Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me;

    fight against those who fight against me.

2 Take up shield and armour;

    arise and come to my aid.

3 Brandish spear and javelin

    against those who pursue me.

Say to me,

    “I am your salvation.”

4 May those who seek my life

    be disgraced and put to shame;

may those who plot my ruin

    be turned back in dismay.

5 May they be like chaff before the wind,

    with the angel of the Lord driving them away;

6 may their path be dark and slippery,

    with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.

7 Since they hid their net for me without cause

    and without cause dug a pit for me,

8 may ruin overtake them by surprise—

    may the net they hid entangle them,

    may they fall into the pit, to their ruin.

9 Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord

    and delight in his salvation.

10 My whole being will exclaim,

    “Who is like you, Lord?

You rescue the poor from those too strong for them,

    the poor and needy from those who rob them.”

Psalm 35 is comprised of 3 sections (1-10; 11-18 & 19-28), and in each one David concludes with a promise to give God thanks when he comes out the other side. Note he is clearly confident he will, even though the prayer battle may be long and hard.

‘An outpouring rather than a coherent, organised poem, this psalm belongs to a time when enmity and suffering were seemingly endless. The long period of Saul’s paranoiac hatred is suitable, the sad figure of the king attracting round him, as he did, many who sycophantically identified with him and gratuitously aggravated David’s sufferings. As in Psalm 34, prayer alone is seen as the solution, but in that crisis the answer came with the prayer: the poor man cried and the LORD heard him (34:6). Now, notwithstanding persistency in prayer, the answer is prolonged and the answer is deferred. Prayer submits our needs to the Lord’s resources and also our timetable to his…As in Psalm 34, the crisis, though here prolonged, is met by prayer, leaving all to the Lord’ (Alec Motyer: ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.507).

Although he was in mortal danger, David did not intend to take up arms. Instead, he committed his cause to God (in a Christ-like way, as we will see in the next section). The references to war and weapons (1,2) point to the strength of God, which is more than a match for all the power of the enemy (10). David is not ashamed to acknowledge his own weakness in the face of his foes. But at the heart of this section we see that the Lord Himself is David’s salvation (3b). I am reminded of the wonderful words of 1 John 4:4: “But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world” (‘New Living Translation’).

Verses 6,7: see Psalm 34:7. Derek Kidner points out that “the angel of the LORD” is either our salvation or our doom (Exodus 23:20-22).

Verses 7,8: It is an oft-repeated Biblical principle (especially, though not exclusively, found in the Old Testament) that you reap what you sow. It’s been pointed out that in praying like this, David was not expressing personal animosity, but asking according to the revealed will of God. In Deuteronomy 19:18,19 it says: “The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against a fellow Israelite, then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party. You must purge the evil from among you.” (For a further gospel insight, though, see Matthew 5:43-48).

It has been pointed out that there is an echo of the Song of Moses in the cry, “Who is like you, LORD?” (Exodus 15:11) – perhaps a deliberate recalling of a much greater crisis and its triumphant outcome.

Thought: Who/what do I need to commit to God today, trusting Him to work it out?