith. God’s people face injustice and danger all over the world, and we need to be praying for them.
Such an assurance of God’s justice also gives us confidence when we stand before the throne of God. If you have believed in the One who died in our place to satisfy the justice of God for your sins, you can be sure that He will receive you. Your sins have been paid for, so God will accept you, a forgiven sinner, on that day. Amazing grace.
4) Confidence (v10)
Having prayed in this way, he now expresses his confidence. As he has prayed, faith has grown (that is true for us also, as we start to pray we are reminded who God is and that builds faith).
So, David has moved from feeling like the prey of a lion, to the assurance that the Lord is his defender. “My shield is with God.” He takes care of my protection.
He also saves the upright in heart. Again, David is not claiming that he is sinless, but is saying that his heart is committed to the Lord. We are not sinless, but our hearts have been cleansed, we are covered in the righteousness of Christ our Saviour, and He will save us. He will protect us, nothing can touch us unless it is the plan of God (and He will only allow that for our good), and we are saved from that final judgement.
So, we can face tomorrow. We can face trouble and injustice and we can battle in prayer with confidence for the suffering church.
5) Caution (v11-16)
From this position of confidence in the Lord, David now turns to the enemies. He warns them who God is (v11), and then he says, “If a man does not repent” (v12 – other versions have “he” rather than “man” here, but the context shows this is referring to people). There is an urgent need for everyone – even our enemies – to repent.
David warns that God is not passive. He uses the vivid language of the Lord going to war. This is poetic, not literal, but it is real. It may take time, they may not see it in this life, but it will come. Just as sin grows (v14) in a person’s life and then comes out in evils (in this case the false accusation – lies, v14c), so God’s justice comes at the right time (v15-16) and the sinner reaps what they sow.
God is not mocked. He is a righteous God and He is love. In His love He has provided the way of escape. On the cross, God the Son willingly took our sin and satisfied in the full God’s justice, but that loving, free gift needs to be received through repentance and faith.
And then you will become one of God’s children. You will be able to say to Him “O Lord my God, in You do I take refuge.” You will be able to join David and all God’s people in the final verse of this psalm…
6) Commitment (v17)
For David this is not just a one-off prayer, for the Christian today there is not just one prayer or one act of worship. David commits himself to a life of thanksgiving and praise. We are called to a life of thanks in what we do, and praise expressed in our words.
In the different troubles and injustice we face and God’s people face around the world, we can have confidence in Him We can bring to Him each thing that affects our own lives as well as praying for God’s people around the world.
We don’t need to hold bitterness in our hearts. We don’t need to plot our revenge. We can pray to the God of justice.
Yet, we need to realise His mercy to us. His justice for you fell upon Jesus. You and I deserve the judgement that this psalm speaks of, yet Jesus bore it. What a Saviour! Thank Him for it and walk in humility because it is by grace that you stand and everything that He does for us is a gift of grace.
Here are the words of a song (video below):
My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who bore my pain;
Who plumbed the depths of my disgrace
And gave me life again;
Who crushed my curse of sinfulness
And clothed me in His light
And wrote His law of righteousness
With pow’r upon my heart.
If you are a Christian, He has done this for you. You will stand faultless before His throne, so let’s praise Him now.