This psalm was written by David to celebrate a communal deliverance rather than a personal one. Likely it was written after an attack by the Philistines because they were the enemies that Israel faced during David’s reign. Whenever it was written, David composed it because he wanted others to use his words when praising God.
There are several lessons that can be taken from this psalm as we consider the state of God’s cause today. Firstly, we should realise the fierceness of the enemies of God’s people. David gives vivid descriptions of his foes: wild animals, overwhelming storms, raging torrents. These descriptions illustrate what these enemies want – the utter destruction of the church.
Secondly, we should not judge a situation by appearances. It is common for us to hear and to say that the church is weak today, with the impression being given that in the past it was not weak. But the church has always been weak; the difference between the church of the past and the church of today is that God came and delivered his church in the past and he has not yet come and delivered today’s church. As we look at the current situation, we are to view it in the light of God’s character, particularly his promises to bless sinners, and of his power.
Thirdly, the psalm shows that deliverance from God may not come until we are at our wit’s end. The Israelites were facing imminent destruction; they had no way of escape. Sometimes I wonder if the church in Britain has yet reached that place. There is little evidence of desperation among Christians, a desperation that would cause them to wrestle with God to come and give prosperity to his church. It is a healthy spiritual sign when believers are at their wit’s end because then they will be forced to their knees.
Fourthly, the psalm tells us that during the onslaught we have to remain at our posts and not run away. David and his men lined up for the battle even although the enemy looked more powerful than they. The same is required of us.
Fifthly, when deliverance comes, God should get all the glory. In the psalm, he is praised for setting the people free.
Sixthly, when God delivers, he often delivers completely. This is depicted in the illustration of the bird escaping from a trap. Their release was one that both showed their weakness and the Lord’s power.
What is our hope as we face our opponents? The answer is God. Our response is not to be pessimism or panic. We are to retain full confidence in the gospel as the power of God to change the lives of sinners and we are to expect to see them converted through our prayers and witness. And we are to be optimistic that the God, who delivered his church in the past from the attack of powerful enemies, will yet deliver it on a grand scale. In the meantime, we should take up Isaiah’s challenge: ‘You who put the LORD in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth’ (Isa. 62:6-7).