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Psalm 64 -
David’s Enemies, and Their Downfall
For the director of music.
A psalm of David.
1Hear me, O God, as I voice my complaint;
protect my life from the threat of the enemy.
2Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked,
from that noisy crowd of evildoers.
3They sharpen their tongues like swords
and aim their words like deadly arrows.
4They shoot from ambush at the innocent man;
they shoot at him suddenly, without fear.
5They encourage each other in evil plans,
they talk about hiding their snares;
they say, “Who will see them?”
6They plot injustice and say,
“We have devised a perfect plan!”
Surely the mind and heart of man are cunning.
7But God will shoot them with arrows;
suddenly they will be struck down.
8He will turn their own tongues against them
and bring them to ruin;
all who see them
will shake their heads in scorn.
9All mankind will fear;
they will proclaim the works of God
and ponder what He has done.
10Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord
and take refuge in Him;
let all the upright in heart praise Him!
The inscription of this psalm tells us that it is “A psalm of David,” and certainly there can be no doubt about this. Like many of David’s psalms, this one begins with a plea to God concerning his enemies. “David’s life was one of conflict, and very seldom does he get through a Psalm without mentioning his enemies” [Spurgeon]. Also, typically for psalms of David, the psalm ends with confidence that God will remedy the situation.
David begins: “Hear me, O God, as I voice my complaint; protect my life from the threat of the enemy” (vs. 1). David would always run to God in times of trouble. So should we. “In all our troubles, whether beset by the unceasing and infinite malice of the devil, the perfidy of men, or the ingratitude of the world, it is best to carry our cause immediately to God in prayer” [Plumer, 638]. “The danger cannot be so great, wherein help may not be had from God; He is so near to a supplicant, so powerful, and so ready to save the man who hath made God his refuge” [Dickson, 375].
“Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked, from that noisy crowd of evildoers” (vs. 2). It is important, in order to have confidence in prayer, that we remain on the side of right in our conflicts. “That we may have the greater confidence to be delivered from our enemies, we had need to be sure that we are in a good cause, and that our adversaries have a wrong cause” [Dickson, 376].
“They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim their words like deadly arrows” (vs. 3). The weapon of war in this battle of David’s is the tongue. “The ingenuity of man has been wonderfully tasked and exercised in two things, inventing destructive weapons of war, and devising various methods of ruining men by wicked words” [Plumer]. The tongue can be a devastating weapon, and it is all the more dangerous because all evildoers have easy access to it. “Slander has ever been the master weapon of the good man’s enemies, and great is the care of the malicious to use it effectively” [Spurgeon]. I dare say, we have all been on the receiving side of slander and malicious talk. “If David, the modest, humble man, who in difficult circumstances acted so wisely, and was withal the man after God’s own heart, was permitted to be so traduced that probably no mere man was ever more vilified than he, surely we, who fall so far short of his attainments in everything good ought not to be surprised if we suffer sadly in the same way” [Plumer, 639]. “How much, then, doth it concern every man to walk circumspectly; to give no just cause of reproach, not to make himself a scorn to the fools of the world; but, if they will reproach (as certainly they will), let it be for forwardness in God’s ways, and not for sin, that so the reproach may fall upon their own heads, and their scandalous language into their own throats” [Burroughs, in Spurgeon].
“They shoot from ambush at the innocent man; they shoot at him suddenly, without fear” (vs. 4). So often the evil one works concealed, “from ambush.” “Satan lets fly a temptation so secretly, that he is hardly suspected in the thing. Sometimes he uses a wife’s tongue to do his errand; another while he gets behind the back of a husband, friend, servant, etc., and is not seen all the while he is doing his work. Who would have thought to have found a devil in Peter, tempting his Master, or suspected that Abraham should be the instrument to betray his beloved wife into the hands of a sin? Yet it was so. Nay, sometimes he is so secret, that he borrows God’s bow to shoot his arrows from, and the poor Christian is abused, thinking it is God who chides and is angry, when it is the devil who tempts him to think so, and only counterfeits God’s voice” [Gurnall, in Spurgeon].
“They encourage each other in evil plans, they talk about hiding their snares; they say, ‘Who will see them?’” (vs. 5). Sadly, there is great loyalty in the brotherhood of the evil. They ever encourage each other.
In verse 4, we saw that the shots David’s enemies were fired “without fear.” They feared not man nor God. Here we see that they encourage each other in their defiant lack of fear of God, saying of the snares they lay, “Who will see them?” “Godless men are dangerous enemies, for they fear not God, and so have no powerful restraint within them from doing any mischief, and the more they sin, they acquire the greater boldness to sin more… Yea, Satan so blindeth them, that they neither look to God, the avenger of such plots and practices, nor do they consider that God seeth them, and they think their pretences before men are so thick a covering, that no man can see through them” [Dickson, 377]. “They please themselves with an atheistical conceit that God Himself takes no notice of their wicked practices. A practical disbelief of God’s omniscience is at the bottom of all the wickedness of the wicked” [Henry]. The fear of God is a healthy thing, keeping us on the path of the righteous.
“They plot injustice and say, ‘We have devised a perfect plan!’ Surely the mind and heart of man are cunning” (vs. 6). They don’t just do evil, they “plot injustice.” “They rack their invention and ransack their memory for modes of doing mischief” [Alexander, 282]. “They are very industrious in putting their projects in execution” [Henry]. If only such effort was put toward constructive purposes.
Does not all look hopeless for David? Yet, how quickly can the situation change! With just two words, one’s whole perspective on his troubles can be transformed: “But God…” As David continues: “But God will shoot them with arrows; suddenly they will be struck down” (vs. 7). “By an abrupt but beautiful transition he describes the tables as completely turned upon the enemy” [Alexander, 282]. God can turn things around on a dime.
David was confident that God would use the sin of the evildoers to bring about their downfall: “He will turn their own tongues against them and bring them to ruin; all who see them will shake their heads in scorn” (vs. 8). Seeing the punishment of the wicked will enhance the fear and reverence of God in His people: “All mankind will fear; they will proclaim the works of God and ponder what He has done” (vs. 9).
Seeing God bring about justice is a cause for the righteous to rejoice: “Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in Him; let all the upright in heart praise Him!” (vs. 10). “When woe and wrack come upon the wicked, then joy and comfort come to the godly, not so much for the damage of the wicked, as for the manifestation of the glory of God” [Dickson, 378]. “Their observation of providence shall increase their faith; since He who fulfills His threatenings will not forget His promises” [Spurgeon].
As can be inferred from his psalms, David led a life full of woe and trouble. For those of us who live in relative peace and tranquility, we can praise the Lord. However, there can be danger too in living tranquil life. “What an unspeakable blessing it is to be allowed to lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty, free from the tempests which have tossed the barks of so many good men, of whom David was but a sample. But let us not forget that a calm which puts us to sleep may be more fatal than a storm which keeps us wide awake. David was in more danger when he was attracted by the beauty of Bathsheba, than when Saul was pursuing him in the wilderness” [Plumer].