Psalm 7: Equal Opportunity Curses

Read Psalm 7.

At his concerts, Keith Green used to say, “Sin is fun to get, but it’s like sugar-coated, long-acting cyanide!” Sin never comes without a curse—because sin always draws us further away from God.

Still, there persists a myth that says good people prosper, while the monstrous suffer. And because God is just, he will not let the guilty go unpunished. This second part is certainly true; there is a coming day of reckoning when judgment will come, but God does not typically act in the moment to pay someone for the wrongs they’ve just committed (though see Acts 5:1–11). Anyone who’s walked a few miles on this earth knows is true: “There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 8:14).

We don’t know the situation that inspired Psalm 7. The title of the psalm mentions someone named Cush from the tribe of Benjamin, but the biblical record does not mention him elsewhere, so we don’t know what his beef with David was. What we do know is that it was serious. David asks God to rescue him (v. 1), and he compares his pursuers to lions, ready to “rip [him] to pieces” (v. 2).

In his prayer, David maintains his innocence in the matter, telling God, “If I have done this and there is guilt on my hands—if I have repaid my ally with evil or without cause robbed my foe—then let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust” (Psalm 7:3–5). David is invoking this idea that his righteousness (or lack of it) will be proven by God’s response to the situation.

Knowing something of David’s character before the Lord from the rest of Scripture, I have little doubt that he is telling the truth about his part in the situation with Cush, whatever it may be. It is no small thing to invoke God as your witness. God knows all and sees all. You can’t put one over on Him.

Having read David’s words, I can’t help but think of Simon Peter, another person who invoked heaven as a witness—except he was as guilty as the day is long. Matthew and Mark tell us that when Peter was denying he ever knew Jesus, “he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know the man!’” (Matthew 26:74).

Thankfully for Peter, God didn’t respond to his curses. He allowed Peter to feel the poisonous effects of his sin, as he heard about Jesus’ continued trial, torture, and death on a cross. The torment of his own sin must have been as painful as any lightning bolt from the sky he might have brought down upon himself that night in the high priest’s courtyard.

Peter didn’t need to call down curses from heaven. And David didn’t need to appeal to God as a witness to his innocence. All of us are guilty like Peter. Even David isn’t truly innocent. There is a curse already hanging over this world—there was no need to call for one. For those of us who know Jesus, though, that curse has already fallen. It has come down hard. But the punishment we deserve fell on Christ. It has, somewhat ironically, done exactly what the book of Ecclesiastes describes—crushed the righteous instead of the wicked (Ecclesiastes 8:14).

David finishes his prayer, saying, “I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the LORD Most High” (Psalm 7:17). God’s righteousness is better than anything we could ever have come up with on our own. Because of the cross, God’s great righteousness is also His great mercy.

What is this all about?

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