“O God make speed to save us, O Lord make haste to help us.”
Observe: This Psalm is the same as the last stanza sentences of Psalm 40. The first and last sentences are urgent pleas for help. David pleads with God to make haste, come quickly, do not delay. His enemies who are out to get his life, to ruin him. He asks God to turn on them the things they want to do to David.
Interpret: David was betrayed by various enemies. He wants revenge, and so asks God to bring shame, confusion, and disgrace. He also asks that those who seek God may rejoice and praise God. And he ends with another plea for speedy help from the Lord. These are the normal reactions of someone being hounded by enemies, who wants help right now, and who sees the faithful as his allies.
As with all the Psalms that seek retribution on enemies, the key is that the desire for vengeance is acted upon by taking it to God. In other words, take your deepest feelings and desires, and rather than “acting out,” bring them to the Lord. This is a healthy (and non-destructive) way to deal with anger, rejection, and so forth. By the same token, our feelings of gratitude and rejoicing find their true home when directed to God.
Application: Everyone has to deal with anger, feelings of revenge, or rejection. Acting them out is either self-destructive or destroys others. Taking those emotions and desires to God, especially if we are reacting to a real situation in our lives, is an act of faith and obedience. Faith that God can deal with whatever and whoever is out to get us (“those who say to me ‘Aha! Aha!’). Obedience to Jesus’ command not to judge, and thus condemn others, overrides our desires.
Romans 12:17-21 is the clearest statement in the New Testament of how to turn the desire for retribution into love in action. This is what God did in Christ on the cross. Jesus has once and for all taken our human judgments on himself.
We look to God to be our Judge and Defender. Our prayers can include our need to be defended, as well as funneling our desire for vengeance towards God the final judge.
The Book of Common Prayer uses the double petition of verse 1, “O God make speed to save us, O Lord make haste to help us,” in both Morning and Evening Prayers.
Prayer: O God, who at the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom: Defend us thy humble servants in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in thy defence, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” Collect for Peace, Morning Prayer, BCP
Song: “When peace like a river,” (It is well with my soul)
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.