I haven’t done a post on a Psalm lately but I had this one in my drafts folder so I thought I would share it with you. I really need to get back to making my kids do this stuff too.
Here is how I would translate Psalm 7:
“Lord, my God, in you I take refuge; Save me from all my pursuers and deliver me.
Lest they tear like lions my soul, rending with no deliverer.
Lord, my God, if I did this, if there is iniquity in my hands,
If I repaid those who acted peacably with me [with] evil or despoiled my foes in vain,
May the enemy pursue my soul and overtake and trample my life to the earth;
And may he make my glory dwell in the dust.
Arise, Lord, in your anger; take away in chains my foes, and awake for me; justice you commanded.
For the congregation of the peoples will surround you; and over it on high return.
The Lord judges peoples;
Judge me, Lord, according to my righteousness and according to my uprightness within me.
Let the evil of the wicked be repaid, but establish the righteous.
For he tests hearts and kidneys, the righteous God.
My shield [is] upon God who saves the right in heart.
God [is] a righteous judge, and god of indignation throughout all days.
If [anyone] does not turn, he will sharpen his sword; he will draw his bow and anchor it.
For him he establishes weapons of death; his arrows he makes burning [shafts].
Behold, he writhes [with] iniquity and conceives; he labors and bears falsehood.
He plumbed a pit and dug it, but he will fall in the pit he made.
His transgression will return upon his head, and upon his scalp his violence will come down.
I will thank the Lord according to his righteousness, and I will sing the name of the Lord most high.”
I am struck by the confidence of the psalmist in this psalm. Though he faces enemies, this is not the plaintive cry of the previous few psalms. Rather, the psalmist approaches God boldly. He is sure of his innocence and willing to take his chances before a Righteous Judge.
The picture given here of God is important. This is not a weak or even a merciful God. This is a powerful God, coming in judgment and full of indignation. He is a warrior with the weapons to prove it.
Names are important in the Bible, as you probably know. The power to name is given to Adam. God changes people’s names at important points in their lives. And the names of God are also important. God names Himself. And He has a long list of names.
This is something we have been seeing in our homeschool recently while studying ancent Egpyt. Eyptian gods have secret names which give the one who knows them power over them. And when asked to identify themselves they give long lists of names and accomplishments.
In this psalm, we see that the psalmist uses God’s proper name (vv.1,4) (translated here “the Lord”; we do not know how it would have been pronounced though it is commonly rendered “Yahweh” or much more inaccurately “Jehovah”). It is God’s covenant name by which He revealed Himself to His people. There is power in it, not because, as in Egypt, it is a secret name the god cannot fail to respond to, but because God Himself has used this name to make His covenant and promises to His people. He has bound Himself by it. The psalmist also adds “my God”, personalizing his relationship to the Lord.
But there are other designations of God in this psalm. The second half of verse 9 would be read most literally: “Tester of hearts and minds God righteous.” Of course we need to add something, like the verb “to be”, to make a good English sentence. But I think the listing of names and attributes without added verbs is much more powerful. Think of that famous passage in Isaiah:
“And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
God names Himself in a similar fashion, though with different attributes, when appearing to Moses:
“And the LORD passed before [Moses] and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.'” (Exodus 34:6-7)
Turning back to our psalm, we find God again described in v. 12, which would read most literally: “God righteous judge and god showing indignation all the day.” (The first use of the word “god” in this verse is the usual word for God in Hebrew. It is a plural form, Elohim, though it is used singularly for the one God. The second word is the related but shorter and singular El. I do not think there is a huge meaning behind the use of the shortened form here. Rather I think it is for poetic purposes to fit the verse better.) Is this how we usually think of God? Even when we say He is just as well as merciful, I don’t think we go so far as “showing indignation all the day.” I think we really believe that God’s mercy trumps His justice, but this is not what we are told. God’s justice is never diminished. It is fully satisfied. But His wrath is not poured out on us, but on His Son, Jesus, who took our places in judgment. And so in the end with Psalm 7, we are able to praise Him.