Psalm 7

I come to you for protection

The modern reader of this psalm may have two problems with this text:  First, is the psalmist’s insistence on her integrity on which she bases her prayer for God’s intervention (v.8-9).  We may immediately think this pray-er has a problem with self-righteousness.  However, the psalm is not a profession of perfection or sinlessness, but of the psalmist’s innocence in this particular case in which she is being falsely accused of misdeeds.  Her prayer is similar to that of Job who also defended his integrity against his friend’s accusations.  Later God declared that Job had ‘spoken what is right’  (Job 42.7).  So she prays, not in self-righteousness but in trust of the righteousness of God, the One who judges rightly our hearts and minds.  If anyone is self-righteous it is the enemies who, like Job’s friends, presume to take the role of God by judging the psalmist. 

The second problem has to do with God as judge.  In our culture to judge someone else is to be a bigot or worse.  To judge another’s value systems cannot be permitted.  It follows then that we cannot sit comfortably with the idea of God as judge.  Today if you speak of God’s love and mercy, you will be accepted, perhaps even praised.  Speak of God’s judgment and wrath, however, and the world will heap both down upon your head.  

One perspective on this is that denying God’s ability to judge is held by people with privilege and power.  Those who are comfortable do not wish to feel guilty.  They focus instead on tolerance, mercy and forgiveness.  For those without power however, victims of those in authority, the judgment of God is a comforting thought. 

This is the perspective we see in the Magnificat (Luke 1).  In her song, Mary celebrates the downfall of wicked and unjust rulers.  She praises God for God’s righteous judgments and compassion toward the humble and hungry.  She may be a gentle servant girl but she is also a revolutionary, a woman eager for God’s upside down kingdom to be established. 

This Psalm, and other texts like it in scripture, will make no sense to us if we read them as guilty defendants.  Instead we must allow our imaginations to occupy the place of the innocent victim.  For those who have been privileged with power, it is an opportunity to see the world from a very different vantage.

And the psalmist is clear: the judgment on wrong-doers is not so much the direct action of God as it is the consequences of their actions (vs.14-16).

14 The wicked conceive evil;
    they are pregnant with trouble
    and give birth to lies.
15 They dig a deep pit to trap others,
    then fall into it themselves.
16 The trouble they make for others backfires on them.
    The violence they plan falls on their own heads. 


The African-American spiritual – Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen - nicely sums up the tension of living in the pain of injustice while also expressing trust in the presence of the ‘just God’ (v.17).

Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
Nobody knows but Jesus
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
Glory Hallelujah

Sometimes I'm up sometimes I'm down
Oh yes Lord
Sometimes I'm almost to the ground,
Oh yes, Lord

Oh nobody knows the trouble I've seen
Nobody knows my sorrow
Nobody knows the trouble I've seen
Glory Hallelujah