A Meditation on Psalm 7
O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge;
save me from all my pursuers and deliver me,
lest like a lion they tear my soul apart,
rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.
O Lord my God, if I have done this,
if there is wrong in my hands,
if I have repaid my friend with evil
or plundered my enemy without cause,
let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it,
and let him trample my life to the ground
and lay my glory in the dust. Selah
Arise, O Lord, in your anger;
lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies;
awake for me; you have appointed a judgment.
Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you;
over it return on high.
The Lord judges the peoples;
judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness
and according to the integrity that is in me.
Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end,
and may you establish the righteous—
you who test the minds and hearts,
O righteous God!
My shield is with God,
who saves the upright in heart.
God is a righteous judge,
and a God who feels indignation every day.
If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword;
he has bent and readied his bow;
he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts.
Behold, the wicked man conceives evil
and is pregnant with mischief
and gives birth to lies.
He makes a pit, digging it out,
and falls into the hole that he has made.
His mischief returns upon his own head,
and on his own skull his violence descends.
I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness,
and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.
Who will live, and who will die? Who has power over life and death?
The seventh psalm begins and ends by illustrating how “the wages of sin is death.” The psalmist confesses in faith that he does not deserve the Lord’s salvation if he has sinned, deserving instead to have his enemies overtake him, tread him into the dirt, and leave him dead. The psalmist thus appeals to God on the basis of his righteousness: “Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness / and according to the integrity that is in me.” Only righteousness brings forth life.
The wicked man’s understanding is upside-down. “Behold, the wicked man conceives evil / and is pregnant with mischief / and gives birth to lies.” The only sort of “life” which he brings into the world is malignant. It is no life at all. In fact, it becomes his own poetic death. The wicked man’s “brainchild” is to dig a pit for his neighbor. The wicked man thinks that he will ensnare and defeat his “foe” himself, but he will ironically fall into his own hole. The poetry beyond the irony is that “pit” (בּוֺר, bor) is the same word for “grave”: the evil which the wicked man conceived, carried, and birthed becomes his own grave.
The folly of the wicked man betrays a second misunderstanding. Besides thinking that wickedness will preserve his life, he also thinks that he is authorized and equipped to get rid of his foes. He thinks that he holds the keys to the grave. The psalmist confesses the truth: judgments of life and death belong solely to the Lord. “O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge.” “The Lord judges the peoples.” “My shield is with God.” “God is a righteous judge.”
In this life, we will face many temptations to act wickedly for our own benefit. “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant,” but we must leave our welfare in the hands of God, “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” We will face many temptations to strike out at our enemies to preserve ourselves, “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil;” “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven;” and “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”