In today’s white hot political and social environment followers of Christ could use a lesson from Psalm 35. The First Continental Congress did.
The first day of the First Continental Congress had not gone well. George Washington, Patrick Henry, and both John and Samuel Adams were there among the fifty six delegates from the thirteen colonies that dismal day. Dire and doubtful they could be unified because of their religious diversity, they agreed to have Rev. Jacob Duche, a nearby pastor, come the next morning to pray.
How they needed prayer that September 7, 1774. Besides their own divided spirit, the delegates knew Boston was under siege by the British. And, already forced into burdensome collections and infringements, England had more troops on the way to America to subdue their rebellious colony.
David’s circumstance in Psalm 35 is unclear. Was it dangers from within his ranks, or outside from enemies? Both were operative in 1774 and are so today in our country. The genius of the Psalms is that many of them have both potential individual or broad applications. Are you on the short end of vocational, relational, political, or social attacks? Psalm 35 can be your prayer, too. Pray with David and Israel, “Contend O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me!...Say to my soul, ‘I am your salvation!’” (Psalm 33:1, 3).
There are some surprises in Psalm 35 for the careful reader. First, there are moments of imprecation (curses). The Spirit of God records legitimate calls for judgment. “Emotions are the language of the soul,” it is said. “…while the Psalms allow us to express our emotions they seek to shape them into righteous ones.” Can you voice a desire for holy judgment righteously and then leave the vengeance and solution to Christ who will ultimately judge all His enemies?
A second surprise is the view of life with God that seeps out within its pages. It is a quiet life. “They [enemies] do not speak peaceably…against those who live quietly in the land” (v. 20, NIV). How amazing this is in the chaotic world of David and our soul-crushing pressure to worship busy-ness and activity (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:11). Note to young adults: Start now to develop practices that bring times of aloneness with God that will nourish and refresh your soul. Hint: The Word of Christ—the Scriptures—help us continue the conversation God has already started.
Third, note David’s response to his enemies. He prays for them (vss. 13-14)! Could this be a primary way to follow Jesus in crisis—He who said, “pray for those who persecute you”? Ouch.
Last, from the New Testament note Jesus used Psalm 35:19 in John 15:25, “they hated Me without cause.” The lesser David often points us to the rescuing Greater David—the Messiah—Jesus Christ. Has anyone despised you for no legitimate reason? You are in good company.
Why not join the First Continental Congress, King David, and Jesus and pray Psalm 35, too?