1 From foes and all who threaten me, O God, be my defence. 2 Save me from evildoers’ hands and men of violence.
3 See how they lie in wait for me! Ferocious men combine Against me, LORD, for no offence or sinful deed of mine.
4 I have not done them any wrong, yet they prepare to fight. Arise to help me in my need; take notice of my plight.
5 LORD God Almighty, rouse yourself; come, God of Israel, To judge the nations, and spare none who wickedly rebel.
6 At evening they return again; they snarl like dogs at bay. They prowl about the city gates, still hungry for their prey.
7 See what they spew out from their mouths! Look! from their lips come swords! With evil mind they laugh and say, “Who now can hear our words?”
8 But you, O LORD, will laugh at them; those nations you deride. 9 I watch for you, my loving God, my Strength, in whom I hide.
10 My God will come and give me help; in triumph I will sing Before all those who slander me, O Lord, our shield and king.
11 But lest my people should forget, slay not my foes outright. Cause them to wander aimlessly; defeat them by your might.
12 Reward the evil of their lips, the words of their own mouths; Let them be captured by their pride, their curses and untruths.
13 Consume them till they are no more; in anger lay them low. That God rules over Israel all distant lands will know.
14 At evening they return again; like dogs they snarl and growl. 15 They roam about the town for food and, finding none, they howl.
16 But in the morning I will praise your strength and loving care, Because you are my strong defence, my refuge from despair.
17 O God, you are my only strength; to you I will sing praise. You are my fortress and my rock, my loving God always.
The tune Dundee, which you can hear here is suggested for this Psalm.
Psalm 59 is a miktam, one of six to have this label. No one is quite sure what miktam means, but all six of these Psalms are Psalms of lament attributed to David; four of them refer to David’s struggles with enemies.
Psalm 59 is ascribed to David about the time that Saul sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him. (1 Samuel 19.11ff)
David was having a difficult time going from having been part of royal court and friend of Saul’s son, to be on the run, living in fear of being killed. His vocation to be king had been revealed by Samuel yet here he was still waiting for his time to come.
In these words he appeals to God for protection – ultimately he will become king of his persecutors but the memory of this time will be forgotten if they are killed. David wants them to be around so their current action can be proved wrong. He wants to be vindicated in sight of enemies at home and before other nations.
The description of his plight is interspersed with bursts of praise in verses 9-10 and 17, where he speaks of God as tower, shield and refuge (NIV). In the face of danger he longs for God to act and affirms God as his fortress three times.
This is a song of struggle, of hope against the odds, of faithful praise when almost overwhelmed by fear and bitterness of his current situation.
Hymns based on this psalm are often sung in Remembrance-tide e.g. O God our hope in ages past.
Thank you Lord that even in the darkest days you are my shield, my fortress and my refuge. Thank you Lord that in your service you turn every circumstance to your advantage. Forgive us when we doubt your power to deliver and protect us. Forgive us when we doubt your wisdom and power to bring peace out of chaos. Teach our hearts to sing your praises like David when life is dark & bleak. Keep us safe till morning comes and your glory is revealed. Amen
The Rev’d Viv Henderson is a mental health chaplain in Somerset and minister of Minehead URC.