Psalms 1 - 50by Mike Raiter
An ″eye for eye″ (Exodus 21:24) is a core principle of biblical justice. In other words, let the punishment fit the crime. Sadly, in a sinful world, the innocent are often punished while the guilty escape or are treated too leniently. In such a world, Christians turn to the Judge of all the earth to ″repay them for their deeds″ (Psalm 28:4).
We can't be sure what event in David's life this psalm is speaking about, although it fits neatly with the account of the murder of Abner by David's commander-in-chief Joab. Abner had been Saul's closest supporter and had led the pursuit of David. After Saul's death, war broke out between David and Saul's son, Ishbosheth. During the battle, Abner reluctantly killed Joab's brother, Asahel (2 Samuel 2:18-28). Later, Abner made peace with David. But Joab wanted revenge for the death of his brother and, by deceit, murdered Abner (3:27).
The tragic events of this story can be heard in the words of Psalm 28. David sings that the wicked ″speak cordially with their neighbours but harbour malice in their hearts″ (v. 3). This is precisely what Joab did when he invited Abner into his chamber for a private conversation, intending murder (2 Samuel 3:27). David then proclaimed he was innocent of the blood of Abner, and that Joab and his family should bear the consequences of their evil actions (vv. 28-29). In this psalm David sings: ″Do not drag me away with the wicked . . . repay them for what their hands have done″ (Psalm 28:3-4).
Why do the wicked do evil deeds? David's answer is: ″Because they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord″ (v. 5). When we forget God's deeds of judgment, we stop fearing Him and are easily tempted to evil actions. When we forget how God has shown His love for us, we begin to neglect deeds of love. For this reason Jesus taught: ″You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye' . . . but I tell you . . . turn to them the other cheek″ (Matthew 5:38-39). While we still call out to God for justice, we who are forgiven sinners pursue peace, love, and mercy in our relationships.
What are the great deeds of God that we should give regard to (Psalm 28:5)? What impact should reflecting on these deeds have on how we live?
Psalm 28 moves from petition (″hear my cry for mercy″, v. 2) to thanksgiving (″he has heard my cry for mercy″, v. 6). What has led David to be so confident that God has heard him?