I thought about moving on from Psalm 7, but I can’t yet. There is still so much in the psalm that I haven’t written about. And for me, the writing helps me soak in the truths that God has shown me. So in a way, you get to listen in on my journal through the psalms. And Psalm 7 has not let me go yet.
I love the metaphors in this psalm. It starts with a statement that God is my refuge. Refuge is a condition of being safe or sheltered form pursuit, danger, or trouble according to a quick google search or it is the something or someone that provides that shelter. And the psalmist claims God as a refuge and asks God to be that refuge. Later in the psalm, God is a shield, which also protects and defends. There is a picture of a courtroom, an assembly of peoples before a judge sitting high above. And then there is this extended metaphor of sin.
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.Ps. 7:14-16 (ESV)
The same metaphor shows up in James in the New Testament.
“…but each one is tempted when by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full-grown gives birth to death.”James 1:14-15 (NIV84)
I memorized these verses when I quizzed over James 25 years ago, and I have always remembered the metaphor. It is a compelling one. There is an idea that is conceived. (That is in fact one of the definitions in English. It doesn’t just mean the process of conception of a baby, but also refers to an idea being formed in the mind.) In James, it is an evil desire that is conceived. In Psalm 7 it is evil itself. Psalm 7 extends the metaphor to being “pregnant with mischief” and bringing forth lies. James says it gives birth to sin.
The metaphor is the same: conception, pregnancy, birth, death.
Have you ever thought of desire and sin with that metaphor? What desires have I conceived? What evil is conceived in me? What mischief am I pregnant with? What will be born from my thoughts and actions? And where does it lead? James just says death. But Psalm 7 draws the picture out. Here the wicked dig a pit. Hoping maybe to trap someone else. Instead they fall into their own pit. And whatever evil they meant to do others descends on their own head.
It seems like we don’t talk about sin much in our churches. Calling out sin implies judgment on someone’s activities, and we don’t want to judge people. (That is a mistaken idea, but not today’s topic.) But the Bible does not shy away from talking about sin. Sin leads to death and destruction in the Scriptures. But it doesn’t seem that way at first. This metaphor talks about a desire, an idea conceived. Just an idea. It may even seem good. But the progression leads from the thought to the action, and eventually the action draws you into a pit that you yourself dug. A pit that traps you. In fact the word entice in James makes me think of the cheese on a mouse trap, enticing the mouse to enter the trap where death awaits. The pit in Psalm 7 is just like that trap.
Another metaphor that struck me was that of the lion as the pursuer who will tear the psalmist apart. I don’t think I have a lot of pursuers right now; you probably don’t either. However, that metaphor is in the NT as well, and I think it applies here. In 1 Peter 5:8 the lion is the devil: “Like a roaring lion, your enemy the devil prowls around looking for someone to devour.” The devil is always pursuing those who follow Christ. He wants to destroy us. Just as the lion in Psalm 7 wants to tear the psalmist apart and drag him away where he can’t be rescued.
The heading for this Psalm is one of David and it is sung concerning Cush the Benjamite. Scripture doesn’t tell us any stories about Cush. But Saul was a Benjamite. And he pursued David for a long time. I mention this here because the psalmist offers himself up to the pursuer if he is guilty of injustice. (v3-5) “If there is wrong in my hands…let the enemy overtake me…trample my life…lay my soul in the dust.” That sounds strange to us. But the psalmist could be defending his actions in this relationship only, not in his life as a whole. If we think about how David treated Saul, it was always with integrity and respect as God’s anointed king. We know that David did some bad things in his life, but in this relationship he acted rightly. I know that there is wrong in my hands in my life. I have sinned. I am guilty of evil and mischief and lies. I should be caught by my pursuer.
But God. But, “God so loved the world, that he sent his one and only son…” And that leads to praise. Because of Christ, the righteousness of God, I can be counted among the righteous. And so can you. So I join the psalmist in the concluding verse:
I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness,
and sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.
May you be blessed by God’s word today.