On Doubt, Self-Examination, and Plot Advancement – Psalm 7:3-5

Psalm 7:3-5 (For the first installment of the study on Psalm 7, click here.)


How often are you absolutely confident about the result of your actions (and the motives behind those actions)?  How sure are you that you can trust yourself in any given situation?

Self-doubt is a tried and true plot device used in everything from drama to mystery novels and beyond.  Did the main character really do what they thought they did and for the right reasons?  Am I as innocent as I have led myself to believe?

These are the types of questions David is asking himself in Psalm 7:3-5.

Insights from the Septuagint

3O Lord my God, if I have done this,

            if there is unrighteousness on my hands,

4if I have repaid he who has given back to me with evil

            that in vain he should therefore fall because of my enemies,

5then let the enemy of my soul track me down and seize me,

            and let him trample my life on the earth,

            and my glory in the dust where he dwells.

First of all, I’d like to say that this particular translation, especially for the last half of both verses four and five, is more suspect than normal.  This was a surprisingly difficult translation, with words that seem completely out of place (and unrelated to the English translations we get from the Hebrew).  This is simply my best guess.

One thing I’m fairly certain about that I’d like to point out here, though, is the difference between the ESV and the LXX in regards to the translation of the word “friend”.  The ESV uses the word friend, but has a footnote that allows for the translation “the one at peace with me”.

The LXX uses a distinctly different word.  The word usage here, according to BDAG is, “to practice reciprocity with respect to an obligation, repay, pay back, requite.”[2]  It’s an interesting usage here, and it probably agrees with the sense and meaning of “friend” or at least “the one at peace with me”.  What this word is stating is that David has no reason to have a quarrel with this person; there is no perceived injustice in his relationship with said “friend”.[3]

This gives us a bit more insight into the surprise and hurt David is experiencing as Cush seemingly has betrayed him as a friend.  He didn’t see this coming, and now he’s examining his own behavior to see if there’s anything he did to incited this attack.

Law & Gospel

David obviously is experiencing a very specific situation in his life as he’s writing this Psalm.  We’re told as much.  But he leaves us with some principles to use in our own lives as well.

Temporally speaking, the idea and practice of self-examination is immensely beneficial.  It can and should lead to a great deal of humility on our parts as we come to the conclusion, “Perhaps this ongoing confrontation I have with said person might not be entirely his or her fault.  Perhaps I have played a larger role in this debacle than I’ve cared to admit.”

Coming to this realization, we approach the offended party and ask for forgiveness.  James teaches us that there is healing power in confession (James 5:16).

But even deeper than the practical application of confession and forgiveness in our daily relationships with others is a core spiritual principle.  This is a description of our sinful nature.

With this in mind, here is how the passage could lay itself out: “If there is wrong on my hands (and there is because I am a sinner), if I have repaid my friend with evil (and I do daily because I am entirely selfish) or plundered my enemy without cause (and I have because I am filled with greed, envy, and all manner of covetousness), let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust (because this would be my just punishment for the sins I commit on a regular and frequent basis).

The picture of our lives in reality, consumed by sin, decrepit, destitute, and destroyed is vivid and ugly.  We’re not even capable of understanding the depth of our own depravity (Jer. 17:9).

Our sin angers God.  It infuriates him.

As you read through the prophets and encounter time after time the punishment God pours out on Judah, Israel, and the rest of the nations for their rebellion, remember that this is the same response he has toward our sin.  In fact, just yesterday I read Jeremiah 16:1-13 as a part of my daily Bible reading plan.  Verse four becomes incredibly terrifying if you read it with applications to your own sin: “They shall die of deadly diseases.  They shall not be lamented, nor shall they be buried.  They shall be as dung on the surface of the ground.  They shall perish by the sword and by famine, and their dead bodies shall be food for the birds of the air and for the beasts of the earth.”

As Christians, constantly quoting the first half of Rom. 6:23 can sometimes neuter God’s wrath in our minds.  That’s unfortunate, because this type of language in the Bible is designed to drive us in despair to God’s grace.  We need to stop relying on ourselves, on our own actions, to get us into heaven because, with an honest assessment of our lives, we’re not going to get very far.  We need what only Jesus Christ can provide us with – a pardon.

With the ugliness of sin before our eyes, I will quote 2 Cor. 5:21 yet again: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  God, in his love for us, chose to let his only Son Jesus Christ take our place, and the punishment we deserved, on the cross.  And then, with Jesus there in our place, God poured out his wrath on the sins of all humanity and withdrew his presence from his only Son, causing Jesus in anguish to cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).

Having paid for our sins with the shedding of his own blood, Jesus secured our forensic[4] justification: on account of Jesus Christ, God declares us, “not guilty” because in faith we are covered with the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.  God has promised to forgive all our sins (1  John 1:9).

If you’re not dancing now, you should be.

[1] Image courtesy Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

[2] A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed., rev. and ed. Frederick William Danker (Chicago: TheUniversity ofChicago Press, 2000), 87.

[3] Most likely Cush, from the heading of Psalm 7.

[4] Legally acceptable

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  1. #1 by Maxine Njaa on October 11, 2011 - 7:38 pm

    I’m dancing!!!

    • #2 by Jason on October 11, 2011 - 8:02 pm


  1. Time to Check the I.D. – Psalm 7:6-7 « ophelimos

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