There is a difference between prayer and supplication.
Prayer is that activity of faith whereby you turn your soul to God as the Fountain of all good things, thirsting for Him and very desirous to be filled by Him with all the good things you need for time and eternity.
Supplication is all that, but it is prayer colored by your distresses, woes, miseries. Also herein that you turn yourself tempestuously toward Him. If I was writing in the Holland language I would say: supplication is that “ge Hem aanloopt als een waterstroom”!
Well, the latter you find in this psalm.
David is in trouble.
As such, it is also a prophecy of the Christ of God, Who poured out His supplication unto God. A fit commentary on that truth you will find in Hebrews 5:7. His prayers and supplications were characterized by “strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death.”
Surely, supplication is tempestuous prayer.
And exactly that you will find in this psalm.
Attend unto the opening: To Thee, O Jehovah, do I cry! It is no serene, calm restful prayer that flows from David’s lips at this occasion. The matter is urgent.
It is also evident in the opening strophes of this song that Jehovah had been silent. There was no help; the wicked that were around David seemed to have the ascendency over him.
And David is horribly afraid of a silent God. Such a God is the God of wrath over the wicked. Of them the Lord says: I am silent; and the wicked go down to the pit under the roaring of the Almighty when His silence is explained.
O Jehovah, when I cry unto Thee, do not treat me as Thou dost treat the wicked. In all the crying of the wicked in their distresses there is no answer from the heavens, because Thou art far from them.
But do not treat me thus when I raise the voice of my supplication unto Thy inner sanctuary.
David has his face turned to the place where the Lord dwelled: the holy of holies. Such is the meaning of verse 2.
David is horribly afraid of being treated like the wicked. It seems as though there was a conspiracy against the anointed of the Lord. There were wicked people that spoke peace to David while evil was in their heart. And David was under condemnation; he seems to have been the victim of a vile plot, so that he groaned under the accusation of being “ungodly and a worker of iniquity,” vs. 3.
Now if only Jehovah would have shown that He understood, that He knew that David was innocent: he could have borne it. But Jehovah was silent. Therefore we hear that anguished cry: “Carry me not away with the ungodly and with the workers of iniquity.” For that is exactly the way which God holds with the wicked. For a long time it seems as if there is no God in the heavens: they multiply evil and are pregnant with unrighteousness. And the heavens are silent. Until the Lord comes and takes them away; then they are carried along as with a flood; a swift recompense is their portion at the time of God’s righteous anger.
David dreads this. Therefore his supplications are heard, with a strong crying and tears.
Certainly, it would be divine equity when the evil doers were destroyed from the face of the earth. They had deserved it. Their behavior testified of their hellish origin. Notice: they spoke peace with their neighbors while evil was in their hearts. That action characterized them. That is exactly the behavior of the devils: deception, foul lying and dissimulation: their deeds were wicked.
Accordingly, David calls for a swift punishment on such evil men. And notice that David asks the Lord for punishment according to strictest justice. He will delight in righteous recompense. Therefore he pleads that God give them according to their evil deeds.
And the deepest reason is that these wicked men do not regard God. They have no eye for all the wonderful work of Jehovah.
Such is also the greatest sin of all. It shows how much they despise God. They act and speak and walk as though there is no God at all, while all things are a loud testimony of Him. The heavens and the earth and all the host of them is like a veritable chorus of voices. They all sing of His wonderful virtues. Even the bodies and souls of the wicked join in with this concert of God’s praises. They have occasion to view the work of God’s hands in their very being and yet they act as though He is not. It shows the devilish pride of these enemies of David.
And if the voice of created things is glorious so that not even the blindest heathen is without excuse, how shall it fare with them if they have not regarded the works of His hands in salvation? Remember that it is David, the anointed of the Lord, who cries out against these evildoers in this psalm. Note that in verse 8 David is exulting in the fact that God has been the defense of him, the anointed of the Lord. It shows that these evil people have attacked the work of salvation in Israel.
That work of salvation is above all things glorious. These evil men, whoever they may have been, knew about salvation. The beloved of God, for that is the meaning of the name David, was their king. Against him they plotted and meant his hurt. And doing so they had no regard for the work of the covenant God, Jehovah.
That, my brethren, is a grievous sin.
And that sin is full-borne when Jesus pours out His supplications unto the God of His salvation. This psalm fits the complaints of Jesus entirely. He has relived this psalm so many centuries later.
Jesus, our Lord, was in the midst of just such people who would not regard the works of Jehovah’s hands. They acted as if God did not exist, although He surely did not leave Himself without witness. Christ, the beloved, could work miracles, do good, bless and save—but they acted as though Jesus was a malefactor. They spoke peace to Him, but evil was in their heart. Think here of that devilish kiss of Judas, the foul mouth of the Sanhedrin.
Yes, we can understand how David calls down God’s righteous judgments upon them. Give them, o God, according to their work! And we see also that David was experiencing before the strong supplications of Jesus, standing in the midst of those that hated Him and His Father who sent Him.
And because they will not regard God who works all this beauteous salvation, David knows that God will pull them down and not build them up.
He will pull them down: it shows their lofty pride and arrogancy. But God will pull them down and will not build them up. He will build up all those that pour out their supplications before Him.
This last truth as confessed by David in verse 5 seems to bring him to the wonderful outburst of faith and trust in the last verses of the psalm. It is the transition of strong crying to the jubilant song of praise and adoration.
Note how different is the tenor of his song from verse 6 onward to the end.
Even while David is writing down his strong crying to God, he begins to experience the answer from the God of his salvation.
Blessed be Jehovah, because He hath heard the voice of my supplication. That is the experience of every soul that pours out his heart to God. The faithful covenant God never slumbers nor sleeps. How could it be otherwise? He has given the Spirit of prayer and supplication to David. And that Spirit always prays according to the will of God.
Now the tenor of the song goes upward and onward.
Jehovah is my defense and my shield. Yes, the wicked will shoot their poisonous arrows to the pure in heart, but God is their defense. He is always as a strong tower round about those that fear Him. He defends them because it is His own cause for which they are suffering. Listen to the song of the church of all the ages: For Thy sake are we killed all the day long! We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Therefore God will defend them. And that defense is first of all experienced in the heart. David felt this defense even before he looked up from his document. As he poured out his soul unto God on the written page, God came to him and caused him to sing: In Him my heart trusted and I was helped—therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth! And with my song will I praise Him!
Incidentally, that is also the reason why the Lord seemed first to be a silent spectator. The Lord will send all these trials and temptations to His children so that they may be helped by Him and return to Him in praise and adoration. The Triune covenant God wants to be all and in all. Through the deep way of sin and grace He brings His church to the inner sanctuary of His heart so that they will everlastingly remember it and confess it: Salvation belongeth to the Lord! And that is heaven. It is supreme happiness for the church to stand around the throne and cast their crowns before Him and tell Him that all majesty, strength, power, dominion, glory and honor belong to Him.
And finally, David’s heart is enlarged; he beholds the whole church in the midst of their misery and struggle with the wicked. And seeing the trials of the body of Christ, he prays for them: surely, David is the anointed of the Lord. He is concerned about the people of God and acts as their representative: O help Thy people and bless Thy heritage. And feed them, and bear them up forever!
This final prayer of David again directs us to the fulfillment of David, Jesus Christ the Lord!
Such prayers are uttered by our great High Priest.
Such prayers are uttered by Him when hanging on the accursed tree. It seems as though we hear it again: Help Thy poor people, O Father! Forgive Thine heritage: they know not what they do!
Such prayers are uttered even now, my brother! He ever lives, this better David, this beloved of the Father, to pray for us.
At the right hand of God, Jesus prays. And is always heard. When the night is so dark that you cannot pray any more, He sends His Spirit to pray within you with groanings that cannot be uttered.
So that you may be helped, lifted up upon the Rock of God’s salvation and everlastingly may be to the praises of God!