Psalm 35 is a psalm of David in which David cries out to the Lord about the affliction that he is experiencing at the hands of the wicked. He calls for the LORD to contend for him and to drive away the wicked like chaff before the wind. David speaks of malicious witnesses and of those who rob the afflicted and the needy. These unrighteous men repay evil for good and rejoice at David’s calamity. As in so many of the psalms, the righteous are oppressed and afflicted by the wicked and turn to the Lord GOD for help. They cry out to Him for rescue from those too strong for them.
There are many things that we could learn from this psalm, but I am impressed with two key points. First, this psalm reinforces the idea that the believer can pray to the Lord for deliverance from his enemies. David represents every believer and here he models for us the privilege we have to come boldly to the throne of God, to His throne of grace. Regardless of what is afflicting me or who is afflicting me, no matter what is troubling me, I can seek a rescue from my God, who is omnipotent, who is sovereign, who is entirely righteous and who hates evil and injustice. More than that, this sovereign God has declared and demonstrated His love for me. This sovereign God loves me and His ear is open to my cry. So the first thing this psalm shows me is that I have the privilege to PRAY to God.
But secondly the psalm makes very clear that God allows the wicked to afflict the righteous and to test the righteous for His divine purposes. Now this idea is a little hard to grasp. “God ALLOWS the wicked to persecute the righteous? Why?!” The fact that God does allow the wicked to afflict the righteous is the other side of the coin of God’s sovereignty. If God is entirely sovereign over all of His creation, then we must accept the fact that what occurs is part of His plan, and that includes the affliction of the righteous by the ungodly. But then the question becomes, “Why does the LORD allow the wicked to afflict and to threaten the righteous?”
The following are some reasons that I discovered. God allows the affliction of the righteous:
A) To teach the righteous to trust only in the LORD in the face of threat, to choose to trust the Lord;
B) To remind the righteous of their dependence on the Lord and that we MUST have Him as our refuge and our strength. The world is too much for us by ourselves, but with the Lord, we can face life’s challenges
C) To draw attention to Himself when the righteous turn to Him in their affliction and declare their need of Him
D) To make a visible distinction between the wicked, who hate without cause (Psalm 35:19), and His people, who love despite circumstances (John 13:34-35)
E) To create a hunger for heaven in His people. Let them hunger for the place where there will be no evil and where perfect justice reigns
F) To develop prayer reflexes in His people, so that their affliction will result in prayer to God as an automatic response. Instead of complaint, there will be prayers of praise and prayers for deliverance
G) To establish the fact that man is naturally wicked (Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10ff) and is bent toward sin. Man must be converted to Christ or man remains trapped in his fallen state as a slave of sin
H) To spur the righteous to evangelize the lost (Acts 24:24-25) and to pray for the salvation of those who hate them (Matthew 5:43-44). By revealing the ungodly, the Lord provides His people with clear targets for evangelism
I) For the righteous to identify with Jesus, for as He was hated, so are His followers hated (Matthew 5:11-12; 10:22, 25; John 15:18-25; Hebrews 13:11-13; Acts 5:41)
J) To prove His faithfulness when He comforts His people and delivers them from evil and from their enemies
K) To highlight the fact that His people have been converted and have been radically changed (1 Peter 2:11; 4:3; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Colossians 3:1-17)
The conclusion is that God, for His own sovereign purposes, allows His people to suffer and be afflicted at the hands of the ungodly, but the believer can pray to God for deliverance and, with the right perspective, can see God’s hand even in this and can grow in sanctification through this experience knowing that it is allowed by the sovereign God who loves him.