There are two elements to this psalm that can get us into trouble. The first is how easily we consider ourselves righteous and point the finger at those who we feel are against us, wishing for God to rain “snares, fire, and brimstone” upon them. While David considered himself one of the righteous, he also recognized that his righteousness was given to him by grace because he too was a sinner. So let’s not get too caught up in God vindicating us and destroying our enemies. Everyone has enemies and the vast majority of us think we are righteous. Instead of assuming we are righteous, we should assume we are unrighteous and pay attention to that which would make us righteous. Let us be aware of our own hypocrisy, lest we be grouped amongst the scribes and Pharisees Jesus was addressing in Matthew 23:28
So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
In Romans 4, the Apostle Paul gives a long winded explanation for us that explains our righteousness does not come from our own doing but by the grace of God and we receive it by obeying and having faith in Him. Just as he also writes in Ephesians 2:
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Let us never think we are greater than others or “above” destruction because we all deserve God’s snares, fires, and brimstone upon us! This is the second danger as we read this psalm. We think we are privileged. Once we understand that we are righteous through Christ it is very easy for us to forget where we came from and that He rescued us from death. We take our salvation for granted and begin to thumb our noses at the unrighteous. We forget verse 1 which reminds us that even though we are saved, we must take refuge in the Lord.
In the second part of this verse, David is responding to his friends who gave him counsel to flee as he was being pursued but David instead chose to remain close to God and follow His counsel above all else. God told him to stay put for the time being, even though he was nearly at the point of being caught. David’s salvation came from trusting in God and knowing who He is and his own identity as a son of God. Despite his fear he acted in faith, knowing that God is for him. Is this how we respond to adversity and persecution? Do we lean into God’s arms and ask Him to preserve us and guide us? Or do we flee for the mountains?
This confidence that David had was not a self conceited notion that he was above his persecutors and God would smite them from the earth. It was a faithful trust in God as well as a self awareness of his own standing with God. He was close enough with God to know what He wanted David to do and that everything was going to be ok. Sometimes we set ourselves up for failure because we assume we are in good standing with God just because we go to church every Sunday or we are on the worship team or we are even a deacon or pastor. The truth is that our title or position in the organized body of believers does not grant us salvation or higher standing in God’s eyes. It is our own humility and recognition that we deserve nothing but death but that Christ has saved us and deemed us righteous. So let us never forget what was written in Romans 3:
21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.