Theme: False Accusations
In this week’s lessons we see how David dealt with the anguish of being unjustly accused, and learn the need to leave our own mistreatment with the Lord, trusting him to act justly.
Scripture: Psalm 7:1-17
David does not report the accusation against him in detail. But it seems, from verses 3 and 4, that he had been accused of doing evil to one whom he had no cause to regard as an enemy and of robbing one whom, though he was an enemy, he had no cause to abuse.
There are two things we need to note about this specifically. First, a slander like this was a serious matter for one in David’s position. It was not trivial. We tend to regard most verbal accusations as unimportant, at least when they are directed at someone else. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” we say. But lies are not always inconsequential, even for us, and they were certainly not a matter of unimportance for King David. The king was the chief administrative and legislative officer for Israel. He was responsible for seeing that right was upheld and that justice was dispensed. An accusation that attacked his integrity undermined the moral basis of the kingdom. It was a first step to moral anarchy and possibly armed rebellion.
The second thing we need to note is the difficulty of dealing with false accusations. It is here that the problem touches us closely. Most of us are not in so influential a position that something big will go to ruin if a false charge against us is allowed to run on unchecked, though it may hurt our families or damage our standing in the workplace. But we all nevertheless know the problem of overcoming slander.
What do we do when we are falsely attacked? Should we respond in kind? We can’t do that, because that brings us down to our accuser’s level. Do we protest openly and widely? That tends only to fan the flame. Moreover, people suspect wrongdoing when commotion occurs. “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” we say. Or sometimes we quote William Shakespeare, “Me thinks he doth protest too much.”
How do you vindicate yourself or get out from under such false and unjust accusations? If you are innocent of the fault, you cannot even repent of it and make restoration. What can you do? There is only one thing to do, and that is to take your problem to God, as David does. We can appeal to God for justice. The one good thing about a false accusation, as Peter Craigie says, is that “whereas a false accusation may deceive and convince our fellow human beings, it cannot deceive God.”1
When we turn to Psalm 7 to see how David dealt with the problem of false accusations, we discover two very surprising features, which for us are problems in themselves. The first is David’s protestation of innocence, which we find in verses 3-5 and 8. It is extreme. David tells God, “…if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands–if I have done evil to him who is at peace with me 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…Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High (v. 8).
“Innocent?” we object. “Who is ever innocent?” We have been taught that “there is no one righteous, not even one” (Rom. 3:10). We have been taught that, even when we have done our best, “we are at best unworthy servants” (Luke 17:10). We are going to encounter this troubling theme again and again as we go forward in our studies of the psalms, but this is the first time it has occurred.
Why is slander a serious matter for David?
How does David respond to the unjust attacks?
Application: Have you ever been falsely accused or slandered in some way? What were the circumstances, and how did you handle it? Did you act in a righteous way, or did you perhaps take certain actions that you later regretted?
For Further Study: The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is offering James Boice’s three-volume commentary set on the Psalms for 40% off the regular price, in addition to free shipping. Order your set today!
1Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 19, Psalms 1-50 (Waco, TX: Word, 1983), p. 103.