A Meditation on Psalm 28
To you, O Lord, I call;
my rock, be not deaf to me,
lest, if you be silent to me,
I become like those who go down to the pit.
Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy,
when I cry to you for help,
when I lift up my hands
toward your most holy sanctuary.
Do not drag me off with the wicked,
with the workers of evil,
who speak peace with their neighbors
while evil is in their hearts.
Give to them according to their work
and according to the evil of their deeds;
give to them according to the work of their hands;
render them their due reward.
Because they do not regard the works of the Lord
or the work of his hands,
he will tear them down and build them up no more.
Blessed be the Lord!
For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
and with my song I give thanks to him.
The Lord is the strength of his people;
he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
Oh, save your people and bless your heritage!
Be their shepherd and carry them forever.
In David’s other psalms of lament, we see him cry out to the Lord in response to his enemies, as in Psalm 3, “O Lord, how many are my foes!” Not so here. In this psalm, David cries out simply that the Lord may hear him and that he may hear the Lord. The point of the psalm is entirely that David wishes to hear the voice of God, because it is life to him. How great is the power of the Lord’s voice, and how dependent we are on it! In this psalm, it is the essential difference between David and the wicked. It’s the consequence that he outlines in the first sentence of the psalm: “…if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit.”
The enemies that we are accustomed to seeing in the laments are not absent from this psalm, but they are present only as a basis of comparison. David does not want to go down to the pit, to be dragged off like the wicked. The wicked themselves are not a danger to David in this psalm. They have little agency at all in this psalm. Instead, they are objects to be rejected, and David does not want the Lord to reject him. He wants the Lord to accept him, and the evidence that the Lord has accepted him is that He speaks to him.
David’s faith in this psalm is a reversal of what normally think about faith. We normally think about faith as a matter of our responding to the Lord’s voice. The word of the Lord comes first, followed by our faithful obedience in response to it. David teaches us that the voice of God is also the object of our faithful obedience. We are faithful so that we may hear God.
Scripture teaches us that the relationship works both ways. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10.17), but even Israel who heard the voice of the Lord refused to listen to it because of their lack of faith. Instead, they crucified the Word. So it is with all the wicked; there is a lack of faith so profound that it will not listen to the voice of the Lord. Let us be faithful so that we may increase in our faith!
Most of the psalm is about why the wicked are to be rejected. David presents a series of contrasts. First, he contrasts their hearts. The hearts of the wicked are full of evil, whereas David’s heart is full of trust for the Lord; therefore, he receives the Lord’s help, whereas they are dragged off into hell. Then, David contrasts their works. The works of the wicked are evil, opposed to the works of the Lord. Because of that, the Lord will render them their due reward: to be torn down.
In the contrasts of this psalm, David holds up the two pillars of the Faith: belief in God and righteous works. We know that both are essential if we desire the Lord’s favor. The one who does not believe in the Father and in His only Son, Jesus Christ, is already condemned (John 3.18), and faith without works is dead (James 2.17).
May our hearts and hands always be like David’s, inclined to God! May we listen faithfully for the voice of the Lord! May He answer us when we call! O Lord, save your people and bless your heritage!