Have you ever been accused of wrongdoing? How did you respond? A proper response to accusation will look different depending on whether or not there is any truth to the claim.
Paul recounts a time when Peter (Cephas) came to Antioch and “I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned” (Galatians 2:11–14). Peter had sinned and so Paul strongly and publicly confronted and called him to repentance. Peter’s response, it seems, was one of repentance, for he later writes of “our beloved brother Paul” (2 Peter 3:15). Paul accused him and, since he was in the wrong, he acknowledged his wrongdoing and repented of it.
Sometimes, however, accusations are unfounded. In Numbers 12, Miriam and Aaron accused Moses of sin. They presented their accusation as one thing—a complaint that Moses was abusing his authority—but text reveals the underlying issue: He had married a Cushite woman. Their racist attitude was concealed beneath a veneer of religiosity. Moses had done nothing wrong but, rather than defending himself, he meekly waited for God to act. God powerfully defended his servant in a way that was obvious to all.
Our natural tendency when we face accusation is to defend ourselves. And while there may come a time to defend oneself (see 2 Corinthians) or to rebuke one’s accusers into silence (Galatians 6:17), Christians have the wonderful privilege of knowing that they need not always defend themselves, because they have a sovereign Defender: God himself. Psalm 7:10 reads, “My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart.” Psalm 89:18 expresses a similar sentiment: “Our shield belongs to the LORD.” “Shield” translates the Hebrew word maginnenu. Our God is therefore El or Yahweh Maginnenu—God (or the Lord) our shield.
Last week, we considered the name Yahweh Chereb (God our sword) and how the Lord commits to fight for his people. God is also our shield, who defends us. But he does not stand as a defence for everyone without exception. Instead, he stands as a defence for his people. Psalm 7 gives us some insight into how we can know God as Yahweh Maginnenu: The Lord our shield.
First, to know God as Yahweh Maginnenu, we must take our refuge in him through Christ (vv. 1–2). The God of the Bible is the sovereign Lord of the universe. Nothing and nobody escapes his authority. But he enters into special relationship with those who find their refuge in him. This refuge is found primarily in the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we believe Christ, God forgives our sins and welcomes us into his family. As a good Father, he defends his children. We can therefore trust him to be our ultimate defence and to vindicate us. Michael the archangel understood this (Jude 9) and we should, too.
It takes wisdom to know when we should defend ourselves and when to remain silent and allow the Lord to defend us. If Paul’s example is anything to go by, we should be slow to defend ourselves, though we should not hesitate to do so when the glory of the Lord and the ministry of the gospel is at stake.
Second, to know God as Yahweh Maginnenu, we need to examine ourselves for wrongdoing (vv. 3–5). David was willing to receive accusation if he had done wrong. He was prepared to face the full consequences of wrongdoing, as painful as those consequences might be. If he was guilty of wrongdoing, he could understand why he would be accused. When he faced accusation, therefore, he carefully examined the accusations to see if there were any truth to them.
It is always wise to ask whether there is a kernel of truth to an accusation levelled against us. If there is truth, we should admit it, repent, and change. To be sure, we should not assume that every accusation is gospel truth, but neither should we quickly dismiss accusations before we have asked whether or not they are true.
Third, to know God as Yahweh Maginnenu, we must trust him to act righteously (vv. 6–7). David desperately wanted the Lord to rise in anger against those who accused him but, ultimately, recognised that God had “appointed a judgement.” It was not for him to determine when and how God must act.
We may have ideas about how we would like God to respond. We may think that we know precisely how he should punish those who accuse us. Ultimately, however, we must leave judgement to God and trust him to vindicate his truth. He has appointed the terms of judgement and we must trust that the God of all the earth will do what is right.
Fourth, to know God as Yahweh Maginnenu, we must ask God to purge us of sin (vv. 8–11). While David was persuaded that he was innocent of the charges brought against him by his accusers, he nonetheless prayed, “Judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me.” He was not unwilling for the Lord to test his own mind and heart because he knew that he needed to be corrected where he was wrong.
Even as we remain persuaded of our innocence and long for the Lord to vindicate us, we must still remember that we are sinners and invite the Lord to test our hearts and minds. In rejecting specific accusations against us, we must not be blind to the fact that we are not perfect. We are still sinners who need to be cleansed of our sin. The same God who defends is the God who judges sin.
Fifth, to know God as Yahweh Maginnenu, we must recognise that God takes sin seriously and will punish it (vv. 12–16). David knew that God would punish the sin of his accusers, but he equally knew that God would judge his own sin if he did not repent.
God is opposed to sin and fully committed to punishing it. This punishment is poured out either on Christ or on the sinner. As we trust God for vindication, therefore, we must at the same time recognise that we need to repent of our own sin to escape divine chastening.
Sixth, and finally, to know God as Yahweh Maginnenu, we must worship him with gratitude (v. 17). David clearly did not enjoy the accusations levelled against him, but he still worshipped the Lord with thankfulness. Even when we don’t understand why God has allowed what he has allowed, we must remain thankful to him.
As we reflect on the above, and trust Yahweh Maginnenu to defend and vindicate us, let us recognise that vindication may not, in the moment, always look like what we think it should look like. For Jesus, vindication meant first dying cruelly on a shameful Roman cross before the glorious vindication of the resurrection. For Joseph it meant years of slavery and prison time before the vindication of Egyptian governance. God may not always vindicate us when or how we like, but he is our shield, is committed to defending us, and is therefore worthy of our thankful worship. “I will give thanks to the LORD due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High” (Psalm 7:17).