Theme: Surrounded by Enemies
In this week’s lessons we see that as David looks to God for victory over his enemies, there is much we can learn as we face battles of our own.
Scripture: Psalm 64:1-10
It is not very often that David finishes a psalm without mentioning his enemies. There are exceptions, of course, but not many, and sometimes the references occur in the least expected places. Psalm 23 pictures God as David’s loving and wise shepherd. But do you remember verse 5? Verse 5 says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” The fact that David mentions his enemies so often gives some idea of how many enemies he had and what his life as the king of Israel was like.
The particular block of Davidic psalms we are in the midst of now began with Psalm 51, and with the sole exception of that psalm, which is a psalm of repentance for David’s sin with Bathsheba, every single psalm up to this point has mentioned David’s enemies, usually using that very word. That is going to change. But for now we have been given a sizeable collection of material describing the king’s enemies, through whom we may learn about our own, and many useful examples of David’s turning to God as his ever-present help in trouble. In fact, those are the two main themes of this collection: God and David’s enemies.
In the last psalm the focus was on God, and the threat from David’s enemies was suppressed. They were mentioned in verses 9 and 10 only. In Psalm 64 the situation is reversed: the emphasis is on the enemies, and there is less written about God. However, the ending of both psalms is virtually the same. Psalm 63 ends with the words, “But the king will rejoice in God; all who swear by God’s name will praise him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced.” Psalm 64 concludes, “Let the righteous rejoice in the LORD and take refuge in him; let all the upright in heart praise him!”
Surrounded by enemies, the psalmist has no human help. But he does have God; he calls to him, and he finds that the help he desires is not lacking. The great Scottish preacher Alexander Maclaren applied this lesson, saying, “However high and closely engirdling may be the walls that men or sorrows build around us, there is always an opening in the dungeon roof through which heaven is visible and prayers can mount.”1
The key word in Psalm 64 is “suddenly,” meaning “unexpectedly” or “without warning.” It is used in the two main sections of the psalm: first, of the unexpected attacks of the wicked on the righteous (“they shoot at him suddenly, without fear,” v. 4), and second, of the unexpected judgment of the wicked (“But God will shoot them with arrows; suddenly they will be struck down,” v. 7). The parallel image, shooting with arrows, helps to enhance the contrast. Together the two shootings strike a note of poetic justice, which carries throughout the psalm. The wicked are done in by their own weapons.
1Alexander Maclaren, The Psalms, vol. 2, Psalms 39-89 in “The Expositor’s Bible” series (New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1893), p. 242, 243.
What are the two main themes in this block of the psalms?
Why does David mention his enemies so often?
What was David’s response to his enemies?
What is the focus of Psalm 64? How is it different from, but also the same as, Psalm 63?
Application: David says repeatedly that we should rejoice in the Lord. Do you praise God only in times of joy? How can you praise God even in the midst of trouble?
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