We live in a world where the good Samaritans have been uprooted by the sniggering Pharisees. How often does one hear that they’ve been wronged; that they are innocent, and their persecutors did not receive their just deserts; that they have worked hard, accumulated tears, sweat, and blood, but receive an imbalance of appreciation or reward.
Whilst 1 Samuel 19-20 shows us the narrative of Saul’s persecution of David, Psalm 59 helps us peer into David’s heart. For there, we find the turmoil of the king-in-the-making, of the man after God’s own heart. What we expect is a man who exudes continual confidence; whose gravitas precedes before him; who destroyed Goliath with his wit and not his brawn. Instead, we find a man incredibly insecure; a man who pines for justice as he has been unjustly dealt with; a man who is not confident to take matters into his own hand, but rather to leave it in His.
Saul has left himself open to a harmful spirit from the Lord. If not for Jonathan’s reminders, he would have pursued his passions to destroy David. David describes him, and his men, as dogs howling and prowling about the city, bellowing with their mouths, lying in wait for David’s life, to stir up strife against him. The enemies whom David faced are born of the same deceiver whom Jesus destroyed; and the enemies we face today are constantly deceived by the spirits of this world, than by the Holy Spirit Who breathes life through us.
That is why David can proclaim that the Lord is his Strength; that God is his fortress; that He will let David look in triumph on his enemies. How can a howling, growling dog, a prowling lion, a hungry beast who wanders about for food, even scar the high towers of God’s temple? We triumph because He is much larger than we perceive Him to be; and yet our sights are often on the dogs and lions than the unshakeable and unbreakable Rock we stand on.
David prays that his enemies are consumed by their own wrath; and indeed, that is what God allows, for those who do not stand under the cross; they are, as John said, already condemned: John 3:16-18.
Do we not need to restore our perspectives to this, daily? Are not our eyes and our sight so easily manipulated by the circumstances that surround us? This psalm is a firm reminder that, even a faithful shepherd like David is easily discouraged, describing to Jonathan that he is but one step away from death: 1 Samuel 20:3. Yet, turning around, David realises that he need not fear death at all, because Jesus has conquered death. David can now find strength – even strength in the face of death – that he can sing in the day of his distress.
These are not easy words for David to preach. He was not a man who merely philosophised the doctrine of God’s sovereignty, and that he should somehow force himself to appreciate that God is his refuge. No – he is a man who, like Jacob, wrestled with Jesus to be blessed. David, too, is struggling here with the LORD; and by the end of this psalm, he is blessed and remembers that this Strength and towering fortress is built on the foundation of God’s steadfast love.
That is why Jesus’ work on the cross is so important; not just a generic concept of the emotion and passion that we call ‘love’ today. Jesus’ work on the cross is a combination of His painful sacrifice, in the face of howling, growling, hungry dogs and lions; and His overcoming of these enemies is what allowed men like David; and men like us, to even have a basis to proclaim victory in the face of death; victory in the face of being wronged.
It is in the cross that we find comfort from the Lord who experienced the same discomfort; it is in the cross that we find true justice, from the Lord who had been unjustly treated; it is in the cross that we find true value, from the Lord who gives us our value. When we set our sights on the cross, and not on the prowling lions, that we begin to realise that the balance of this world is corrupt. That the scales are uneven. But the cross evens the scales; the cross restores the corrupt balance.