How violence brings down God’s vengeance
David Dickson (c.1583–1662) was a Professor of Theology at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh who wrote commentaries on many different books of Scripture. He opposed the unbiblical worship and church government foisted on the Church in Scotland by Charles II and this cost him his position.
19 Oct, 2023

With careful planning, preparation and funding, Hamas suddenly stormed into Israel on 7th October. Local defences were overwhelmed and civilians were attacked and murdered with appalling savagery. Virulent anti-Jewish hatred has motivated Hamas from its inception and its name is a byword for violence. In many of the Psalms the writer wrestles with the threat and sometimes the experience of violent attacks. In Psalm 7, the psalmist David is both a fore-runner of his greater son and Lord, Jesus the Messiah, and an example of the Lord’s people suffering oppression. The number of believers in Jesus in Israel has increased from about 24 believers in 1948, to about a thousand more now. David’s response to harsh oppression remains exemplary for the Lord’s people in Israel and elsewhere. In the following extract from his commentary on Psalm 7, the commentator David Dickson explains the psalmist’s appeal to God. Faced with devious and blood-thirsty oppressors, the psalmist knows to turn to God for help. Because he is in a reconciled relationship with the Lord he can rely on the Saviour to step in and set things to rights.

God’s people are sometimes falsely accused

In the opening verses of Psalm 7, David flees to God to be delivered from the blood-thirsty tongues of those who maliciously spoke falsehoods against him. He was slandered (by Cush, a flattering courtier) as a traitor and rebel against the lawful authorities. “O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust. Save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me, lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver” (v.1–2). If God does not interpose Himself to defend His servants, there is nothing to be expected from enraged wicked enemies but merciless and beastly cruelty.

Although being innocent of such accusations does not exempt you from being unjustly slandered, yet it equips you with a good conscience, and much more boldness with God in the specific situation. If you are conscious of having injured your neighbour, your own conscience will be against you in the very time when you encounter a greater injustice done against you. Then you will be forced to acknowledge the righteousness of God against yourself. “O Lord my God, if there be iniquity in my hands, if I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me, let the enemy persecute my soul and take it …” (v.3–5).

God’s people sometimes have violent enemies

David prays that God would judge between him and his enemies. The Lord may, for the trial and exercise of His children, seem to sit still for a time, when people are about to oppress them. Yet in due time He will manifest Himself to be no idle spectator of wrong, but a just defender of the oppressed and avenger of the injured. He will arise in anger and lift up Himself (v.6).

When our enemies are desperately malicious, and nothing can mitigate their fury, let the consideration of God’s justice mitigate our passions. For He will arise in anger against them. There is no less just zeal in God to defend His own oppressed people, than there is malice in the wicked to wrong them. God’s rising in anger is here put in contrast to “the rage of the enemies.”

Although judgment against the oppressor may not be carried out at the first opportunity, yet God in His Word has passed sentence against them, and in His providence He has prepared means and instruments for it to be carried out in due time. He shall awake to execute the judgment which He has commanded, or given order for (v.6).

When the Lord arises to judge His enemies, then the Lord’s people will draw near to Him warmly, and “compass Him about” (v.7). Of course, in calling for justice on the wicked enemies of God’s people, we should not be motivated by personal interest, or desire of revenge, but by desire for God’s glory and the edification of His people. It is “for their sakes” that David prays (v.7) that the Lord would “return on high” to His judgment seat.

Being a child of God allows you to appeal to God’s justice

The principles of religion are things we should have solidly digested, for we may make use of them in our spiritual exercises, and then we may readily put them to use as need requires, so as to strengthen our faith and prayer to God. When David had settled his faith on the doctrine that God does in general judge and execute justice in favour of His people (v.8), he then applies it to his own particular circumstances, saying, “Judge me, O Lord” (v.8).

Once you have made peace with God about all your sins on the terms of grace and mercy, through the sacrifice of the Mediator, then you may, looking at oppressing enemies, in a particular situation of conflict, appeal to God’s justice to resolve the controversy. That is what David does here when he says, “Judge me according to my righteousness, O Lord, and my integrity that is in me” (v.8).

When a situation has been lying before God for a long time, and the controversy between the godly and their persecutors remains unresolved, the godly may put in a plea for God to pass the decree and execute the sentence. “O let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, but establish the just, for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins” (v.9).

Violence brings down God’s vengeance

From verse 10 we have the answer to David’s prayer, or at least the assurance that he will be delivered and that judgments will meet his enemies. On the back of this David give thanks to God. From this we see that the fruit of faith joined with a good conscience is access to God in prayer, confidence, peace and tranquillity of mind, mitigation of trouble, and protection and deliverance.

When victory is granted to faith, after wrestling with darkness, it is as satisfactory to the soul of the godly as if all that the believer hopes for has already been perfected. David is now ready to say, “My defence is of God, who saves the upright in heart” (v.10).

Whatever we think in the time of temptation, neither justice against the wicked nor mercy towards the godly is idle. God’s Word and works speak mercy to the one and wrath to the other, every day. All things are working for good the one, and for damage to the other, continually. For “God judgeth the righteous, and is angry with the wicked, every day” (v.11).

One reason why God delays the execution of His judgments on the wicked is to lead them to repentance. Here, God has whetted his sword to strike, if the wicked do not turn (v.12). If repentance does not intervene, the destruction of the wicked is inevitable. “If he turn not, the instruments of death are prepared, and the arrows directed against the persecutors” (v.13).

God’s enemies cannot ultimately prosper

The sinner is put to hard work when he tries to serve the devil and his own corrupt affections. “He travails” as if with child, he “digs a pit,” one of the hardest pieces of work for slaves. But once the wicked has conceived mischief, he cannot rest till he puts his purpose into action, and puts into effect his sinful thoughts (v.14).

The adversaries of God’s people shall have no profit of all their labour, but shall be met with disappointment. “He bringeth forth falsehood” (v.14), and the evil which is most contrary to his hope and intention shall befall him. “He is fallen in the ditch which he made, and his mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate” (v15–16), just like a stone thrown up towards the sky falling back down on the head of the one who threw it.

We can praise God in the hardest experiences

In verse 17, the final verse of the psalm, David promises praise, and indeed praise is how he closes his song. So the outcome of even the hardest experiences of the godly brings comfort to their souls and praise to God.

When faith is consciously satisfied and settled in assurance of what God has promised, it will be glad and give thanks for what is still to come, just as if it was already in possession.

Whoever is opposed to the godly, be they never so powerful and never so violent, and their position in the world as high as can be, yet faith may set to its seal that God shall show Himself to be a righteous judge in power and authority above the highest oppressing powers on earth. “I will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high,” says David (v.17).




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