Today’s passage: Psalm 35
Today’s chocolate: Endangered Species 88% cacao dark chocolate
I always feel intimidated when writing about passages of this size. Psalm 35 is a page and a half in my Bible, twenty-eight verses long. I can’t quote all of them. And what would be the point of summarizing the passage, when you’d get more out of reading it and summarizing it for yourself? You don’t get more fit by watching someone else run a mile. Maybe you learn something about form, but at some point you gotta do the exercise yourself.
And if I’m not here to summarize the passage, then what am I here to do? Try to find a verse that’s got something in it I can share with you, and try not to yank it out of context in the sharing? It’s tough.
David’s got something tough in front of him too. Psalm 35 is another psalm of disorientation, where David is confronted with foes and threats, asking God to come to his aid. Right out the gate, he’s praying for help: “Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me” (1). He needs a God who will fight for him.
The next two verses struck me as weird. David asks God to take up buckler and shield to defend him (2), and then to go on the offensive with a spear and battle-axe (3). I know he means it in a spiritual or figurative sense, but to me it conjures up this crazy mental image of God as four-armed Destroyer, like Shiva in Hinduism, armed to the teeth with shields and weapons. And while it’s a figure of speech–I don’t think David expects God to show up in the flesh like he did in visiting Abraham (Genesis 18) and physically smack down David’s enemies–David still expects God to get results in the physical world, to rescue him from physical harm.
It’s also striking to me what David wants for his enemies in these verses. We see a petition for coyote justice in verse 8: “Let the net which he hid catch himself.” David also expresses concern that they’ll continue to mock and gloat over him, and twice in the psalm, he reiterates a desire to see his enemies disgraced. Early on, he prays, “Let those be ashamed and dishonored who seek my life; let those be turned back and humiliated who devise evil against me” (4). Later, he reiterates, “Let those be ashamed and humiliated altogether who rejoice at my distress; let those be clothed with shame and dishonor who magnify themselves over me” (26). Look at those verbs: ashamed, dishonored, humiliated. He wants to see his enemies and their evil held in contempt.
What’s the significance of all that? Why does David want God to add insult to injury for his enemies? Maybe to make it obvious that evil doesn’t prosper in the long game, so that others will be deterred from backstabbing their friends like David’s enemies do. I don’t know. I just look into the passage and see what I can pull out and hope it’s of benefit to you. Maybe you can make something of all this. Tomorrow we’ll read Psalm 36 and have a Chocolate Showdown, dark chocolate with almonds, Endangered Species vs. Theo. It’ll be a good time.