The structure of this Psalm seems to leap frog between a plea of David defending himself (and stating his trust for God) and accusations to God about evil people. It’s almost as if David is attempting to “remind” God that he is the good guy and they are the bad guys. It is a very me/them mentality but I believe the religious views at the time were much more polarized and less blurred and mixed as they are now (God went to great lengths in order the keep the blood lines unchanged). Here is the quick outline that I came up with to illustrate the comparison of the two:
- Verses 1-3 David gaining God’s attention (me)
- Verses 4-6 God’s relationship with the wicked (them)
- Verses 7-8 God’s relationship with David (me)
- Verses 9-10 The words of the wicked (them)
- Verses 11-12 The words of the righteous (me/us)
1-3 David begins by pleading for God’s attention. “Sighing” could also be translated as groaning and indicates that David is wrestling in thought over something and, obviously, needs God’s help (vv1-2). “In the morning” has so many possibilities to it that come to mind: early morning prayer is a common discipline in that time, David is so troubled that he cannot sleep and he is up early, he is up early with a request to wait for the answer throughout the day (as indicated by v. 3)…
4-6 Not only does God not like the evils presented in verse but those who are held guilty for them (we are all evil, arrogant, and liars) cannot even stand in the presence of God. In fact he destroys them. We are desperately in need of salvation.
7-8 The phrase “but I” begins like an arrogant protest, as if David was proclaiming himself as superior (like his poo don’t stink), but quickly follows with “by Your great mercies” giving credit to God. It is only by the great mercy of God that David, or any of us, may enter into the presence of God. The God of mercy deserves reverence (also translated “fear,” see Psalm 1:7) and David bows* before Him, which is a proper response when we consider the immense discord our sin causes between us and God (as stated in vv 4-6). His incredible response is the abundant mercy God has given in place of his righteously violent wrath for the sin we commit. HIS MERCY IS GREATER THAN WE CAN EVEN UNDERSTAND.
At the end of verse 8 we see David asking God to continue leading him toward righteousness. An important lesson in humility is to never put ourselves above others as if we aren’t sinners AND as if we, without God’s strength, aren’t seconds away from falling into sin and death.
[9-12 A juxtoposition occurs by comparing the words of the wicked to the words (singing) of the righteous]
9-10 This is a strong accusation against those who are wicked (no doubt David’s enemies). “Their throat is an open grave” is a phrase that has stuck out to me since I began my journey with Christ in high school. Mouth’s open wide to speak sinful things (lies, deceit, profanity, gossip) have a very intertwined relationship with death and the grave that is open to contain it (after all the wage of sin is death. We can sow seeds of both physical and spiritual death and, in essence, we have the ability to speak death into peoples lives. As he encountered people like this, David prays accusations and judgement against those who speak death. It should be a very powerful reminder that we also have the ability to speak life into people, encouraging them, and lifting them up and we should strive for these opportunities.
11-12 In turn David prays for the confidence of those who take refuge in God, telling them to be glad and sing for joy!! It’s good to see David pray protection and favor for others who are considers “righteous.” Most of the time he is praying for himself and God’s protection for him (but then again he did have people constantly out to get him).
*Bowing down is not popular in the American culture. Our dignity is highly protected and justified by statements like, “that’s just not the way I worship.” Bowing is biblically rooted and our physical posture of bowing down is not optional as if we chose what response our God deserves. I don’t think we are not to be genuine but if you have never bowed, I would say that you should pray to see if that you have You could argue with me, and I could be wrong on this point, but I am speaking from experience that I had convinced myself that bowing wasn’t my thing. God revealed to me at a worship time in college that I was selfishly protecting a self image.