1 Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me.
2 Take up shield and armor;
arise and come to my aid.
3 Brandish spear and javelin
against those who pursue me.
Say to me,
“I am your salvation.”
4 May those who seek my life
be disgraced and put to shame;
may those who plot my ruin
be turned back in dismay.
5 May they be like chaff before the wind,
with the angel of the Lord driving them away;
6 may their path be dark and slippery,
with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.
7 Since they hid their net for me without cause
and without cause dug a pit for me,
8 may ruin overtake them by surprise—
may the net they hid entangle them,
may they fall into the pit, to their ruin.
9 Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord
and delight in his salvation.
10 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.”
11 Ruthless witnesses come forward;
they question me on things I know nothing about.
12 They repay me evil for good
and leave me like one bereaved.
13 Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth
and humbled myself with fasting.
When my prayers returned to me unanswered,
14 I went about mourning
as though for my friend or brother.
I bowed my head in grief
as though weeping for my mother.
15 But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee;
assailants gathered against me without my knowledge.
They slandered me without ceasing.
16 Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked;
they gnashed their teeth at me.
17 How long, Lord, will you look on?
Rescue me from their ravages,
my precious life from these lions.
18 I will give you thanks in the great assembly;
among the throngs I will praise you.
19 Do not let those gloat over me
who are my enemies without cause;
do not let those who hate me without reason
maliciously wink the eye.
20 They do not speak peaceably,
but devise false accusations
against those who live quietly in the land.
21 They sneer at me and say, “Aha! Aha!
With our own eyes we have seen it.”
22 Lord, you have seen this; do not be silent.
Do not be far from me, Lord.
23 Awake, and rise to my defense!
Contend for me, my God and Lord.
24 Vindicate me in your righteousness, Lord my God;
do not let them gloat over me.
25 Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!”
or say, “We have swallowed him up.”
26 May all who gloat over my distress
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who exalt themselves over me
be clothed with shame and disgrace.
27 May those who delight in my vindication
shout for joy and gladness;
may they always say, “The Lord be exalted,
who delights in the well-being of his servant.”
28 My tongue will proclaim your righteousness,
your praises all day long.
Are the Psalms about Jesus? Or are the Psalms about us? The answer is yes! The Psalms are about Jesus. And then they are about us. In that order. As we read any Psalm we should first ask, “How is this about Jesus?” Then we will be ready to ask, “How is this about me?” And the way Jesus quotes this Psalm is a fantastic lesson in how to apply all the Psalms. First to him, then to us.
John’s gospel records that Jesus quotes Psalm 35 on the way to the cross as he teaches his disciples about love. And hate. The storm clouds that have been brewing since John 5:18, when mention was first made of the religious leaders plotting to kill Jesus, are about to burst. The cross, that place where God unleashes his love upon the world (John 3:16), is also the place where the world unleashes its hatred upon Jesus.
Jesus tells his disciples, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you (John 15:18-19). He then quotes verse 19 of our Psalm, saying “they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfil what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’” (John 15:24-25).
Psalm 35 is about the world’s hatred of Jesus. Yet as Jesus quotes its fulfilment in him, he says that it will also be fulfilled in the lives of those who follow him. The world that crucified the Lord Jesus won’t always love his followers. Now, if we’re honest we often give people plenty of reason not to like us because of the ways we’re not like Jesus. Yet even when we are following Jesus faithfully, perhaps especially then, we will also meet opposition, even hatred.
Head: What have you learnt about Jesus from Psalm 35? What have you learnt about yourself?
Heart: How does it make you feel that the world might hate you for following Jesus?
Hands: What might strengthen us to love even when we are hated? Where can we look to?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the cross. Thank you that at the very moment when the world was showing the depths of its hatred for you, you were showing the depths of your love for us. Please help me to show that same love, even in the face of any hatred I might encounter. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.