Theme: Watching for God
From this week’s lessons we learn that just as God protected and delivered David when he was surrounded by the hostile forces of King Saul, so also will God protect and deliver his people from whatever enemies surround them.
Scripture: Psalm 59:1-17
Most people who live in the West today have little appreciation for the role of the numerous wild dogs of an ancient eastern city. For us, dogs are pets for the most part, or at least guard dogs that patrol an area but are not allowed to roam wild. It was not like that in the East. Occasionally people may have had small dogs as pets. Jesus’ words to the Canaanite woman seems to imply this: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs” (Matt. 15:26). But generally the dogs of an Eastern city were wild scavengers which roamed in packs, particularly at night when they searched the streets and alleys for garbage or other food that may have been discarded by the citizens.
One nineteenth century writer describes what it was like during a visit he made to Constantinople: “The whole city rang with one vast riot. The yelping, howling, barking, growling, and snarling were all merged into one uniform and continuous even sound, as the noise of frogs becomes when heard at a distance. For hours there was no lull. I went to sleep and woke again, and still, with my windows open, I heard the same tumult going on; nor was it until daybreak that anything like tranquility was restored.”1
I imagine as I read this that, having lived in a major Western city for twenty-five years, I would probably not have found the noise of the dogs as overwhelming as that. This Englishman was probably raised in an English village or on the downs. Still, it gives us an idea of what such packs of dogs were like and of how aptly David applies the image to the soldiers who were prowling about his village seeking to kill him.
Should he be afraid of these “dogs”? Hardly, since the Lord his God was laughing at them. These vile creatures are no threat to God; and if they are no threat to God, they are no threat to the one protected by him. The idea of God laughing at his foes takes us back to Psalm 2:4 (“The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them”) and Psalm 37:13 (“The Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming”).
I want to consider this refrain more fully the second time around, when it reappears in verse 17. But I need to note here the one difference in the two versions of it. Verses 9 and 17 are the same except for the phrase “I watch for you” in the earlier verse, which becomes “I sing praise to you” in the latter. Verse 9 says, “O my Strength, I watch for you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God.”
“I will watch” reminds us of the minor prophet Habakkuk’s similar words when he was in danger and overcome by fear. He declared, “I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint” (2:1). Habakkuk did not understand why the things that were happening in Israel in his day were happening, any more than David understood what the Lord was doing when he allowed him to be hunted by Saul’s soldiers. But Habakkuk did the same thing David did. Habakkuk committed himself to God and waited faithfully and expectantly for God’s deliverance.
There are many cases in which you and I can do no more. We cannot alter these situations, but we can commit it to God and wait for his solution.
1Albert Smith, A Month at Constantinople, quoted by C.H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 2a, Psalms 58-87 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), p. 20.
What were the wild dogs David mentions?
How are David’s foes like wild dogs?
What is God’s perception of David’s foes?
How did Habakkuk respond to his difficult situation? What do Habakkuk and David have in common?
Reflection: Who are your foes? Why does the Lord laugh at them? Why are they really not a threat to you?
Application: Like David and Habakkuk, we don’t always understand why God allows us to go through hard times. How will you respond to such circumstances in ways that honor the Lord?