What does it say?
Psalm 17 asks God for deliverance on the basis of the psalmist’s trust in him and personal righteousness. Psalm 35 is similar in tone in that David pleads for God to avenge him of his enemies because of his own righteousness.
Psalm 54 is a brief cry to God for help when David recognizes that the Ziphites have revealed his location to Saul. 1Sam 23:19-29 is the corresponding passage. During this same time period in David’s life fleeing from Saul, he penned the beautiful devotional words we read in Psalm 63. The end of the psalm is a stark contrast as David again calls upon God to avenge him of his enemies.
What does it mean?
These Psalms have in common that they are thought to have originated during the time when David was fleeing from Saul. They also have in common a professed righteousness by David as his heart cries out to God for protection from his enemies. We should not see this as David being “self-righteous,” but the heart of a man as flawed as any other who has given himself to follow God and his mission.
Psalm 35 is one of several called “imprecatory psalms.” An imprecation is a curse. The first example of such an imprecation in the Psalms is Psalm 5:10, asking God to judge rebellion. In a cultural setting that is not nearly as individualistic as ours, the psalmist is not asking God to take his side against his enemy. He is simply saying that he, the psalmist, has chosen God’s side and those who are not on God’s side are worthy of judgment for their rebellion against God.
How will I respond?
Immaturity is to think I need to ask God to be on my side. Maturity is choosing to live on God’s side. The Bible is one story and one mission – God’s. If my life is pleasing to God, in line with his truth and engaged in his mission, then I rest in my relationship with him, though I may be the brunt of attacks by God’s enemies.
Who are my enemies? If they are my enemies because I have sinned against them, spoken ill of them, offended them or in any other way done them harm; then I will go to them to ask forgiveness and make things right. Otherwise, I will trust God to be God and, flawed as I am, will devote myself to obeying him and being part of his mission.