Psalm 69 is well-known for two reasons. The first reason is that verse 9 describes Jesus’ devotion to God’s worship (John 2:17) and the other reason is that verses 22-29 ask God to take vengeance on one’s enemies (such psalms are known as Imprecatory Psalms, and there are quite a few in this category).
Although verse 9 describes the zeal of Jesus, the whole psalm does not apply to him. In verse 5, the psalmist confesses his sin, and that verse could never be on the lips of Jesus. Do any of the other verses apply to the Saviour? Some would suggest that verse 21, with its reference to persons giving the psalmist sour wine to drink, is a prophecy of what happened to Jesus on the cross. It may be, but the problem with this suggestion is that it would mean that David was not referring to his own experience when he mentioned it in the psalm. It must have referred to David, but we could then say that it depicts what Jesus experienced on the cross.
It is clear from verses 1-5 that David is in deep spiritual trouble and that there is no sign of divine deliverance despite his earnest prayers for it. He is surrounded by many enemies (v. 4), yet his main concern is that his circumstances may have an adverse effect on the people of God (v. 6). So although he feels abandoned by God, he has not lost a strong sense of brotherly love, which we recognize as evidence that God was sanctifying him throughout his troubles. Nevertheless his isolation has included those whom one would normally expect to help him – his family (v. 8). David at this time truly had no-one to turn to but his God.
The psalmist recalls his passion for the things of God (vv. 9-12). His dedication included public acts of penitence (he wore sackcloth and fasted), but his devotion was mocked by those who saw him. He mentions their contempt in God’s ear, because he knows that God will sympathize with him.
David knew that his only hope was in God and appealed to him to remember his covenant faithfulness (v. 13). By this time David was in deep trouble (he is already sinking in the mire, he is nearly submerged by the waters), but he knows that it is never too late to look for God’s help (vv. 14-15). His experience is a reminder that sometimes God does not send his help until the last second.
David also goes into great detail regarding his situation, but does so in faith (e.g. vv. 16-21). Although his enemies are many and powerful, he knows that his covenant God is able to rescue him from them. He mentions his feelings – distress, broken heart, despair. Desperate situations normally make us honest in God’s presence. He contrasts his opponents with God – he is marked by mercy, but they are marked by cruelty.
In verses 22-29, David calls for divine judgment on his enemies. Why does he do this? He is not expressing a desire for personal revenge. Rather, because he is the leader of God’s kingdom, it is appropriate for him to ask God to remove strong opponents whose aim is the destruction of God’s cause. David has been prevented by them from fulfilling his God-given function to rule over Israel, so in verse 29 he asks explicitly for kingly elevation.
It is clear from verses 30-36 that the Lord heard the cry of David. He is now offering public thanksgiving and he makes two observations about it. First, thanksgiving is more important than animal or any other kinds of sacrifices; and second, thanksgiving encourages those who are seeking the Lord for their own deliverances. This means that we should acknowledge publicly when God helps us; a failure to do so robs other believers of legitimate encouragement.
His personal deliverance and subsequent restoration to his role informed David that God had great plans for Israel in the future (vv. 34-36). The psalmist knew that what God had done for him he would also do for all who trust in him. Every answered prayer is a reminder from God that the future of his kingdom is bright.