Is God the strength of those who reject him?—Psalm 28

Psalms of David

Psalms in Book 1 (Psalms 1 to 41) are primarily personal songs, so I will look at how they apply to us personally. Social and communal aspects of life and work do not come in until the later books of Psalms.

I like David. Not because of his adultery and murder, but because whenever he gets into a pickle, which is frequently, he always turns to God. His heart is set on God, it’s a shame that he sometimes allows himself to be led by a different part of his body. But what happens when he turns to God and there is no reply?

Storm clouds gathering above
Free image from pxfuel

The books of Psalms are roughly themed like this:

Book 1: Psalms 1 – 41: God is beside us.
Book 2: Psalms 42 – 72: God goes before us
Book 3: Psalms 73 – 89: God is all around us.
Book 4: Psalms 90 – 106: God is above us.
Book 5: Psalms 107 – 150: God is among us.

Of David.

28 To you, O Lord, I call;
    my rock, be not deaf to me,
lest, if you be silent to me,
    I become like those who go down to the pit.
Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy,
    when I cry to you for help,
when I lift up my hands
    towards your most holy sanctuary.

Do not drag me off with the wicked,
    with the workers of evil,
who speak peace with their neighbours
    while evil is in their hearts.
Give to them according to their work
    and according to the evil of their deeds;
give to them according to the work of their hands;
    render them their due reward.
Because they do not regard the works of the Lord
    or the work of his hands,
he will tear them down and build them up no more.

Blessed be the Lord!
    For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
    in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
    and with my song I give thanks to him.
The Lord is the strength of his people;
    he is the saving refuge of his anointed.
Oh, save your people and bless your heritage!
    Be their shepherd and carry them for ever.

Psalm 28 ESVUK

This is a very different song from Psalm 23. In that song God goes with David through dark places, here David has been praying to God for some time and is getting no reply. So where is God?

God is in this Psalm, but David has to go through some other stuff first.

But before that, when I read through this Psalm slowly, doing a Lectio Divina, I found the combination of “The Lord is my strength … the Lord is their strength” in verses 7 and 8 to be the most interesting thing, but unfortunately, the ESV, which I am using for this look at Psalms, does not show this, as the ESV follows the Greek translation, which in verse 8 says, “The Lord is the strength of his people,” yet it shows that the Hebrew says, “The Lord is their strength.” in a footnote.

Structure wise the psalm is in three parts.

The first two verses are the darkest. A cry to a God who does not answer. Yet David persists in asking.

Verses 3 to 5 form a chiasm* in two parts but the whole thing contrasts the works of those who do evil with the works of the Lord. This idea continues over into the next section.

The last section, verses 6 to 9, Starts by answering the plea in verse two which asks God to hear his plea by saying God has heard the plea. This is an altogether more happy mood than the darkness of the early part of the psalm, and this mood continues to the end. The main theme, in the first and last parts of this short chiastic structure is about blessing. David describes the Lord as being blessed in verse 6 and asks the Lord to bless his people in verse 9.

The next section is about the Lord’s strength, saying The Lord is my strength in verse 7a and The Lord is their strength in verse 8. Who is being referred to in verse 8? When the Hebrew text says “their strength” it is ambiguous, some translations leave it as the Hebrew, and others make the assumption that it implies the people mentioned in verse 9.

I find a problem with that assumption, The people of God have not been mentioned so far in the psalm and there is the conclusion to the question of those who do evil left over from verse 5. Could David be saying that God is their, his enemy’s strength? It is possible, the idea of loving your enemies is not new to Jesus, it occurs in the Old Testament too: Love your neighbour as you love yourself is from Leviticus 19:18 and the idea of treating your enemy in the same way as you treat your friends comes from Exodus 23:4-5, part of the laws of justice and mercy.

Corrie Ten Boom, a holocaust survivor, said when meeting a former German concentration camp guard after World War II, “I cannot forgive them but I ask Jesus to give me his forgiveness to pass on to them.”

I have mentioned Jesus in connection with this psalm is because in verse 8 the word anointed in Hebrew messiah. This is a Messianic psalm looking forwards to his coming. The mention of Messiah as well as the possible translation of “them” as being in context enemies comes immediately after the centre section of the last part of the psalm. Verse 7b says, “My heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” Because God is my strength I can ask him for his strength to pass on to others.

If we do for others what God has done for us we can’t be far wrong.

< Psalm 27 | Psalm 28 | Psalm 29 >
< Previous | Psalms of David | Next >

*Chiastic structure, or chiastic pattern, is a literary technique in narrative motifs and other textual passages. An example of chiastic structure would be two ideas, A and B, together with variants A’ and B’, being presented as A, B, B’, A’

Tell me what you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s