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Psalm 69:19-36 -
A Prayer in Desperate Times
19You know how I am scorned,
disgraced and shamed;
all my enemies are before You.
20Scorn has broken my heart
and has left me helpless;
I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
for comforters, but I found none.
21They put gall in my food
and gave me vinegar for my thirst.
22May the table set before them become a snare;
may it become retribution and a trap.
23May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
and their backs be bent forever.
24Pour out Your wrath on them;
let Your fierce anger overtake them.
25May their place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in their tents.
26For they persecute those You wound
and talk about the pain of those You hurt.
27Charge them with crime upon crime;
do not let them share in Your salvation.
28May they be blotted out of the book of life
and not be listed with the righteous.
29I am in pain and distress;
may Your salvation, O God, protect me.
30I will praise God’s name in song
and glorify Him with thanksgiving.
31This will please the Lord more than an ox,
more than a bull with its horns and hoofs.
32The poor will see and be glad--
you who seek God, may your hearts live!
33The Lord hears the needy
and does not despise His captive people.
34Let heaven and earth praise Him,
the seas and all that move in them,
35For God will save Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah.
Then people will settle there and possess it;
36the children of His servants will inherit it,
and those who love His name will dwell there.
Here we continue our study of Psalm 69. As we noted in the previous study, this psalm is a prayer offered up by David in a time of hopelessness. It is also a psalm which speaks prophetically of the sufferings of Jesus. In this psalm, the sufferings of David (as a type of Christ) mirror the sufferings of Christ, so this psalm is applied to Jesus numerous times in the New Testament.
David continues: “You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed; all my enemies are before You. Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless” (vss. 19–20a). As he prays, David (by faith) is certain that God “knows” of his sufferings. It is a source of comfort, to those who pray, that God is omniscient: He knows everything. And if we believe that He too is a God of love, we must also believe that our sufferings will turn out for our good, somehow. As Paul tells us: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). “The consideration of God’s being witness to all the sufferings of the saints, is a ground of patience under trouble, and of hope to be delivered” [Dickson, 418]. “If Christians were well informed and wise they would greatly comfort themselves with the remembrance of God’s omniscience” [Plumer, 687]. Though the ungodly may fear and hate God’s omniscience, the godly can cherish and revel in it.
David continues: “I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none. They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst” (vss. 20b–21). Though we do not know when this happened to David, we do know when these verses, as prophecy, were fulfilled in Christ: “They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, He refused to drink” (Matt. 27:34), then later, “Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink” (Matt. 27:48). “This was the sole refreshment cruelty had prepared for Him” [Spurgeon]. “Such are the comforts often administered by the world, to an afflicted and deserted soul” [Horne, in Spurgeon].
In the next few verses (vss. 22–28), David prays for judgment on those who were persecuting him. On the prophetic level, the petitions can be seen as prophetic of the consequences that come upon those whose hearts are hardened against Jesus (Paul uses verses 22 and 23 in just this way, see Rom. 10:9–10). First, David prays that their prosperity cause them harm: “May the table set before them become a snare; may it become retribution and a trap” (vs. 22). “In all our comforts, there is a forbidden fruit, which seemeth fair and tasteth sweet, but which must not be touched” [Wilkinson, in Spurgeon]. Second, David prays for their spiritual darkness to continue: “May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever” (vs. 23). Note that a consequence of spiritual darkness is back-breaking labor. Those who reject Jesus do not receive the benefit of His easy yoke, and light burden.
Next David prays for the full wrath of God to fall on those who rebel against Him: “Pour out Your wrath on them; let Your fierce anger overtake them. May their place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in their tents” (vss. 24–25). God is a God of love, but make no mistake: God is holy, and He is a God of justice. If we reject the wonderful salvation offered to us through His love, we can only expect, as those who have broken God’s law, to receive the full measure of His judgment. As the writer of Hebrews points out: “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” (Heb. 2:3); then later, “Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:28–31). “What can be too severe a penalty for those who reject the incarnate God, and refuse to obey the commands of His mercy?... God is not to be insulted with impunity, and His Son, our ever gracious Savior, the best gift of infinite love, is not to be scorned and scoffed at for nothing” [Spurgeon].
David continues: “For they persecute those You wound and talk about the pain of those You hurt. Charge them with crime upon crime; do not let them share in Your salvation. May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous” (vss. 26–28). I myself would not pray as David is praying here. Those of us under the New Covenant, and who have a full understanding of the depths of God’s love and grace, must show love even for our enemies, and pray for their salvation. David, however, speaks prophetically, and by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and through these verses reminds us that salvation will not be for all. Those who reject the salvation through Jesus Christ offered to them, will be “blotted out of the book of life” (vs. 28).
David gets back to a more personal prayer: “I am in pain and distress; may Your salvation, O God, protect me” (vs. 29). David seeks salvation the best place to find it: in God. Then David trusts that God will save him, for he foresees himself praising God for the salvation he would receive: “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify Him with thanksgiving” (vs. 30). “When the Lord comforts the heart of a sufferer for his cause, he can make him glad before the delivery come, by giving him the assurance that it shall come; and can engage his heart to solemn thanksgiving in the midst of trouble; for poverty of spirit will esteem the far foresight of delivery at last, as a rich mercy, and matter of a song” [Dickson, 423].
Concerning the praise, David says: “This will please the Lord more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hoofs” (vs. 31). This sentiment is expressed numerous times in the Bible. “Moral worship offered in spirit and truth, in the meanest degree of sincerity, is more acceptable to God than the most pompous ceremonial service, which can be done to Him without spirit and truth” [Dickson, 423]. God desires the voluntary, spontaneous worship of His people. He desires a worship springing from the love in their hearts. The system of animal sacrifices set up in the Old Testament was necessary for the atonement for their sins. God is certainly not pleased that, because of our sins, this system of sacrifices was necessary. (Jesus, by His sacrifice, has made obsolete the former system of animal sacrifices).
Our praise after the work of God in our lives is a witness to others that God will work in their lives, too: “The poor will see and be glad—you who seek God, may your hearts live! The Lord hears the needy and does not despise His captive people” (vss. 32–33). “The escape of His afflicted children out of their sufferings through faith in Him, is a matter of instruction, comfort, and joy to every humbled believer” [Dickson, 424].
The psalm ends with an exhortation for all God’s people to praise Him for the salvation and glory which is still to come: “Let heaven and earth praise Him, the seas and all that move in them, for God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah. Then people will settle there and possess it; the children of His servants will inherit it, and those who love His name will dwell there” (vss. 34–36). “Large sense of troubles maketh way for large observation, and a corresponding sense of mercies. The evil of the deepest afflictions the Lord can recompense with highest consolation, as the beginning and ending of this psalm giveth evidence” [Dickson, 425]. “Thus a Psalm, which began in the deep waters, ends in the heavenly city. How gracious is the change. Hallelujah” [Spurgeon].