A Psalm a Day: Psalm 59

Throughout September 2022, I managed to read and reflect – briefly – on a Psalm each day. For December 2022, attempted to pick up the discipline. I got part-way through that month, and so after a long hiatus, am determined to get going. I’ll read the Psalm, pray, and then ponder a few questions:

  • What is this Psalm about?
  • What does this Psalm teach about God?
  • How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?

I’ll close the post with a simple prayer, trying to draw the themes together.

psalm 59

On the 17th of October 2023, here’s Psalm 59:

Deliver me from my enemies, O God;
    be my fortress against those who are attacking me.
Deliver me from evildoers
    and save me from those who are after my blood.

See how they lie in wait for me!
    Fierce men conspire against me
    for no offense or sin of mine, Lord.
I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me.
    Arise to help me; look on my plight!
You, Lord God Almighty,
    you who are the God of Israel,
rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
    show no mercy to wicked traitors.

They return at evening,
    snarling like dogs,
    and prowl about the city.
See what they spew from their mouths—
    the words from their lips are sharp as swords,
    and they think, “Who can hear us?”
But you laugh at them, Lord;
    you scoff at all those nations.

You are my strength, I watch for you;
    you, God, are my fortress,
10     my God on whom I can rely.

God will go before me
    and will let me gloat over those who slander me.
11 But do not kill them, Lord our shield,
    or my people will forget.
In your might uproot them
    and bring them down.
12 For the sins of their mouths,
    for the words of their lips,
    let them be caught in their pride.
For the curses and lies they utter,
13     consume them in your wrath,
    consume them till they are no more.
Then it will be known to the ends of the earth
    that God rules over Jacob.

14 They return at evening,
    snarling like dogs,
    and prowl about the city.
15 They wander about for food
    and howl if not satisfied.
16 But I will sing of your strength,
    in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
    my refuge in times of trouble.

17 You are my strength, I sing praise to you;
    you, God, are my fortress,
    my God on whom I can rely.

What is this Psalm about?

In 1 Samuel 19:11, we read about David fleeing from Saul’s men – and this is the traditionally ascribed context of this Psalm, an actual follower of God fleeing. For most readers of it today, that won’t be the same kind of trouble they experience, but the idea of being attacked or persecuted or something even though we are (in our own eyes, at least) innocent (v. 4) is one that I think everyone experiences at some point. It is interesting, in comparison to some similar Psalms, that David doesn’t ask for the immediate death of his enemies, but rather a different kind of justice. Perhaps this shift echoes a change in David, or a conformity to the image of a God of justice?

What does this Psalm teach about God?

God is all over Psalm 59 – from being the personally addressed God (v. 1) and ‘Lord God Almighty’ (v. 5), this Psalm teaches us about both the intimacy and the immensity of God, I think. God is the God of Israel (v. 5), the fortress of His people (v. 9), a God who goes before His people and on whom His people can rely (v. 10, 17). Verse 11 – wherein David asks God not to kill his enemies – God is described as ‘Lord our shield’, an interesting and evocative image. Relatedly, linked to that request and it’s expansion and refinement, the purpose of which is reflected in another clarification about this God, ‘God rules over Jacob’ (v. 13). Psalm 59 is full of things to learn about God!

How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?

I think that most of God’s people have something they’d like to flee from – be it actual persecution, difficult church relationships, or even challenges in our own homes and minds. Psalm 59 shows that God is there to hear our cry – with the repeated (v. 10 + 17) motif of God as being our fortress and the one on whom we can rely) being a particular comfort. I wonder if, too, Psalm 59 challenges us about what we ask God for – instead of petty revenge (Which, David notes, would lead to things being forgotten v. 11) I think we are challenged to ask God for justice. Justice can include consumption by wrath unto destruction, but the point is not petty revenge. This is a challenge – particularly for me, as personally I find it easier to see things in stark shades of black and white, and respond in anger rather than with a heart for justice.

A prayer drawn from Psalm 

Lord, you know the circumstances of my life. The ‘evil men’ prowling around. Help me to turn in my fear and pain to you. Help this to be my prayer: but I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.

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