I will praise Him!
Reading: Psalm 35
May all who gloat over my distress
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who exalt themselves over me
be clothed with shame and disgrace.
May those who delight in my vindication
shout for joy and gladness;
may they always say, “The LORD be exalted,
who delights in the well-being of his servant.”
My tongue will proclaim your righteousness,
your praises all day long (NIV).
Psalm 35 draws to a close with this warning against Schadenfreude: May all who gloat over my distress be put to shame and confusion; may all who exalt themselves over me be clothed with shame and disgrace.
So what is Schadenfreude you ask? Dictionary.com defines schadenfreude as satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune. It is a compound German word: schaden harm + freude joy. In other words, schadenfreude is the joy you may feel when hearing about another person’s calamity. Schadenfreude can be viewed as the ladder-climber’s delight in seeing others fall behind or off the ladder entirely. Far too often it manifests in the false assumption that we can advance ourselves by putting others down. The truth is we advance ourselves by advancing others. Advancing by putdowns has no firm foundation because it hurts others and creates hostility. It usually ends badly because pride precedes a fall, just as darkness follows sunset.
Are you exalting yourself at the expense of others? If so, take some time to repent. Do your best to repair the damaged relationships that result from such behavior.
Paul, the apostle, gives us this advice: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited (Romans 12:14-16).
Take joy in the success of others rather than resenting their achievements. Let their successes ignite within you a desire for self-improvement. With God’s help change what you can within yourself before looking to change others. We all have a place in our heart that needs some renovation.
Then with David we can rejoice when others succeed. May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The LORD be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.”
Response: Father God, give me a heart of thanksgiving. Grant me a pure heart with pure motives. May I always delight in the well-being of your servants. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you suffered from a bad case of schadenfreude? Do you rejoice when others succeed or are you envious?
Reading: Psalm 35
LORD, you have seen this; do not be silent.
Do not be far from me, Lord.
Awake, and rise to my defense!
Contend for me, my God and Lord.
Vindicate me in your righteousness, LORD my God;
do not let them gloat over me.
Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!”
or say, “We have swallowed him up” (NIV).
There’s an old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” That certainly is true of the conflict in the Holy Land. About 3,000 years ago, in David’s time the Kingdom of Israel was in a struggle for survival. Chief among its enemies were the Philistines along the Gaza coast. On the day I wrote this post, Israel’s chief enemy Hamas was firing rockets into Israel from the Gaza coast.
David’s words from Psalm 35 have a present day resonance. LORD, you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. Many in present day Israel are praying this prayer with the fervour of those who are being attacked.
But the residents of Gaza could pray this prayer with equal fervour. Their homes and businesses are also under bombardment. Where is God in all this suffering? Whose side is He on? Many in the Christian community affirm with great confidence that God is on the side of Israel. Does that make God complicit in the deaths of innocent children in Gaza?
Jesus gave this counsel to his disciples, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:38-39). Present day Israel (and America for that matter) has a well-established policy of hard-hitting retaliation when attacked. What are the long term consequences of this policy? Is the conflict resolved or is it inflamed?
Jesus’ admonition to turn the other cheek goes unheeded. Most feel that turning the other cheek implies weakness. In reality it requires far more strength, but in the end it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness—not a righteousness that insists on its own way—but a righteousness that sees both sides of an issue and works hard for peace and reconciliation.
Jesus asks us to do the far harder thing. Retaliation is easy. It’s the natural response. Forgiving when we are wronged, that requires far more effort. Whose side is God on? He is on the side of peace. That’s something worth fighting for.
Response: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9). LORD God, help me to be a local peacemaker in my world today—someone who builds bridges between people and communities. Amen.
Your Turn: Forgiveness and turning the other cheek works on a personal level. Can it work on an international level as well?
Reading: Psalm 35
How long, LORD, will you look on?
Rescue me from their ravages,
my precious life from these lions.
I will give you thanks in the great assembly;
among the throngs I will praise you.
Do not let those gloat over me
who are my enemies without cause;
do not let those who hate me without reason
maliciously wink the eye.
They do not speak peaceably,
but devise false accusations
against those who live quietly in the land.
They sneer at me and say, “Aha! Aha!
With our own eyes we have seen it” (NIV).
This portion of Psalm 35 begins with David’s cry for help, “How long, LORD, will you look on? Rescue me from their ravages, my precious life from these lions.”
When I am in distress, help can never arrive too soon. I want an instant answer from God. Better yet, He should have preempted this disappointment—this disaster. But often God doesn’t instantly ride to our rescue. If poor choices are the cause of our distress, He may let us experience the consequences of our folly. When you are enrolled in “The School of Hard Knocks” the test comes first and then you learn the lesson. Often patient endurance brings about an invaluable change in character through the work of the Holy Spirit. James, the brother of our Lord, reminds us of this truth:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).
But all of our troubles do not come as a result of bad decisions on our part. Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward (Job 5:7). Job reminds us that even the good and the just will at times face suffering. Anyone who tells you differently is not being faithful to the full counsel of scripture. Satan severely tested Job, but he remained firm in his faith.
When hardships come will you stand firm? When the haughty accuse can you bear it? David felt the sting of false accusation. They sneer at me and say, “Aha! Aha! With our own eyes we have seen it.”
Thanks be to God. We can bring our trials and burdens to the Lord in prayer. He hears and in His perfect time He responds.
Response: Lord, you know the troubles and trials that I face daily. You are my help and my strength. I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you learn from God’s word or from “The School of Hard Knocks” or from both?
Reading: Psalm 35
Ruthless witnesses come forward;
they question me on things I know nothing about.
They repay me evil for good
and leave me like one bereaved.
Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth
and humbled myself with fasting.
When my prayers returned to me unanswered,
I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother.
I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother.
But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee;
assailants gathered against me without my knowledge.
They slandered me without ceasing.
Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked;
they gnashed their teeth at me (NIV).
There is a prophetic, messianic element to today’s Psalm 35 reading. This psalm is attributed to David, and historically on several occasions, close friends viciously turned on David. During Absalom’s rebellion David was betrayed not only by his son, but also by his confidants, who repaid his kindness with evil. He was openly mocked and tormented by Shimei, son of Gera, as he fled Jerusalem. See 2 Samuel 16:5-14. Though this is part of David’s experience, this psalm portion also has its prophetic fulfilment in the slanderous betrayal of Christ.
Matthew records that, “The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward” (Matthew 26:59-60).
After being betrayed by Judas, his own disciple, Jesus was mocked, stripped and beaten by Roman soldiers (Matthew 27:27-31). While nailed to a cross the crowd hurled abuse at him. In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him (Matthew 27:41-44).
The shrieking crowds of hell heaped abuse onto our Savior. Those same demonic crowds are ready to hurl their accusations at us when we stumble. Satan, our accuser, delights in tormenting us by bringing up the sins of our past. He mocks our efforts at change, insisting that it can’t be done. But he is wrong—dead wrong. I can do all this through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).
The Accuser only has power over us if we listen to his lies. Our victory is in the risen Christ!
Response: Jesus, you are my victory when the enemy accuses me. I put my trust in your redeeming blood. Help me to stand firm against the taunts of the enemy. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you put your trust in Jesus? He can change a wayward heart.
Reading: Psalm 35
Since they hid their net for me without cause
and without cause dug a pit for me,
may ruin overtake them by surprise—
may the net they hid entangle them,
may they fall into the pit, to their ruin.
Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD
and delight in his salvation.
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” (NIV).
Paul the apostle reminds us that as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are engaged in spiritual warfare. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand (Ephesians 6:11-13).
The conflicts that David experienced in the Old Testament, reflected in the words of this portion of Psalm 35, are mirrored in the spiritual warfare experienced by New Testament believers. Make no mistake—the devil and his cohorts have dug a pit to trap you; they spread their nets to ensnare you in sin and degradation. But as was true for David, the LORD has also provided a way of escape for you and me. Once again Paul reminds us of this: No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
The LORD has equipped us with the armor of God and He has provided a way of escape, so then with David we can rejoice in the victory the LORD will bring.
Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation. 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.”
Satan is a thief and a robber, who robs us of victory, peace and joy. But like David and Paul we can overcome. Victory is possible because the victory has already been won for us at the cross, and it was confirmed on resurrection morning at the empty tomb. “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25).
Response: Heavenly Father, I thank you that you have provided armor so that I can stand against the wiles of the devil. I praise you for the power of your holy word. I have victory through your blood, Lord Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: In your battle against sin are you using “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God?”