Lies hurt. They hurt the truth, they hurt feelings, and they can hurt reputations. However, when lies turn into accusations and accusations into action, a malicious lie, once believed, can lead people to commit character assassination, outright violence, and even atrocities—and justify it all in the name of a lie. People have little patience today to wait for evidence, and many seem uninterested in facts. The world’s rejection of absolute truth has led the people of the world to find comfort in the relativity of lies. Encouraging worldviews independent of reality has thus led to the proliferation of extremism across the spectrum and its accompanying self-justification. The incivility, division, and vitriol exhibited in society so regularly today characterizes interactions at every level in practically every sphere, whether political, ethnic, social, or even spiritual. Having abandoned the anchor of truth, people have no standard for agreement and no foundation for reconciliation. Hatred, contention, jealousy, anger, and ambition rule the day. However, these problems did not arise recently. They have existed for millennia, even if their current incarnation has a more technological flavor to it. In fact, in the ancient world, trials mainly consisted of accusers attacking and the accused defending himself before a government official. Psalm 109 captures the ageless essence of the issue as David presents this problem in the form of a type of courtroom where he stands as the accused.
Anyone who steps forward to lead with conviction will face unjust accusations at some point. At that first realization of the severity of the attack and malice underlying it, the heart searches desperately for someone—anyone—to come to its defense (Psa. 109:1). The lying tongues of angry accusers spill out their jealousy and hatred against the innocent to justify themselves, often projecting their own motives, ambitions, and behaviors onto their victim (Psa. 109:2-3). Sadly, many of these attacks come from former friends and associates who feigned love as long as it proved useful but inwardly loved only themselves (Psa. 109:4-5). The situation itself unnerves the righteous as helplessness and indignation swell within. Then a cry for justice calls out: Who will set things right? Never does the path of justice seem clearer than when injustice has visited your doorstep. Therefore, the plea of David before the court calls for true justice, for the false witness to receive the punishment he so desires to be meted out on the object of his lies (Psa. 109:6-20). The details throughout carry a deliberate touch of irony. The accuser should be the accused. The punishment recommended should become the punishment received. The fate of Haman in the book of Esther well reflects the tenor of the passage. However, the final portion of the psalm provides perspective often missing from our own sense of justice. Rather than attempting to manipulate the system or returning evil for evil, the psalm closes by turning to the Lord and trusting Him to make things right. Rather than trusting in our own inherent goodness, which we lack, we should realize our own weakness and thus trust in the LORD (Psa. 109:21-24). Thus, when attacked by others, the faithful will draw nearer to God and place the matter in His hands (Psa. 109:25-27). The greater our confidence in the righteousness of the LORD, the greater our confidence can be that justice will be served—eventually (Psa. 109:28-29). The LORD’s character stands fast; therefore, His people can move forward with confidence when they stand with Him (Psa. 109:30-31).
However, one verse in this psalm adds an important dimension to our understanding. In Acts 1:20 the apostle Peter quotes from this psalm and applies it to Judas: “Let his days be few, And let another take his office” (Psa. 109:8). The one who delivered Jesus for death ultimately suffered the curse from his own accusations. Our innocent Savior, on the other hand, “‘committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Pet. 2:22–24). The accusations against Jesus make the lies told against us seem small in comparison, but our approach should be the same.