top of page

Psalm 70

Psalm 70 is a challenging text simply because it is, with a significant exception, unremarkable. It contains the usual elements of petition and lament, but so briefly as to only hint at expanded themes that tease us with possibility.

The Psalmist’s call for deliverance focuses quickly on the unidentified adversaries that place him in jeopardy. (vs. 2-3) His ruin, even his life, are at risk. The spontaneous expressions of exultation (“aha”) by his antagonists suggest the self-evident desperation of the psalmist’s plight. The lack of specificity concerning the nature of the threat or the identity of the enemies prevents a closer examination of this particular crisis. On the other hand, by leaving open the particular character of the crisis the lament of the psalmist remains broadly applicable. Without narrowing the lament’s applicability, the cry of the Psalmist may serve any number of specific contexts that share the experience of risk and peril.

This experience of jeopardy is not seen as only personal but as reflecting the greater challenge of the enemies of God to His care and redemption. (vs. 4) Vindication of God’s salvation and his people are also at stake here. The Psalmist understands himself as one who seeks God and loves his salvation. That gives this dangerous encounter a broader horizon of meaning as part of the Adversary’s challenge to the power and rule of God, and His ability to care for His people. The anticipated deliverance of the Psalmist will result in a declaration of God’s glory and His exaltation as well as the Psalmist’s personal deliverance.

These expressions of lament and distress and connections to God’s people and His reign are meaningful and true, and almost generic. These expressions could serve in any number of situations and contexts. This character in the text seems to be confirmed by the fact that this Psalm is simply incorporated (with only a minor change) into Psalm 40:13-17. They could, in fact, be easily incorporated into other texts. The message of the Psalm is generally applicable but not contextually specific – with one exception.

The distinctive feature of the message of this Psalm is found, not in its message but it’s expression. The Psalm begins and ends with a strong sense of urgency, “Hasten” Lord, he says. “Come quickly.” (vs. 1) Oh God, please hurry. At the conclusion of the Psalm, following the anticipated declaration of God’s glory the Psalmist returns to his expression of urgency. “I am poor and needy; come quickly.” “O Lord, do not delay.” Oh, God, please hurry. This is a cry from the edge. Time is running out. Help needs to come quickly.

I suppose that is a position we don’t really experience or express very often. Our experiences of distress and risk are usually not that immediate. Life in the United States isn’t typically lived that close to the edge. So, perhaps we would miss the existential relevance of the urgent character of this Psalm. I suspect that I would have missed it – except for a recent experience in my own life.