Psalm 7: A Plea for Justice

Lord my God, I take refuge in you;
    save and deliver me from all who pursue me,
or they will tear me apart like a lion
    and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.

Lord my God, if I have done this
    and there is guilt on my hands—
if I have repaid my ally with evil
    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.

Arise, Lord, in your anger;
    rise up against the rage of my enemies.
    Awake, my God; decree justice.
Let the assembled peoples gather around you,
    while you sit enthroned over them on high.
    Let the Lord judge the peoples.
Vindicate me, Lord, according to my righteousness,
    according to my integrity, O Most High.
Bring to an end the violence of the wicked
    and make the righteous secure—
you, the righteous God
    who probes minds and hearts.

My shield is God Most High,
    who saves the upright in heart.
God is a righteous judge,
    a God who displays his wrath every day.
If he does not relent,
    he will sharpen his sword;
    he will bend and string his bow.
He has prepared his deadly weapons;
    he makes ready his flaming arrows.

Whoever is pregnant with evil
    conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment.
Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out
    falls into the pit they have made.
The trouble they cause recoils on them;
    their violence comes down on their own heads.

I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness;
    I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.

– Psalm 7

I guess most of us have had the experience at some point of being unfairly accused of something we didn’t do. It begins in childhood – the dog/brother/sister broke the vase but we get the blame for it. It happens at school – we weren’t the one doing the talking but we get the blame and the detention. In adult life it can ratchet up a few notches. A few years ago, a debt collection agency took be to court accusing me of a substantial unpaid debt – they didn’t seem interested in the fact that I’d never taken out a loan, never had a credit card and never lived in Bradford but they still pursued me for two years before the judge threw out their case and declared me innocent. It was a time-consuming, expensive and unpleasant experience.

David seems to be in a similar situation. He’s blameless but others are pursuing him (vv. 1–2).  If Psalm 6 emphasises the fact that we do get it wrong and that we can be guilty, then Psalm 7 turns the coin around and recognises that there can be times when we are the ones who are the innocent victims (vv. 3–5).

In such a situation, David appeals to God to deliver justice, to vindicate him and more generally bring an end to the violence of the wicked (vv. 6–9). This theme of God’s justice is expanded in the later verses. The God that we worship and who has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ is a God who judges and condemns evil because he is a God of love and not a God who turns a blind eye to it or ignores the evil that spoils the beauty of his creation.

Sometimes evil is its own worst enemy. If the domestic or international justice system doesn’t get them, then those who hatch evil can get snared in a web of their own making (vv. 14–16), God’s judgment can be experienced in the here and now as our sin finds us out.

Often though it seems like the evildoers get away with it, not just the petty criminals but the warmongers with innocent blood on their hands. Psalm 7 is a plea for justice. We wait for the day when Christ shall return, when he will establish his Father’s kingdom, when all wrongs will be righted and, as we wait in hope for that coming kingdom, we commit ourselves to live in its light even now.