When I was a kid, I had a friend that I would often hang out with. But by the time we hit junior high school, we had kind of drifted apart, and it soon became evident that he really didn’t like me. To this day, I’m not completely certain why.
How do we deal with these kinds of people?
David certainly experienced this. Though David did nothing to deserve it, he experienced the wrath and hatred of King Saul. And it was perhaps during his time of fleeing from Saul that he wrote this psalm.
David opens by praying,
Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take up shield and buckler; arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. (1-3)
One thing that we see about David is that when dealing with those who hated him, he always left the fighting in God’s hands. He said, “Lord, please fight for me. You be my defender.”
Even so, it was probably difficult for him to remember to do this and not take things into his own hands, and so he prayed,
Say to my soul, “I am your salvation.” (3)
In other words, “Remind me Lord that you’re on my side. Remind me that you will deliver me so that I don’t try to avenge myself.”
What’s really amazing to me is his attitude towards those who hated him.
Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered, I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother. (13-14)
You actually see this attitude when David heard about the death of Saul. When he heard of Saul’s and Jonathan’s death, he not only mourned for Jonathan who was David’s best friend, but he wept for the man who had tried to kill him.
It is the kind of attitude, in fact, that Jesus had. In fact, I see a lot of Jesus in this psalm. Like David, Jesus had false accusers coming against him (11), and people mocking and slandering him (15-16).
And yet, he prayed for them, even as they were crucifying him.
God calls us to do the same. In I Peter, the apostle wrote,
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (2:21)
In particular, Peter is talking about suffering for doing what’s right. And he’s saying that because Jesus endured suffering in order to save us, we should also endure suffering for righteousness’ sake.
But we also see in this passage more on how Jesus responded to those who hated him. And in this, we are to follow in Jesus’ steps as well. How did Jesus respond?
“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.
Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (22-23)
How about you? When people hate you and hurt you without cause, do you follow in Jesus’ steps?