Final thoughts on Psalm 40:13-17
Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me; O LORD, make haste to help me! Let them be ashamed and brought to mutual confusion Who seek to destroy my life; Let them be driven backward and brought to dishonor Who wish me evil. Let them be confounded because of their shame, Who say to me, “Aha, aha!” Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; Let such as love Your salvation say continually, “The LORD be magnified!” But I am poor and needy; Yet the LORD thinks upon me. You are my help and my deliverer; Do not delay, O my God. NKJV
This final portion of Psalm 40 is a prayer of David during a time of persecution by his enemies (vs. 14-15). In this prayer we learn three lessons from David’s godly response in his persecution.
First, we need to pray in times of persecution. Of course we need to pray all the time (I Thess. 5:17), but especially in trials because God is the one who is able to deliver us from any trial—including persecution (v. 13). In verses 14-15, David prays for deliverance from his enemies. Notice that he does not pray for the destruction of his enemies. There are times in the Psalms when David does pray for the destruction of God’s enemies (as opposed to his own personal enemies), particularly when they are bringing dishonor upon the name of the Lord, or threatening God’s people. But David is not praying for the destruction of his personal enemies and neither should we. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus commanded us to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, to do good to those who hate us, and to pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us. We especially need to pray for the salvation of our enemies. How glorious for one whom was once an enemy to become a brother or sister in Christ.
Notice the three things in verses 14-15 that David does pray for regarding his persecutors. First he prays for his persecutors to be brought to shame and dishonor. A person will never be saved until they first become ashamed of their sins. Second, David prays for his persecutors to be confused (lit. perplexed or amazed). How would persecutors normally expect their victims to respond to their abuse? With anger? With hatred? With cursing? How amazed will our persecutors be when if we respond with blessing, and kindness, and prayer for their salvation and spiritual welfare? Third, David prays for his persecutors to fail in their wicked schemes against him, whether it is to ruin his reputation, harm his loved ones, or take his life. Whatever his persecutors’ evil designs against him may be, he prays that they will fail.
Second, even in the midst of persecution by our enemies, we should rejoice in the Lord and glorify Him (Psa. 34:1, I Thess. 5:18). We can do so in the knowledge that, even in persecution, we are exactly where the Lord intends us to be; and that He has us in those circumstances for our best spiritual interest (Rom. 8:28). Instead of viewing trials, even persecution, as a curse, we should view it as an opportunity from God to bring glory and honor to His name (I Cor. 10:31), and even if we are unable to see anything else good in our persecution, we can certainly rejoice in the fact that we are saved (v. 16). If we were not saved, we would not truly seek God in our lives. We might cry out to Him, wanting our trials alleviated, as the wicked often do in severe circumstances. But the wicked are not truly seeking the Lord because they care anything about Him, and therefore God will not hear their prayers (Mic. 3:4). Conversely, God always hears the prayers of the righteous (v. 17).
Third, even in the midst of persecution, the righteous are confident that God is aware of their trials and will respond to their prayers for help (v. 17; Psa. 15:29, 34:15). The first prayer that God ever truly hears is the prayer for salvation (Jn. 9:31, Rom. 10:13), and even the prayers of believers will go unanswered when they are out of God’s will (Psa. 66:18, I Jn. 5:14).
How do you respond when persecution comes into your life? Do you pray for the salvation of your persecutors? Do you desire God’s will in those trials, even above your own will? Do you give God thanks for the salvation of your soul and the opportunity to glorify Him?