Contained within Psalm 69 is a treasure trove.
Many years ago, I came across and was fascinated by a collection of seven books titled: The Treasury of David: which is “C. H. Spurgeon’s enduring classic, The Treasury of David, has long been regarded as the most comprehensive pastoral and inspirational study of the Psalms ever written”. This, along with another great Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, has been referred to in the thoughts that follow, concerning this wonderful Psalm (one of many) that happened recently to enthrall me.
Recently, in our church prayer meeting, when the prayer focus was Christians round the world facing persecution, my wife shared this Psalm, and it got me thinking. As far as Prophets of the Bible goes, there are several reasons why this Psalm is relevant. As far as my wife goes, this was a much-loved Psalm in her native country, India, often read by Christians, who had to suffer because of their faith. As far as I go, the words “I restored that which I took not away” resonated, as it was often included in an “extempore” prayer by one brother in a times past. Moreover, as I came to further mediate on Psalm 69, I realised the term “treasury” is not only apt but there is always new treasure to discover.
I reflected in my recent studies that the prophets of the Bible often had a hard time. They were often not listened to do and beaten up in all sorts of ways what they tried to faithfully declared the word God had given them. Moreover, they were not perfect (unlike in another application – Jesus the Messiah) as evidenced in verse 5: “O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee”. Not only did they suffer for doing the right thing, their oppressors were able to do further damage due to their doing the wrong thing. Like many of the Psalms, it begins on a low, dire note: “Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God. They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away” (69:1-4). Yet it finished on a high, triumphant note: “But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high. I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs. The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God. For the Lord heareth the poor, and despiseth not his prisoners. Let the heaven and earth praise him, the seas, and every thing that moveth therein. For God will save Zion, and will build the cities of Judah: that they may dwell there, and have it in possession. The seed also of his servants shall inherit it: and they that love his name shall dwell therein”. (69:29-36).
Between the start and the end, the Psalmist is pouring out his heart before God, pleading his cause. There is even a sense that he wants his oppressors to suffer as a result of their unkind etc. actions, begging the question that such an attitude seems to contravene Jesus’ words to his disciples to bless and pray for those who persecute them. Yet on two separate occasions the “bashing detractor” verses are picked up by New Testament actors. “Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake” (69:22,23) is picked up by Paul when considering Israel’s unbelief (Romans 11:9,10). “Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents” (69:25) is picked up by Peter when calling for a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:20).
The prophetic element of this Psalm is even more poignant when we consider the Messianic aspect, a further example of a “not a prophet” (David) speaking prophetically in a not too dissimilar vein as he did in Psalm 22, where there are remarkable parallels as we reflect on the sufferings of Jesus, particularly when it came to His death on the cross. When we think of the Psalms pointing to the Passion of the Christ and the account of that Passion in the Gospels, the following all resonate:
- “Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face” (69:7)
- “I made sackcloth also my garment; and I became a proverb to them” (69:11)
- “For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me” (69:9)
- “Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none” (69:20)
- “They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink” (69:21)
Like so many of the Psalms, it should lead us to praise and prayer:
- Thanks for the prophets who faithfully did God’s bidding despite the high cost.
- Thanks that God vindicates those who trust in Him
- Thanks that God hears and answers prayer
- Thanks that God keeps faith with us, despite our sins
- Thanks that Jesus did all what is written here for me