Lions have performed in a broad spectrum of roles in popular culture. In movies, television, and literature they have been both the antagonist and protagonist, hero and villain. Just think of the difference between Scar and Aslan.
The lion is also used in a variety of images in the Bible:
- In Isaiah 11:7, which is in the middle of an amazing passage (Isa. 11:1-9) describing the reign of the branch of Jesse, we are told as a result of this reign, “the lion shall eat straw like the ox.”
- Jesus himself is described as, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” in Rev. 5:5 by one of the elders.
- There is a darker side to the lion image, however. Peter exhorts us in 1 Pet. 5:8 to, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
This last image is the one I believe David captures in the first two verses of Psalm 7.
Insights from the Septuagint
A PSALM OF DAVID, WHICH HE SANG TO THE LORD CONCERNING THE WORDS OF CUSH, A BENJAMINITE.
1O Lord my God, I hope in you,
save me from all who pursue me, and rescue me.
2On no account let them seize my soul like a lion,
never being set free nor saved.
I think there is an excellent interplay between our English translations of the Hebrew and the Greek translation of the LXX. If we compare them side-by-side, we will see not only the immediacy of the threat David was experiencing, but also some deep spiritual truths that apply to the lives of Christians for all time.
I have no doubt that David was under a very real threat at the time he wrote this. Apparently, Cush was not one of his very most favorite people in the world. It appears that Cush was not only pursuing David, but seeking to put the king to death.
There are some clues, however, in both the Hebrew and Greek that indicate temporal safety is not the only thing on David’s mind. Both translations indicate David is fearing for his soul. The LXX builds on this, following it up with the line, “never being set free nor saved.”
It is because of this that I believe David is thinking there is a more sinister hand at work than just this man Cush. I believe we can run a parallel between these two verses and 1 Pet. 5:8 (as well as Eph. 6:12).
Law & Gospel
Before focusing on the “pursuers”, we need to point out the most important part of these two verses: David runs to God for salvation and looks to him for deliverance. At this point, it is tempting for us to overlook because this is commonplace for David in the Psalms. We’re on our seventh Psalm, and we’ve already seen this repeatedly. But at the same point, this is also a crucial issue.
Whether you prefer to keep the interpretation of this Psalm at the level of David contending with earthly enemies (which is appropriate, given the context of the heading), or if you prefer to see some deep parallels in these verses to spiritual warfare, the fact that David continues to turn to God for his salvation and deliverance displays an amazing level of faith. The principle here is that in all areas of life, be it temporal needs or soul-saving grace, God needs to be the source because he alone is in charge. He who provided for us a Savior at our most desperate moment (Rom.5:6, 8) is the same One who cares and provides for the needs of the birds and lilies (Matt. 6:25-34).
With that in mind, I believe we are afforded the opportunity to look deeper at these two verses. Why would Cush have the ability to tear David’s soul apart? David is fearing something far more powerful than simply another run-of-the-mill threat to his throne and safety. There is a foe which is entirely more intimidating. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Make no mistake about it, Satan hates us. He hates everyone. He especially hates God. The fears David describes in the first two verses of Psalm 7 coincide very appropriately with the work of Satan. As a roaring lion, Satan is our adversary. He seeks to terrify us and ultimately devour us (all from 1 Pet. 5:8). Moreover, he desires to take us captive (1 Tim. 3:7).
But the devil doesn’t just come at us with brute force. He also captures us with deception as he opposes the truth (John 8:44). His chief tactic is to ask us, “Did God actually say?” (Gen. 3:1). And as we begin to doubt God in his truth, he reels us in to destroy us.
Why spend so much time morbidly discussing Satan? First, we need to know what we’re up against. This is well beyond someone trying to get a leg up on us at work through underhanded means or someone mocking our faith. This is warfare with eternal consequences. Second, we need to realize and confess that we stand no chance against the opposition if we rely on our own strength.
Third, we must remember that in Jesus Christ, and only in Jesus Christ, the victory is assured. God promised this from the beginning when he said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel,” (Gen. 3:15). Satan was dealt the final, crushing blow to his head when Jesus stepped into our place and bore our sins on the cross. Rising again, Jesus proclaimed that sin, death, and the devil no longer hold sway over us. They are conquered, defeated.
This is why with David, we run to God and confess, “O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge.” And this is why with Paul we rejoice and proclaim, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (1 Cor. 15:57)!