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Friday, July 12th, 2024
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 140

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Verses 1-5


This psalm is a prayer for deliverance from evil. Prophetically, we see here Israel, the twelve tribes, connected to the LORD, but surrounded by evil men and violent men (Psalms 140:1).

The psalm teaches us, who live in the midst of ruthless and cunning wicked people, to surrender ourselves completely to the Lord. The believer cannot stand against the world with its cunning and conspiracy. But there is One Who knows the end from the beginning; to Him we must look. We can count on the help of the Lord Jesus against evil and violent people.

Prayer for Protection

For “for the choir director” (Psalms 140:1) see at Psalm 4:1.

For “a Psalm of David” see at Psalm 3:1.

The occasion of the psalm is clear from these verses. David, or the faithful remnant in the end times, is surrounded and treated with hostility by “evil men” (Psalms 140:1). David asks the LORD to rescue him from this. He also asks the LORD for His protection from “the violent men.” “Evil men” indicates what man is, namely, thoroughly evil. “Violent men” – Hebrew hamas, meaning violence, here in the plural, aggression – indicates that what man does is nothing but to cause misery, both by his words and by his actions.

David knows the devises in the hearts of these people, that in them they “devise evil things” (Psalms 140:2). It is not just one evil thought, but it is about “evil things”, indicating that they intend to harm him in many ways. They are not spontaneous actions, but premeditated, conscious, willful actions. Nor are they engaged in it occasionally, it is not a momentary thing, but “they continually stir up wars”. They are constantly plotting plans to harm him and get him out of the way. This is not a plot, but a war (cf. Psalms 140:7).

There have been repeated gatherings of kings and their counselors coming together to make war against the Lord’s ambassadors. Thus, in the last days, the beast and the false prophet and their followers will come together against the faithful remnant and go to war against them. But God will prove that He is above all nations. He will reign as King forever.

Before conspirators attack David with their sword, they attack him with their tongue. The language they use in formulating their battle plans against him is something (Psalms 140:3). They wage a campaign of hatred and slander against him. By speaking of “sharpen their tongues as a serpent” (cf. Psalms 64:4-Deuteronomy :) and that there is “poison of a viper under their lips” David says of them that they are a mouthpiece of the devil, the old serpent. Their tongues as a serpent means a split tongue full of lies and slander, sharpened like a sword to be able to cause even more damage. Poison of a viper is a silent acting poison that results in death in a short time.

The latter is cited by Paul as evidence of man’s utter depravity (Romans 3:13). Those who are characterized by it are children of the devil; they have his nature (John 8:44). They spread the meanest rumors about him and thereby commit what we call ‘character assassination’. The word selah at the end of Psalms 140:3 indicates a pause to consider the seriousness of the matter before God, to cry out again to the LORD about his distress in the next verse.

David does not defend himself against their false accusations, but takes refuge in the LORD (Psalms 140:4). He asks the LORD to keep Him “from the hands of the wicked”, in whom we recognize Saul. He also asks the LORD to preserve him “from violent men” in whom we recognize Saul’s followers. They represent the enemies of the remnant in the end times. They “purposed” to “trip up” his feet, so that he falls and becomes powerless and unable to defend himself and they can trample him.

The next character trait of the enemies is their pride, their pride (Psalms 140:5). They are targeting those who go their way in faithfulness to the LORD. They want to get rid of them, because they do not want to be reminded of God and His will. They have an arsenal of evil means at their disposal to catch the righteous.

Their choice is made. They want to leave nothing to chance and deploy the most cunning, meanest means: a hidden trap and cords, a net by the wayside and snares. They leave no stone unturned in their battle against the LORD and His people. They lurk on the righteous as if they were trying to catch a dangerous wild animal. Surely one of their applied means will have the desired effect, they believe.

Verses 6-8

Trusting in God’s Protection

In the face of the lying language that evil, violent, proud people speak about the LORD, the psalmist utters the testimony to the LORD: “You are my God” (Psalms 140:6). To Him he takes refuge. We see an example of this in Hezekiah’s response to Rabshakeh’s lying language and Sennacherib’s letter, in which they portray the LORD as an idol (Isaiah 36:7; Isaiah 36:18-Proverbs :Isaiah 37:10-1 Chronicles :). They totally distort the Person and works of the LORD.

Hezekiah orders the people not to answer these slanders and distortions and spreads Sennacherib’s letter before the LORD (Isaiah 36:21; Isaiah 37:14). This is what the psalmist also does: instead of answering the lies of the enemy, he goes to the LORD in prayer and declares that God is his God and Protector.

David calls God “LORD Lord”, Yahweh Adonai (Psalms 140:7). As “LORD” He is the God of covenant with His people and as “Lord” He is the sovereign Ruler of and in the universe to Whom all is subject and Who governs all. That God is “the strength of my salvation”. God’s strength was demonstrated in covering his head “in the day of battle” (cf. Ephesians 6:16).

In the assurance of the shelter of God, the God-fearing asks God that He does “not grant … the desires of the wicked” and “not promote his [evil] device” (Psalms 140:8). If God does not intervene and let the wicked one have his way, “they”, that is, the enemies of the remnant in the end times, would “be exalted”. It is impossible that God would allow this to happen.

Verses 9-11

Prayer for Judgment

The demand that the evil from the lips of the head of the enemies who surround him shall cover him himself is not a personal cry for vengeance (Psalms 140:9). It is asking God to punish injustice, threats, and slander according to the rule of retribution that the evil which a person does or wishes to do to another will affect himself (Exodus 21:24; cf. Esther 5:14; Esther 9:25; Psalms 7:15-Nehemiah :; Proverbs 26:27; Daniel 6:25).

The God-fearing also indicates what is an appropriate judgment for his enemies (Psalms 140:10). He speaks of “burning coals”, “the fire”, and “deep pits”. Burning coals must be fall upon them from heaven (Psalms 11:6); into the fire and deep pits they must fall. It marks their final judgment, for this judgment must result in “from which they cannot rise”. This judgment will affect all the enemies of the believing remnant.

It is clear in light of God’s final judgment that “a slanderer” will “not be established in the earth” (Psalms 140:11). That person is characterized not only by lying words, but also by violence, a man whose deeds cause death and destruction. This man of violence will be speedily hunted by “evil” until he is utterly driven out.

For evil speakers and evildoers there is no future in the earth and in the promised land – the word for “earth” may also be translated “land”. They will not share in the rest of the realm of peace. Their portion is hell. In it they will be thrown in accordance with their words and deeds and in it they will chew their tongues in pain for all eternity.

Verses 12-13

God Will Do Justice

After convincing himself that God has the last word and will bring judgment on all the wicked, the psalmist speaks with certainty: “I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted and justice for the poor” (Psalms 140:12). Judgment is not God’s last word. It is for the unrepentant wicked, but not for the afflicted and the poor.

“The afflicted” and “the poor” – expressions that describe the believing remnant – have suffered greatly from all the injustice and enmity done to them by the wicked. This God has made right through His judgment. There is no longer any doubt as to their right. The afflicted is the individual believer. It is the Lord Jesus above all. He has been subjected to the greatest injustice, He has been hated and blasphemed more than anyone else. He has surrendered everything to God Who judges righteously (1 Peter 2:23) in the certainty that He will take care of His trial. The poor are “the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). They constitute the believing remnant.

The afflicted and the poor of Psalms 140:12 are “the righteous” and “the upright” of Psalms 140:13. They are called “the righteous” because in all uprightness they have put their trust in the LORD on the basis of the covenant ratified by the blood of Christ.

Just as the God-fearing one says with certainty “I know” in Psalms 140:12, so in Psalms 140:13 he says “surely”. There is no doubt for faith that the righteous will give thanks to the Name of the LORD. Their prayers are turned into songs of thanksgiving.

There is also no doubt that the upright will dwell in the presence of God. They will no longer be hunted by enemies who were constantly targeting their lives. They now dwell in the millennial sabbath rest in the presence of God (Hebrews 4:9). How blessed are the people who have the LORD as their God!

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 140". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/psalms-140.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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