At some point, it is likely that as a believer you will face false accusation. One of the Devil’s names, Satan, literally means “the accuser” his aim is to accuse believers to cause them to feel guilt and shame, he is the father of lies and so it is no surprise that his accusations are slanderous.
False accusation feeds on shame and subjective guilt. The one accused is likely to be shamed by those accusing them and those listening to the slander. If you are consistently hearing that you are guilty of some terrible thing then you are likely to begin to doubt your innocence. This is exacerbated because we all know that none of us is perfect and even a false accusation may have some hint of truth in it, we could always have done things better.
The Devil’s aim through shaming is to cause us to hide. Do not be surprised if you are hit with accusation at the very point that ministry appears to be bearing fruit. His aim is to silence the Gospel and to force us into retreat.
Psalm 109 is a tremendous help to those facing false accusation.
David’s Petition (v 1-5)
David’s prayer is that God will speak. As he is surrounded by his tormenters all the voices of accusation have been heard. However, it is God’s voice he needs to hear. It feels as though heaven is silent, God’s word has been drowned out. Yet Yahweh is the true and righteous judge who will have the last word and David looks to him for vindication. It is important for us to remember that this is true for us as well, God will have the last word. We know that we are justified, declared righteous through faith. This is the status we receive from Christ despite our sin. On the last day, God will judge and we will be invited into his new creation. However, that vindication also means that where we were in the right then the truth one day will come out. It always does in the end. We know that God’s final vindication will come but experience and history tell us that even in this life-time there is a good likelihood that the truth will come out. Lies cannot be sustained for ever, liars end up tripping themselves up. Furthermore, as others watch the lives of godly and faithful believers they begin to see the truth about their character and motives.
That sense of being encircled, trapped with no way out will have been huge for David. He was under siege. This speaks both to the experience of those of us specifically experiencing false accusation and more generally to all Christians as they go through times of trial and suffering. If you feel overwhelmed by your circumstances, remember that you are not alone.
The saddest part of David’s complaint is the way in which good has been repaid for evil. Indeed at the very point when he is praying for others and showing love to him, they repay his love with hatred and harm. It’s bewildering isn’t it? You act in the best interest of others, your only concern is for their welfare and yet they choose to lash out at you. Why does that happen? Sometimes it is simply because of the evil motives of others, they simply desire power and control, you are in their way. Then there are those who just take cruel delight in seeing others hurting, it is just a game to them. However, often it isn’t quite so black and white. Sometimes the accusation comes from a misunderstanding or faulty perception, sometimes it is because what you are doing is seen as in competition with what others are trying to achieve and sometimes it is because what you say and do, your righteous words and behaviour make others feel uncomfortable. The false accusation is a form of deflection and distraction because they are afraid that if the spotlight false on them it will lead to their own shaming.
It is helpful to know these things as we consider how to respond. I want to suggest that the Bible and particularly the example of Christ means that the right response is to continue to return evil for good, love our enemies and pray for our accusers (though
David’s Prayer for his enemies (v6-20)
At first sight the next section of the Psalm does not seem to help my case. David certainly prays for his enemy but there doesn’t appear to be a lot of love involved. However, look carefully and you will see that the prayer is for justice. This man has falsely accused David, the aim is for David to bear shame and guilt. David’s enemy seeks to destroy David’s reputation (and therefore that of his family line).
So David’s prayer is that the false accuser will be accused of their real wrong doing and bear the penalty for their sin. His desire is that they in turn will be shamed, their falsely achieved reputation destroyed (and their line with them) so that they are known for who they really are.
I want to say three things about this section. First of all, what these words do is give full expression to the ugliness of sin, how damaging it is, the pain felt by those slandered and the legitimate penalty for their actions. This helps us to know that it is okay to cry our to God for justice and to express our pain. More than that, know that there is real justice available. We have just seen that the faithful believer will be vindicated for doing right. This means that unrepentant sinners will face judgement day. The Doctrine of Hell and eternal punishment has been much neglected in recent years and yet this doctrine points to God’s love and justice so that it is good news for those who are oppressed, slandered and persecuted. God is good and reigns with justice.
Secondly, it is always important to remember who is speaking in the Psalm. David is not just any plaintiff but rather he is the king of Israel, the anointed one. He is the one who foreshadows Christ. So the full horror of his enemy’s guilt is that the choose to attack God’s chosen and anointed one, the deliverer of his people. It is important to remember that false accusation is actually an attack on the anointed one. The sin is against Jesus, God’s Son. He is the true target. God’s love for his son means that he will deal justly with the Son’s enemies. Jesus is vindicated. This should remind us that Jesus himself has faced false accusation and knows what it means to be surrounded by accusers and mockers. It should also convict us because the Bible places each one of us among his false accusers. As Stuart Townend puts it in his song “How Deep the Father’s Love for us.”
“Ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers.”
Thirdly, because Jesus has done that, at Calvary he was not just falsely accused but unfairly punished and exposed to public shame. The Bible is clear that he did that for you and for me. It was my guilt and shame that he took on. It was your guilt and shame that he bore. Therefore, it was also the guilt and shame of those who seek to accuse and torment us. Just as you and I can know the joy of standing forgiven at the cross, so it is possible for those who slander believers today to know forgiveness. AS I pray the words of this Psalm calling for justice against my accusers I know that justice will happen and that justice happens either on judgement day or it has already happened at the cross of Christ.
David’s plea for himself (v21 – 31)
In the last part of the Psalm, David prays for himself and it is a cry for salvation. He is ina pitiful and desperate state and no doubt you will identify with that. He is “poor and needy” (v22), indeed his heart is stricken. His desperation leading to fasting has hit him physically and emotionally (v23 -26). Our prayer for God’s help is always a reminder of grace. It is God’s grace because we cry out recognising that only he can deliver. My knowledge of the law, my ability to reason, my cutting wit and ability to respond and argue back will not help me when falsely accused. I need God’s help.
Furthermore, we see that it is God’s grace because ultimately David’s plea is based not on his own righteousness, not on what he deserves. Rather he pleas for God to act for his own name’s sake (v21). It is because of Yahweh’s character, his steadfast love that David can trust in him and cry out to him (v21 and v26). Moreover, it is for God’s own glory that God should act.
“Let them know that this is your hand; you, O Lord, have done it!” (v 27).
David’s trust in God’s salvation means that even as he cries out in anguish, even at his lowest point he can praise and give thanks to God (v30-31).
I began by saying that sadly every believer is likely to face false accusation. That false accusation may come in the workplace, from friends and family, increasingly we are seeing Christians accused in public life. Sometimes you will have to face friendly fire as other believers turn on you and hurt you. I say “sadly” but there can even be joy in the midst of this. Satan’s aim is to harm and destroy but God uses even these low points for good as he gives us a greater glimpse of what Jesus did for us and teaches us to cling to Christ alone. So we can trust God knowing that trials are temporary and we can even pray for those who accuse and hurt us.