Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, “misery loves company.” I think that phrase applies to our passage today, in a sort of not-in-the-way-it’s-normally-used sense. David has been wallowing in misery throughout the duration of this Psalm. And now we find out he’s not alone.
Where did these companions come from? Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing. I have a hunch that they are opportunists, waiting to take advantage of David in his particular situation and condition. It’s also possible, albeit much less than the first option, that these are people that participated with David in his sin, but have opted not to confess and repent of their sin.
Either way, David demonstrates a depth of faith as he rebukes these “workers of evil” that we should all be paying attention to.
Insights from the Septuagint
8Depart from me, all you who work lawlessness,
because the Lord has listened to the sound of my weeping.
9The Lord has listened to my plea;
the Lord has accepted my prayer.
10All my enemies shall be dishonored and exceedingly troubled;
they shall quickly be put to flight and exceedingly disgraced.
All of the verbs in verse ten are optatives. That’s probably meaningless to about 99.748 percent of you, so I’ll explain, or rather Daniel B. Wallace will explain.
“In general, it can be said that the optative is the mood used when a speaker wishes to portray an action as possible.” The usage of these particular verbs is most likely as “voluntive optatives”. Again, here’s Wallace to explain: “This is the use of the optative in an independent clause to express an obtainable wish or a prayer.” This is interesting because Wallace goes on to say, “Thus, although the form of much prayer language in the NT has the tinge of remote possibility, when it is offered to the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead, its meaning often moves into the realm of expectation. If uncertainty is part of the package, it is not due to questions of God’s ability, but simply to the petitioner’s humility before the transcendent one.”
I’ll pause a moment to let your brain recover.
So what this all means, if I’m not reading too much into it, is a few things. First, this is a prayer from David. Due to his enemies’ lack of repentance, he is desiring (and, according to Wallace, expecting) that God do something about it. The context of David mentioning prayer in verse nine leads me to conclude this. David understands from his own experience of confession and repentance that God is just, and expects God to remain consistent with his character.
Second, this is not the end that David desires for these enemies of his. If he wanted these consequences set in stone, he could have used a future tense (“All my enemies will be ashamed”) to indicate the repercussions of their apostasy.
The optative (again, if I’m right in my understanding of its usage) leaves open the possibility of the same type of repentance that David himself has experienced. With this in mind, the shame and trouble he asks for would only be as a last case resort for those who allow their hearts to be hardened and continue in their sin.
Law & Gospel
The question I want to address in this space today is, “What is the focus of these three verses?” I think the focus is on what God has done and is doing, and not on the enemies David is dealing with.
This is so very important, because it marks a point of very deep faith for David. In this Psalm, he has felt the consequences and guilt of sin. He has come to the Lord for forgiveness and salvation. And now, he acknowledges that this indeed has all happened.
If David were simply dealing with his enemies, he wouldn’t have needed to include the part about God hearing and accepting his prayer. And unfortunately, we would have been left with the possibility that God did not forgive David. David could have been rejected by God.
But, thanks to verse nine, we know that isn’t the case, and that should provide us tremendous hope for our own prayers of confession and pleas for forgiveness. This is a solid, working example of 1 John 1:9.
Because of this, we can use our relationship with God, and the forgiveness he gives us, both as a defense against our accusers and also as a witness to them that freedom is available for those who would humble themselves and turn to the Lord. Not because of our own worthiness or because we earned or deserved his forgiveness, but because he is a God of steadfast love (verse four), and that steadfast love is available to all who come to him (1 Tim. 2:4).