God Will Rescue His Own, So Hang On!
There are two questions to ask about Psalm 35:
1. What is Psalm 35 doing?
2. Why is Psalm 35 doing it?
And here are two answers, at least broadly.
1. Psalm 35 shows us the hope that God will vindicate His faithful servant.
2. Psalm 35 shows us this for our endurance in faith.
Overall, the message and purpose of Psalm 35 is that God will rescue His own, so hang on.
And for the rest of our time, I’m want to just unpack this in more detail, but before we get started, let’s take a moment to ask God to help us…
Wherever you are as you read/listen to this, ask God to open the eyes of your heart to receive what He has for you in this psalm.
Amd we pray:
Father, by Your Spirit, open our eyes. We ask this in Jesus’s Name. Amen.
God Will Rescue His Own
So the first part here is that God will rescue His own, or we could say: God will vindicate His faithful servant, and in the text we see this in three ways:
First, we see that vindication is required (vv. 7, 12, 19–20).
The main message of this psalm is God’s rescue, but that’s not most of what the psalm says. Most of the airtime in this psalm goes to David asking God to judge his enemies. If you were to read the entire psalm, the enemy part is the most obvious thing.
David has enemies who unjustly hate him; and he wants God to destroy them — but this latter part only makes sense when we get the former. These enemies were unjust enemies. The psalm makes this part extremely clear:
- Verse 7: “For without cause they hid their net for me”; “without cause they dug a pit for my life”
- Verse 12: “they repay me evil for good…”
- Verse 19: they are “wrongfully my foes”; they “hate me without cause”
- Verse 20: “they do not speak peace”; “they devise words of deceit”
So the issue is not merely that these people have made themselves enemies. Being against something is not wrong — there are things in life, in this world, that we should be against. Antagonism in itself is not wrong, but the antagonism must be just and right. The problem with these enemies in Psalm 35 is that they were unjust and wrong to have antagonism for David.
And that’s why David is emboldened to pray against them. His vindication is required, and so…
Second, his vindication is requested (vv. 1–8, 11–16, 19–21, 25–26).
And notice these requests come right out of the gate in verse 1. David is asking God to contend with those who contend with him. Fight against those who fight him. God, make your enemies those who have made themselves my enemies.
And the image David evokes here is one of a warrior. Yahweh is armed with weapons and He is rising up for battle. And David repeats these imprecatory petitions:
- Put them to shame
- Let them be turned back
- Let them be like chaff before wind
- Let their way be dark and slippery
- Let destruction come upon them
- Let them fall into the nets they have set
- Let them be put to shame and disappointed altogether – Let them be clothed with shame and dishonor
David doesn’t leave us guessing about what he wants God to do. The destruction of his enemies seems to be what consumes him, but the destruction of his enemies also includes his salvation.
In the Bible, judgment and salvation are often two sides of the same coin. When the wicked are destroyed, and righteous are saved. And that’s not just an Old Testament idea, but we see this in the New Testament as well.
The apostle Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 1 that on the Last Day when Jesus returns, God will inflict vengeance on the enemies of Jesus, but His own people will glorify Him and marvel at Him (see 2 Thessalonians 1:6–12). God considers it just to judge the afflicters and to grant relief to the afflicted.
And David is asking for both. “God, judge my enemies; save me.”
How long, O Yahweh, will you look on? Rescue me from their destruction, my precious life from the lions!
Awake and rouse Yourself for my vindication, for my cause, my God and my Lord! Vindicate me, O Yahweh, my God, according to Your righteousness, and let them not rejoice over me!
Vindication is requested, and David expects it to happen. That’s the third thing to see here.
Third, vindication expected (vv. 9–10, 18, 28).
There are three verses throughout this psalm when David speaks in the future tense about what he will do. Each of these come after his petitions:
- Verse 9: “Then my soul will rejoice in The LORD, exulting in His salvation.”
- Verse 18: “I will thank You in the great congregation; in the mighty multitude I will praise You.”
- Verse 28: “Then my tongue shall tell of Your righteousness and of Your praise all the day long.”
In short, if we tie this altogether, David expected God to answer the request that his situation required. God will rescue His Own. That’s the message of Psalm 35.
And the purpose is your endurance. God will rescue His own, so hang on.
But how do we get there from here? How do we know that our endurance is the purpose of this psalm?
So Hang On
There are two steps for how we get there, and the first is to know who Psalm 35 is finally about. And it’s not hard to see this.
In the storyline of Scripture, who is the true and final faithful servant who is unjustly treated?
This is a faithful servant who had enemies rise up against him and attempt to lay snares for him. He had malicious witnesses devise falsehoods against him, and they repaid him evil for good.
And they were not faraway enemies, but they were close to him, people for whom he wept, but they rejoiced at his stumbling. They conspired against him. They mocked and reviled him. And he did not deserve it. These enemies “hated him without cause.”
Who is the ultimate faithful servant who was hated without cause? It’s Jesus.
1) Jesus says Psalm 35 is about Him.
We see this throughout the Gospel narratives, but then also, Jesus tells us this. In the Gospel of John, Chapter 15, this is what’s called the Farewell Discourse. It was on Maundy Thursday, the night that Jesus was betrayed, and He was teaching His disciples about what was coming in the future:
He would be crucified — where He was going the disciples couldn’t come, but He would send His Spirit to be their Helper, and Jesus told them this for their comfort. Jesus wants His disciples to Love one another; He doesn’t want their hearts to be troubled — and in this line of thought Jesus also tells His disciples about their relationship to the world. And this is important. In the future, when Jesus is no longer here in person, this is something the people of Jesus need to know. So this is what he says, John 15, verse 18:
If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you.
19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My Word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of My name, because they do not know Him Who sent Me. [… Verse 24:] but now they have seen and hated both Me and My Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated Me without a cause.’
Did you hear that? — “They hated Me without a cause” — this is a quote from Psalm 35:19, and Jesus says it’s fulfilled by those who hate Him.
They’re called “the world” in this passage, which includes the Jewish leaders. And that’s ironic because this unjust hatred they have for Jesus was written about in their own Law. It’s in their own Book! They have done exactly what David said, and they have done it to the Greater David. These Jewish leaders, and the world, have unjustly hated the true and final faithful servant to Whom David pointed.
That’s the first step for us. We need to see that Psalm 35 is finally about Jesus, as Jesus Himself says in John 15:25. Jesus is The true and final faithful servant, and this psalm is about Him.
Now here’s the next step. We need to see what Jesus is saying here.
2) Jesus tells us that the world will hate us, too.
In John 15 Jesus is telling His disciples that the world is going to treat them the same way they treated Him.
How you’ve seen the world relate to Me is how you should expect the world to relate to you — because you’re Mine.
You are not of this world. I chose you out of this world. And I’m sending The Holy Spirit to help you bear witness to Me in this world that has hated Me without cause.
And this is helpful. Jesus, thank You. This is good to know. But what’s the purpose? Why is Jesus saying telling us this?
Well, He explains in the next verse, John 16, verse 1, Jesus says:
“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.”
In other words, I have told you that the world will hate you like it hated Me so that you will endure in faith.
Being hated by the world is not the end of the world — because if there’s one thing we know about the unjust hatred of Jesus it’s that the hatred didn’t have the last word. In fact, like David prays in Psalm 35:8, the net that the enemies of Jesus hid for Him became the same net that ensnared them: in the death of Jesus came the death of death!
When evil seemed to have its highest day was when it actually had its worst loss. What seemed to be evil’s greatest victory was actually its greatest defeat.
And that defeat was made public on Sunday morning when Jesus was raised from the dead — when Jesus, The faithful servant, was gloriously vindicated by His Father. We now know for certain that God will rescue His own.
And if we are in Him, if we follow in His footsteps (see 1 Peter 3:21), if we suffer with Him (see Romans 8:17), if we are unjustly hated like He was hated, God will also rescue us like He rescued Jesus. So hang on.
Your endurance to the future is carried by your encouragement about the future, and Christian, in Christ your future is bright.
- “For this slight momentary affliction,” Paul says, “is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
- “After you have suffered a little while,” Peter says, “the God of all grace, Who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).
Christian, the best is yet to come. God will rescue His own, so hang on. That’s the message and purpose of Psalm 35.
And I have just two closing points of application.
APPLICATION #1: TRUST JESUS
If you’re not yet a Christian, none of what I’ve said applies to you. The first and most important thing you could do is to put your faith in Jesus. And that’s something you can do that right now. In this moment, wherever you are, turn away from your sin and cling to the death and resurrection of Jesus as your only hope. Receive the grace of God and be saved.
That’s application #1: Trust Jesus.
APPLICATION #2: PRAISE JESUS
If you do trust in Jesus, if you are united to Him by faith, then praise Him. This is actually how Psalm 35 ends.
In view of our final salvation, because we know God will save His own, we tell of His righteousness and we praise Him all the day long!
And that includes this day — in whatever situation, Christian, you find yourself in. God is worthy of praise despite your circumstance, and when you feel like your heart is too heavy to lift up His praise, you can still want to praise Him. And you can ask Him to bring you there, to bring you to that place again where you thank Him in the great congregation, where you tell of His righteousness and praise all the day long.
Church, Jesus is worthy of our praise all the day long. So let us praise Him and give Him thanks. Amen.