Some Considerations of Psalm 109
By Al Stoner
“To the Chief Musician, A Psalm of David. Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise; For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue. They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause. For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer. And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love” (Ps. 109:1-5).
The 109th Psalm is generally not as prominent in men’s considerations as several other of the Psalms, but nevertheless this Psalm gives expression to the mind of God with regard to the enemies of His beloved Son like few others. The Psalm seems to be divided into three sections: verses 1-5, 6-19, and 20-31. In the first and the third group of verses the Psalmist writes of adversaries (plural), but in the second section, verses 6 through 19, of a particular adversary.
In verses 6 through 19 the Psalmist gives utterance to a litany of maledictions, or imprecations against a particular individual, who is not named, but who is identified by the expressed ultragrievous consequences of the wickedness that was committed by this person.
In verse 8, especially, it can be seen that the personal reference is to Judas Iscariot, who betrayed the Lord Jesus Christ. “Let his days be few; let another take his office” (v. 8). Peter, speaking by the Holy Spirit, leaves no doubt about this matter as he spoke to those who were gathered together in an “upper room” just prior to the Day of Pentecost. He declared, with regard to the replacement for Judas: “For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishopric let another take” (Acts 1:20; cf. Ps. 109:8).
A Litany of Curses. “Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand. When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few; and let another take his office. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places. Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labour. Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children. Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out. Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the LORD; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out. Let them be before the LORD continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth. Because that he remembered not to shew mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, that he might even slay the broken in heart. As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him: as he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him. As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment, so let it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones. Let it be unto him as the garment which covereth him, and for a girdle wherewith he is girded continually” (vv. 6-19).
In this succession of curses invoked by the Psalmist against the one that is identified here, we are given to see a revelation of the mind of God with regard to any and all who reject and oppose His beloved Son. For this particular one identified here, every possible ray of hope has vanished, and the prospect of any good thing coming to this one has been decisively taken away. The memory of every person related to this one was to be cut off, and their names blotted out. In this life they would beg, and they would hunger. And everything precious to them would be taken away from them by the extortioner. There would be none to favor them, none to show mercy unto them. Every possible resource of goodness that might come to them was to be dried up.
In Psalms such as this, the Psalmists were not expressing their own personal vengeance against their enemies, but rather something infinitely greater than this is occurring here. “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). The Holy Spirit was constraining the holy Prophets and Psalmists to give expression to God’s mind with regard to men’s opposition to His purpose in Christ, opposing the purpose of God in salvation. They were not venting their own personal anger, but were, by the Holy Spirit, giving utterance to God’s predetermination to avenge His Anointed One, Christ, of whomsoever would rise up against Him. David, as great man as he was by the grace of God, was not a large enough person for these kinds of curses to be invoked against his enemies (such as Saul, Doeg, Shimei, etc.). Because of the magnitude of the scope of these curses, it can be clearly seen that the Lord Jesus Christ, whom David was foreshadowing, is the One, of whom the Psalmist is writing. Woe be unto any who would dare to lift up their heel against Him! (cf. Ps. 41:9).
From a much higher perspective, it seems that “the traitor” was placed among the ranks of some of Christ’s closest disciples as a solemn warning and admonition against the consequences of willful unfaithfulness and disloyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ. The presence of Judas among the Twelve serves as an effectual summons to continual self-examination. “Is it I?” asked each one of the Apostles at the Last Supper, when the Lord declared that one of them would betray Him. “And He answered and said, he that dippeth his hand with Me in the dish, the same shall betray me” (Mt. 26:23). Only one of the Twelve was the traitor, and the Lord Jesus Christ clarified the matter immediately upon their asking this question.
This closing paragraph from Psalm 109 describes the inward effect that Christ’s enemies had upon Him. He did not steel Himself against them, and was often inwardly afflicted as a result of their oppositions against Him. It seems that these kinds of afflictions were preparing Him to be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God. Other saints would be called upon to forge through these kinds of waters, in their measure, and they would call to remembrance the sufferings endured by the blessed Savior, and would find comfort and consolation in their being counted worthy to suffer for His Name’s sake. In their griefs and sorrows the Savior, from the right hand of God, would draw near to them, and succor them, having been in all points tempted like as they were, yet without sin.
“Let this be the reward of mine adversaries from the LORD, and of them that speak evil against my soul. But do thou for me, O GOD the Lord, for thy name's sake: because thy mercy is good, deliver thou me. For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me. I am gone like the shadow when it declineth: I am tossed up and down as the locust. My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of fatness. I became also a reproach unto them: when they looked upon me they shaked their heads. Help me, O LORD my God: O save me according to thy mercy: That they may know that this is thy hand; that thou, LORD, hast done it. Let them curse, but bless thou: when they arise, let them be ashamed; but let thy servant rejoice. Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame, and let them cover themselves with their own confusion, as with a mantle. I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth; yea, I will praise him among the multitude. For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul” (vv. 20-31). --Editor