What can we rightly ask of God?

This psalm is in five clear sections, delineated rather by the thrust of the address to God rather than by any particular form or voice.

The first five verses make up the first part remarking that God is the one whom David praises and therefore the one from whom he seeks help. The help is needed because David is under attack from “wicked mouths”.

Then there is a shift from the suggestion of many attackers to just one; “him”. Perhaps this is a sort of personification of all his attackers. David then invokes a long string of quite vitriolic curses against this enemy. The first request is that God will appoint an “accuser” against this person. Make a counter attack! Does it seem right to ask God to invoke all of these terrible things against not only David’s enemy but his children and his wife also? Recall that David himself was guilty of some horrendous crimes. He asked forgiveness and mercy from God for his own crimes but he doesn’t leave much room for that in the case of his enemy. A difficult conversation to have with God, calling on Him to horribly punish another soul.

Thirdly, David throws himself on God’s mercy, begging and imploring Him for help. He declares his own weakness and rests on his prayer and fasting record, before returning for a few more curses.

Finally, he returns to where he started, declaring his praise for God and assuring the reader that he is trusting in God to act in his favour.

Just a few observations:

  • Is it just me, or is David quite hypocritical? He calls his enemy wicked and calls down multiple curses on him from God while knowing full well that he himself has done some terrible things.
  • Historically speaking, it would appear that this call upon God was successful as David survived to a ripe old age of kingship.
  • Would you take this as a model for a prayer to God?
  • Has David the right to assume that God will save him from those who condemn his soul to death?
  • Verse 31 would seem to put all of this into a spiritual context. Who is it who would condemn his soul to death? Satan, the accuser is a spiritual enemy, and so while it may appear that David is asking for Earthly help, v31 may be putting a more spiritual spin on the whole argument. What is it that God will do? He will save us from those who would condemn our soul to death.