Psalm 35 is not for me

I’ve bumped up against one of those Psalms again. You know, one of those Psalms, a psalm that requests God’s vindication and begs for Him to rise up against enemies. A Psalm with verses like

Since they hid their net for me without cause and without cause dug a pit for me, may ruin overtake them by surprise— may the net they hid entangle them, may they fall into the pit, to their ruin. –Psalm 35:7-8

A Psalm that makes me stare at the screen and wonder what in the world to write in my Walk through the Psalms reflection today. {Why did I decide to go through each one? Why didn’t I just pick the easy or pretty ones?} I stare at the words and spit out an irritated prayer, “Just what are we supposed to get out of this, Lord? How does a Psalm like this apply to our lives today?”

And suddenly I realize that this frustrated wondering is a sign of my privilege.

I am not a victim of injustice.

I do not know what it feels like to be a young girl lured into sex trafficking who cannot seem to find a way out to freedom. I do now know what it feels like to be a mother in a war-torn country who faces the daily fear of her children being killed. I do not know what it feels like to squeeze a survival from less than a dollar a day while the leaders of my country swim in excess. I do not know what it feels like to be falsely accused or imprisoned because of my skin color or religious background.

Thousands of people around the world are not like me. They have suffered in ways I never will. Psalm 35 is not for me. It is for them.

I too often read the Bible with an individualistic mindset. I want to know how the words apply specifically, to my life, to my thoughts, to my future. I read the Bible as if I am God’s person, not as if I am one of God’s people. Perhaps the words that feel distant to me are the exact words others need to see. And the kinds of words I should be praying on their behalf.

Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take up shield and armor; arise and come to my aid. - Psalm 35:1-2

Yes, Lord.Contend with those who are contending with your children. Fight with those who are holding your people down. Arise, and come to their aid.

Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation. My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like you, Lord? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.” - Psalm 35:10-11

O Lord, think of what would happen to your reputation when these wrongs are made right! Rescue. Protect. Redeem. Save. Show your love to all.

Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could meditate on it, whether that takes us through inspiring or frustrating territory.

False Accusations and God's Vindication

“What!?! Untrue! I can’t believe someone would think that of me!” These are the words that screamed in my head as I sat in my boss’s office. They pushed hard against my nerves, trying to break free. But, I was able to contain them and choke out words more professional like, “Oh, really?”

The situation started a few days earlier. I was an in-home autism therapist, but was leaving my position soon for another job. One family I worked for asked if I would transition off their case a little early and nanny their son with autism while the rest of the family took a trip. I was happy to help. My heart broke for this family and the strain they were under.

The next few days, as I came in and out for therapy, we discussed logistics. All was going well, I thought. Until, this mother pulled me aside and dropped a bomb, right there in her living room.

“We’ve changed our minds. We don’t want you to babysit for us anymore. We feel uncomfortable with the pay you’ve requested.”

The family had wanted me to figure out how much I should be paid. So, I asked a few friends who had done similar jobs, and I came back with a number. I thought I made it clear that I didn’t have strong feelings about the pay, and was flexible to whatever they were comfortable with.

I guess not.

But the even bigger bomb, the one that made the voices inside my head explode, was still on its way.

I had a scheduled review with the senior therapist of my team. There, in her office, I learned the situation was about more than the pay. The mother had told my boss that she thought I was judging her family and didn’t feel comfortable around me.

In this mother’s eyes, I was a greedy and judgmental snob.

As I drove home from the meeting, I cried and prayed. Why God? What had I done to make her think these things about me?

Floods of negative emotions washed over me. Anger at being falsely accused. Frustration that I couldn’t correct the misperception. Sadness that this relationship was ending on a sour note. Fear that I had negatively affected this family’s view of Jesus since they knew I was a Christian.

Have you ever been falsely accused?

It sucks.

This is David’s starting place for Psalm 17.

Hear me, Lord, my plea is just; listen to my cry. Hear my prayer— it does not rise from deceitful lips. Let my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right. – Psalm 17:1-2

I have felt that desire to be vindicated. It is strong. But David knows he will not get vindication from his accuser. What he can do is ask for it from God.

The phrasing, though, is important. David asks for God’s eyes to see what is right, not to see him as right. David leaves room for God to give him correction along with the vindication.

David goes on to say:

"I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes." David has confidence that God will answer him with love. That even if the world is seeking to harm him, David can find refuge in God.

"Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings." I love the affection of the phrasing. These are not the words of a person on trial asking a judge for justice. These are the words of a child asking his daddy for protection and help.

David goes on to ask for these people who have accused him to be defeated. He calls them wicked and asks God to use His sword against them.

When verses like that make me uncomfortable, which they do, I remind myself that this is a prayer. David is being honest. That flood of emotions I had when I was falsely accused? David had them too. And instead of just wallowing in them, he brought them to God, in all their rawness.

And he didn’t end in those cries for revenge. He ended with a cry for God’s presence.

As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness. – Psalm 17:15

We may never be satisfied with the way people see us. Misperceptions and false accusations will happen throughout our lives.

But, we can be satisfied in the way God sees us. He knows our actions and our intentions. Our hearts can find refuge in Him.

Have you ever been falsely accused? How did you handle it? Does this Psalm help you find comfort?

Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could read it and think about it, even when that is difficult.