Investigating the background of various psalms to give them greater context can provide quite a challenge at times. While some offer a descriptive heading to the reader, most do not. Moreover, since the psalms represent a collection written by a number of poets spanning generations, with many unattributed, this only complicates the problem. Then, occasionally one psalm will borrow from another earlier psalm, so that some part of one of David’s psalms finds new life and new application in another generation, though the psalm may still bear that great king’s name. The case of Psalm 70 is more interesting yet. With just a few minor changes in the verbs used and the changes from Yahweh to Elohim, the entirety of the seventieth psalm comes from Psalm 40:13-17. The theme matches well the subject of the surrounding psalms, trusting in God for deliverance, and may explain its reuse here as a prayer for similar occasions.
The cry for immediate help and the need to hurry found in verses one and five suggests a desperate hour in David’s life, most likely during Absalom’s rebellion, but this simplification of the wording and the emphasis on Elohim—The Mighty One—intentionally focuses on the contrast between the power of God and the weakness of man. Thus, the weakness of man highlights the power of God, who alone is able to deliver, as verses one and five make evident. This reality then brackets a series of exhortations highlighted by the third person hortatory (Let…) expressing his wishes concerning first those who are attacking him (Psa. 70:2-3), then concerning those who trust God (Psa. 70:4), and finally, as placed in the mouths of those who trust God, concerning God Himself (Psa. 70:4). This sequence creates a crescendo effect within the context of God’s power addressing man’s need, moving rapidly from the reversal of fortune required against the attacker, the joy that the godly feel in such circumstances, and the ultimate outcome desired of God’s glorification. Thus, what began as part of a personal psalm tied to a specific moment of desperation became a prayer appropriate for any righteous man who should find himself the object of scorn, ridicule, and woe at the hand of the unrighteous.
While the origin of the psalm is interesting and the structure compelling, the basic message of the psalm can easily get lost in its brevity and simplicity. When fully retreating from the context of Psalm 40, this psalm points to the bigger picture of serving God despite opposition and turmoil. In fact, seen spiritually, the power of the message becomes even clearer. Each and every day, Satan and his allies pursue God’s people, trying desperately to take life back from us, hurling hurt toward us in every way imaginable, and taking glee in every misstep we may make along the way. Nevertheless, as the righteous stand faithfully and seek deliverance from God without compromise, the godly rejoice and glorify God who has made such an impact. Is this some great victory that we have achieved by listening, obeying, and being faithful to our Lord? Not at all. We are but poor and needy. The victory is His. And waiting on that moment can seem like an eternity. But it is because of eternity and our faith in God that we can endure.

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