Have you ever felt like you were being persecuted for following Christ? In Psalm 69 the psalmist cries out for help because of the reproach he is experiencing for the sake of God's name.
Psalm 69 is one of the most quoted psalms in the New Testament. The psalm is messianic and was considered to be a prophetic picture of the sufferings of Christ.
This theme of suffering has three applications: David's personal experience, our experience of suffering for Christ and the sufferings of Christ as our Messiah.
The meaningful center can be found in verses 16-17. Notice that in addition to being at the center of the psalm it is also set apart by beginning and ending with the words "answer me".
Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
Hide not your face from your servant,
for I am in distress; make haste to answer me. Psalm 69:16-17
The psalm has two distinct parts: the prayer (verses 1-29) and a short concluding song of praise addressed to the people (verses 30-36). Each of these parts has its own meaningful center.
The meaningful center of the prayer is verse 14 which repeats the imagery of water from the first few verses and pictures the great distress of the author.
Deliver me from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
and from the deep waters. Psalm 69:14
In contrast, the meaningful center of the song of praise is verse 33 where we find David confidently praising God for hearing his cry for help.
For the Lord hears the needy
and does not despise his own people who are prisoners. Psalm 69:33
David begins his prayer with a cry for help. The trials of life are pictured as deep muddy water threatening to drown him in its flow. The floods have already reached to his neck.
The image of water is then skillfully switched to tears as David cries out for help. His eyes grow dim. Will God rescue him in time?
To make matters worse, the psalmist explains that those who attack him do it without cause. He is innocent but they lie in order to destroy him.
Have you ever felt like you were drowning in your troubles - wondering when God will help? I know I have.
But this passage is also attributed to Christ in John 15:25. Jesus was persecuted even though He came as our sinless Savior.
I Suffer for Your Sake
David continues by admitting that God knows all of his errors. Nothing is hidden from God. But his desire is that he would never bring shame to the name of God. Such a great prayer. May I never bring shame to your name, O God!
Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord
let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. Psalm 69:6
In the next verse, though, the image of shame switches suddenly from shameful sin to shame for the cause of God. Even though David is not bringing shame to the name of God, he is suffering shame for the sake of God. It is because of his zeal for God that he is now suffering disgrace.
Verse 9 is applied to Jesus twice in the New Testament. In John 2:17 when Jesus cleanses the temple, and also in Romans 15:3.
For zeal for your house has consumed me,
and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me. Psalm 69:9
David ends this section of the prayer by noting that they have ridiculed him for his acts of worship.
May we like David in this prayer be people that never bring shame to the name of Christ, but when we do suffer, may it be for the sake of his name.
You Are My Hope
David ended the last section with the words "the drunkards make songs about me". He now takes this imagery and flips it around to say "but my song (tephillah) is to You, O Lord." This creative transition is hidden in most English translations because the Hebrew word "tephillah" is usually translated as prayer. But it can also have the meaning of a "hymn of praise". The psalms of David are called tephillah in Psalm 72:20.
David knows that his only hope is in God and he confidently places his trust in God.
I love the second line of verse 13: "At an acceptable time". In spite of his troubles, David trusts God to respond at the right time. My experience is that God's timing always feels late to us because of our finite perspectives. But David knows that God's timing is always the right timing.
Throughout this section David trusts in God's love and mercy. He believes that God will rescue because of his "abundant love" and "saving faithfulness". It is God's nature to save!
In the middle of this prayer we return to the image of water. If God does not save, David will be overwhelmed by the flood of his troubles. In the meaningful center of the psalm he cries out twice: Answer me!
When we are overwhelmed with trouble we need to trust in the abundant love and mercy of God. He will save at the acceptable time. We must trust and continue to bring our concerns to him in confident prayer. It is His nature to save.
David starts this final section of the prayer by reminding God that He knows all of David's troubles. None of this is hidden from God.
God knows your situation too. God may appear silent, but do not fear. He is watching and He is working. He will save at the acceptable time.
Verses 21-25 are highly quoted in the New Testament. The second half of verse 21, "for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink", is quoted by all four gospels as being a prophetic picture of Christ on the cross.
Verses 22-23 are quoted by Paul, in Romans 11:9-10, as a prophetic picture of the hardening that came upon the Jewish leaders that crucified Christ. And verse 25 is quoted as a prophetic curse that came upon Judas for betraying Jesus.
In fact, verses 22-28 are almost exclusively a long list of curses. The only exception is verse 26 where David reminds God that they deserve these curses because they attacked him when he was already down.
What David is asking for is justice. We are not called to hate our enemies. As Christians, we are called to love our enemies. But we are also called to love justice. God is a God of love and justice. David is simply asking that God carry out justice on his enemies.
The last verse of the prayer changes from curses to a plea for blessing.
Let your salvation, O God, set me on high! Psalm 69:29
Lord, do not let me drown in my troubles. Instead reach down and rescue me. Set me on a high place of safety and security.
This final section of the psalm changes from a prayer to God to a song of praise sung to the people.
Why is David praising God? Because, as verse 33, the meaningful center of the psalm, reminds us, God hears our prayers and will not ignore our cries for help.
Verses 30-31 remind us that the best sacrifice - the best gift - we can give to God is a song of praise. What a great reminder! If we want to please God then we need to praise Him in song. Our times of worship are not warm up for the sermon. They are a sweet smelling sacrifice that brings joy to God and opens the doors for His blessing.
I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
This will please the Lord more than an ox
or a bull with horns and hoofs. Psalm 69:30-31
When you feel overwhelmed by trouble - when you feel like the floods are closing over your head - cry out to God.
God does hear.
God will rescue.
And don't forget to continue to praise His name. Don't wait for the victory. Start praising now.
In the end "those who love His name will dwell in it [Zion]" (Psalm 69:36). God has not forgotten you. He will punish those who do evil and lift up those who love Him and place them in His presence forever.