Commentary on Psalms (42 - 89)
© by Francis Foulkes
& Cyril Okorocha


"1. Save me, O God, by your name,
and vindicate me by your might.
2. Hear my prayer, O God;
give ear to the words of my mouth.

3. For the insolent have risen against me,
the ruthless seek my life;
they do not set God before them. Selah

4. But surely, God is my helper;
the Lord is the upholder of my life.
5. He will repay my enemies for their evil.
In your faithfulness, put an end to them.

6. With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you;
I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good.
7. For he has delivered me from every trouble,
and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies."

This Psalm begins and ends with reference to the "name" of God. "Save me, O God, by your name" is the prayer of verse 1. "I will give thanks to your name" is the psalmist's decision in verse 6. Sometimes people feel that they can use names, especially divine names, in a magical kind of way, and so gain control over spiritual forces. Such practice is unbiblical and can lead to dangerous occultism. The name of God or the name of Jesus is not a talisman or a magic word which we may invoke to ward off fear and evil. Some people expect power to emanate to their advantage if they repeatedly shout, 'Jesus! Jesus' or 'Jah! Jah!' Our Lord gave a warning about this kind of thing in Matthew 6:7-8. The name of God means the character of God, God as he is, as he is made known to us by his word, by what he does, and now especially in Jesus Christ. To call on or "swear" by God's name means to be faithful to God in utter dependence and obedience. It means to honour God, as we pray, "Hallowed by your name" (Matthew 6:9). The psalmist says, "I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good." That one little word "good" says so much about God. God is "good" in his character, in his nature, and in his loving purpose for us all (see also Psalms 34:8 and 52:9). All that this Psalm says is based on faith in the goodness of God, and submission to the sovereignty of God. We should show awe at the majesty or transcendence of God, and above all, reverential gratitude in view of the matchless love of God (see Romans 8:31-39 and 12:1-2).

Prayer (verses 1-3)

The psalmist in his need turns to God who alone can save him. Where he is in the right, he asks that God will "vindicate" him, showing that he has worked for what is true and just. He has enemies that he describes by two words. They are "insolent" - that is they are proud and think that they can do what they like and no one will stop them. They are "ruthless" - cruel in the way that they act towards others who are weaker than themselves. They give no thought to God - "they do not set God before them".

Confidence (verses 4-5)

Because of what the psalmist knows of God, and because of what God has done for him in the past, he can say, "God is my helper". He can face difficulty and danger and the oppression of others because he believes, "the Lord is the upholder of my life". As we have seen in the study of other psalms, it is not a Christian prayer that God will "put an end" to one's enemies, thus wishing death on them. We have in Christ a higher way, to seek that God will change their hearts from hatred and oppression to goodwill and co-operation. Yet it is right to pray that evil will be shown up for what it is, and that God's righteousness and justice will triumph, and that oppression will be brought to an end.

Thankfulness (verses 6-7)

The psalm ends with thanksgiving to God. A "freewill offering" was one that the law did not require, but which a person offered out of sheer gratitude to God. It is possible to translate verse 6 as speaking of an attitude of thankfulness rather than specifically of the "freewill offering". In any case the verse speaks of a thankful heart and a willingness of spirit, and whatever is offered to God as a result (as we see in Psalms 40:6-10 and 116:8-19). It is a matter of gratitude for deliverance and victory. For Christian people that deliverance is God's forgiveness because of what Christ has done for us. It is also victory over temptation and every kind of evil that threatens us, and that would prevent our lives being lived in the service of God and love for others.

Meditation: God gave Jesus "the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend --- and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father "(Philippians 2:9-11).

For further thought and study

a. How does what is said in this Psalm about the "name" of God fit with the words of Proverbs 18:10, and the words of the Lord's Prayer, "Hallowed be your name"?

b. What in practical terms is the difference in life-style between those described in verse 3 with the words, "they do not set God before them", and the words of Psalm 16:8, "I keep the Lord always before me"? Notes

  1. In the heading to this Psalm we have the words "with stringed instruments" as a musical direction. We then have the words that associate it with David and the time when he was escaping from Saul who, without any reason except jealousy, was trying to kill him, and the people of Ziph (near Hebron in S. Palestine) betrayed David's location to Saul. See 1 Samuel 23:15-29 and 26:1-25. The psalm is appropriate, however, to the situation of any who feel that they are opposed by such as verse 3 speaks of as "insolent" and "ruthless" enemies.
  2. In some translations in verse 3 "foreigners" or "strangers" is read instead of "insolent" or "proud". Psalm 86:14, which is very like this verse, has "insolent", and Isaiah 25:2-5 uses the same Hebrew word to speak of ruthless oppressive foreigners. God-fearing people in Israel in fact often faced oppression both from foreigners and from proud and powerful people of their own nation.