Nobody can deny that we live in a disordered world. When God created the heavens and the earth, there was disorder (Genesis 1:1–2). He spent the next six days bringing order to disorder (Genesis 1:3–31). But then human sin entered the world and, with it, disorder returned. Humanity has lived, ever since, in a deeply disordered world.
Because we live in a disordered world, we frequently experience affliction. This affliction might hit you from one (or more) of three directions.
First, we are sometimes little more than a victim of adverse circumstances. Perhaps your company goes bankrupt and you find yourself without employment. Perhaps close contact with someone who is ill leaves you suffering. It might be one of a thousand other things that afflict us for no other reason than that we are victims of circumstance.
Second, we sometimes invite affliction on ourselves. Perhaps you fall ill because you foolishly failed to follow basic health guidelines. Perhaps you were involved in a motor vehicle collision because you chose to drive under the influence of alcohol. Perhaps you are unemployed because you were deliberately disrespectful to your superiors.
Third, however, affliction is sometimes the result of deliberate action against you. This is where David found himself when he wrote Psalm 140. His foes planned evil against him and stirred up ongoing war (v. 2). The made their tongue sharp (v. 3), planned to trip him up (v. 4), and deliberately laid traps for him (v. 5). The affliction he experienced was no mysterious providence or consequence of foolish action. He was the victim of deliberate and vindictive character assassination.
Have you ever been there? Have you ever been the victim of deliberate, targeted attacks? Have you ever been the victim of slander, the subject of gossip, and the object of backbiting? How should you respond? Psalm 140 offers three pieces of counsel.
First, acknowledge your distress (vv. 1–5). It does little good to deny your circumstances and pretend that all is well. Before God, and in the company of others who can help you, admit the affliction you are facing and recognise the evil schemes of others for what they are. It is always wise to examine whether there is truth to an accusation, but sometimes false accusations must be recognised for what they are.
Second, acknowledge your dependence (vv. 6–11). When people deliberately plan to assassinate your character, there is often little you can do effectively defend yourself. Certainly, you should reject false accusations for what they are but, ultimately, if the Lord does not fight with and for you, you fight in vain. He is the strength of your salvation and the one who shields you in the battle. Only he can put an end to the schemes of those who are attacking you. Admit your dependence in prayer.
Third, acknowledge your deliverance (vv. 12–13). This can be difficult to see when you are in the heat of battle, but it is always helpful to remember that those who afflict God’s people will not win the war, even if they seemingly win particular battles. God is committed to maintaining the cause of the afflicted and to executing justice for the needy. Those who are righteous will eternally give thanks to him and the upright will dwell in his presence even as the wicked are eternally banished from that presence.
Affliction at the hands of others is a reality. The godly are sadly often the victims of deliberate assault. Psalm 140 helps us to remember that, by acknowledging our distress, dependence, and deliverance, we can endure such affliction with hope in the God who is committed to defending those whose trust is in him.