24 July. Psalms 140-145
Psalms 140-143 are all said to be prayers by King David for deliverance from his enemies. He lived in troubled times when he constantly faced rebellions and plots, often of a violent nature. Three of them speak of his enemies laying snares, nets or traps for him. Probably not in a literal sense, but perhaps ambushes, or surprise attacks when he least expected them. It is in the nature of human conflict to plot and entrap other people so as to have an advantage over them – surprise has often been a winning strategy in battle, and an individual caught off-guard has little chance of overcoming his assailant. But traps and snares are also the work of the Devil, who can catch us off-guard when we think we are doing well. Prayer for protection against the Devil’s wiles is a traditional part of night prayer (compline), along with those prayers I mentioned from Psalms 121 and 132.
Psalm 144 is also a prayer of David for protection, but now that of the nation rather than himself. It is not so much a desperate cry for help as a hymn of praise, beginning with a reminder of God’s strength and eternal nature. God is pictured as “fortress, stronghold, deliverer, and shield” (v.2). Common trust in this God would give the people confidence. The psalm ends with a request for divine blessing on people, animals and crops. There is however a brief call for help in the middle of it (v. 10-11), where the dangers are listed as “the cruel sword, [and] aliens [i.e. foreigners], whose mouths speak lies, and whose right hands are false.”