Theme: All in Need of a Savior
In this week’s lessons, we see the stark reality of evil, even in our own hearts, and that God protects and preserves those who come to him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Scripture: Psalm 140:1-13
While I find People of the Lie, a book I described in yesterday’s study, perceptive and stimulating, I find David’s psalm to be even more perceptive, particularly when I remember Paul’s use of the psalm in Romans 3. It is true that in these verses David is describing evil persons, men who were seeking to destroy him. David would recognize in a moment the personality type the psychiatrist is describing. He is fully aware that such people advance themselves by evil stratagems and lies. But what is most disturbing is how the Apostle Paul picks up verse 3 as part of a collage of verses to describe the human race collectively. He writes, “…there is no one who does good, not even one.” “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3:12-18).1
Speaking of the psalm, Charles Spurgeon says, “David’s enemies were as violent as they were evil, as crafty as they were violent, and as persistent as they were crafty.”2 That is true. But if Paul’s use of the psalm is accurate, these judgments must also be made of us. We also are violent, evil and crafty, either actually or potentially. And if that is the case, then David’s prayer for deliverance from those who love evil for its own sake must also be a prayer for deliverance from ourselves. We too need a Savior, and the only one who can save us from ourselves is God.
This takes us back to something I said about Psalm 139, the psalm that comes immediately before this. That psalm is chiefly a reflection on God’s omniscience, but after David has expressed his amazement at the thorough way God knows him, he prays for two things: 1) that God would keep him away from evil men; and 2) that God would lead him in the way everlasting. I said when we were considering those two points of application that David did not want to be kept from evil persons because he was too good for them, but because he recognized some of their evil natures in himself. In other words, he needed to keep away from evil not because he was too good for evil people, but because he was too wicked. He couldn’t afford the exposure. That is exactly what we are seeing in Psalm 140. And it is probably why Psalm 140 is placed immediately after Psalm 139 in the Psalter. The connection between the two psalms and the use of Psalm 140:3 in Romans 3 remind us that we can never make progress in the Christian life unless we begin with a recognition of our own wickedness before God.
None of this means that we do not also need deliverance and protection from evil people, however. In fact, it is precisely when God is delivering us from ourselves that we most need protection from others. Evil people hate those who are being saved by God and often try to destroy them.
1In Romans 3:10-18 Paul quotes Psalm 14:1-3 (par. 58:1-3); 5:9; 140:3; 10:7; Isaiah 59:7, 8; and Psalm 36:1.
2Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 3b, Psalms 120-150 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1968), p. 294.
What application does Paul make of this psalm in Romans 3?
Why do David’s judgments about his enemies apply to himself, as well as to us?
What is the connection between Psalm 139 and 140? What is David’s reason for asking God to keep him from evil?
Prayer: Ask God to deliver you from loving and doing evil.
Key Point: We can never make progress in the Christian life unless we begin with a recognition of our own wickedness before God.