Vs. 1-8 contain David’s appeal for God to deal with his enemies;
Vs. 9-18 depict how merciless those enemies are;
Vs. 19-28 contrast the effects of God’s intervention in the enemies and in David.
David’s frequent appeals for protection from his enemies in his Psalms is a reminder to all of us that the doers of good have always had enemies. Beginning with Cain and Abel (1 John 3:11-13), those obedient to God are hated by those who are not. Jesus Christ, the best man of all explained it: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). Psalm 35:7 no doubt reminded David of Joseph’s brothers (Genesis 37:4,5,8,11,18,23-25) whose “pit” held him till he was sold into Egypt (Acts 7:9). Hatred was in Joseph’s brothers, but not caused by Joseph’s actions. No cheap, tawdry video today causes the hatred that burns in the hearts of those who are taught to believe someone else is blessed by God while they are not. Good-haters are God-haters! “A disciple is not above his teacher” (Luke 6:40). Psalm 35:19 perfectly stated the case for the perfect Savior being hated by the Jews in His day: “”But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause’” (John 15:25).
Verses 9-10 use “poor and the needy” to show heartlessness in those who would overpower the poor and steal from the needy. Verses 11-14 mention that enemies: make false charges (verse 11), “reward me evil for good” (verse 12), and rejoiced at his stumbling (verses 15-16), but “when they were sick” David’s concern was “bowed down heavily, as one who mourns for his mother” (verse 14). David asks God how much longer this will go on (verses 17-18), the same question asked by those Christians killed in the Jewish persecution (Acts 8:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16; Revelation 6:9-11) and answered in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (Luke 11:49-51; 21:21-24). It is right and proper to pray that God will deal with evil-doers, both in this life and the one to come. Of those who slander the truth: “Their condemnation is just” (Romans 3:8). Christians’ faith which endures persecutions and tribulations “is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you” (2 Thessalonians 1:5-6).
In verses 19-28, some 5 times, David says, “let them not…” That is, he wants God to stop what they are doing to him. This is not persecution of those who do good, but of those “who are wrongfully my enemies” and deceitfully have “opened their mouth wide against me, And said, ‘Aha, aha! Our eyes have seen it’” (verses 19-21). Anyone today who preaches and teaches only what the Bible says knows this feeling when liars make false charges, and can identify these enemies by name. “”Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:20). A person is known by his enemies, as well as by his friends! Paul pointed out that anyone who becomes our enemy when we teach the truth may be using “sectarian” tactics to make us like them: “Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth? They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them” (Galatians 4:16-17). Indeed, this Psalm is timeless in application!