What is a Christian supposed to do when someone brings a false accusation against them? What can be done when justice seems distant? David faced just such a situation that prompted him to write this psalm. Cush, a Benjaminite, appears to have accused David of some unnamed injustice. This Cush appears nowhere else in the Bible. David certainly fought with Benjaminites many times, as Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin (2 Samuel 16:5; 20:1). Therefore, even if the specific situation occurs only here, it certainly accords with the general history of David.
This psalm appears to have four major sections. The first of these sections, Psalm 7:1-2, opens with a prayer for deliverance from this attacker. The Lord is the refuge of His people in every circumstance, and David relies on this in the midst of his trouble. Notably, he shifts from the plural in verse 1 to the singular in verse 2 (though some translations miss this). While he is generally persecuted, the immediate cause of his cry is a specific man. Christians should cry to God at all times, but above all when something is especially pressing!
A false accusation, such as David faced, is a violent one. He prays to be delivered from being pursued and captured, like an animal being chased by a lion. The imagery is intense: like a lion ripping and tearing apart an animal, so the soul suffering a false judgment! The wicked are not content until the righteous perish. There is also a connection here with the ultimate adversary Satan, who is compared to a roaring lion in 1 Peter 5:8. Like their father the devil, the wicked seek to devour. Christians ought to remember that as Satan will not rest, neither will the world rest in its attempt to destroy the righteous, even if the accusation is utterly false.
The second major section, Psalm 7:3-5, is a plea of innocence in the face of these accusations. David knows that the charges against him are baseless, and he is willing to base everything on his innocence. He invokes an oath as a testimony. If he is actually guilty, then may everything he fears actually happen. If he is guilty, may he be pursued and caught. If he has done it, then he deserves everything that the wicked threaten to do. Yet he is not guilty, and therefore lays his innocence before God.
This claim of innocence seems unusual, for who is righteous before God? But David does not claim an absolute righteousness when he makes his appeal to God. Blamelessness is not the same thing as sinlessness, though the two are frequently conflated. Paul, for example, is not setting up an impossible standard by requiring overseers to be above reproach and blameless (1 Timothy 3). It is the difference between a relative righteousness, in which no one can make a legitimate claim against you, and an absolute righteousness, which no man may justly claim. I can be innocent with regard to this accusation while still standing accused of sin before God. Therefore, David protests his relative innocence, because he is by no means guilty of the accusation at hand.
Christians may in fact just claim such innocence. Keeping yourself above reproach is not an impossible ideal. If the world brings a false accusation, then there is recourse. The Lord knows the hearts of men. He knows the truth of every situation. If justice seems far away, then justice will still come, and the righteous will be vindicated. We would do well to be sure that our cause is godly, of course. Calling God as judge when we are in fact guilty will not yield the desired outcome!
The third major section, Psalm 7:6-11, further shows this point. David calls on the Lord to arise in anger and judge his cause. Let the nations stand as witness before the court of the Lord! Let the Lord judge! He will see the truth of the matter, that David is in fact innocent. In fact, this appeal is only possible because of the righteousness of God. David can be relatively righteous only because the Lord God is absolutely righteous. God’s justice means that justice will prevail in all things. God’s holiness means that we also can be holy. David lays his case before God, because He knows that the Lord will judge rightly.
Psalm 7 also helps us understand imprecatory psalms in general. David is not vindictive, seeking the destruction of his enemies. He cries out, “Let the evil of the wicked now come to an end, and may you firmly establish the righteous, you who put to the test the heart and the kidneys [that is, the deepest parts of man], O righteous God!” It is their evil that is the problem. Further, David leaves the judgment to God. Only God can bring their evil to an end. Only God can establish the righteous. Only God knows the innermost parts of man. Only the righteous God can judge!
The final section of this psalm, Psalm 7:12-17, describes the final end of the wicked and the righteous. God Himself readies the judgment for the wicked, like a warrior sharpening a sword and stringing a bow. The battle looms near, because the Lord is getting ready to fight. The evil is likewise compared to childbirth. As a woman conceives and bears a child from within, so the evil of the wicked comes forth and bears fruit. “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts. All these things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21-23). Yet the Lord brings this evil back on the wicked. They fall into their own traps which they laid for the righteous. God’s justice is not limited to the final judgment. God frequently frustrates the plans of the wicked by giving them the due rewards of their deeds even in this life.
However, the righteous fare differently. Because they trust in God, they are able to sing praises to God who has delivered them. He keeps them safe from all the violence of their enemies. David here promises to give praises, since by the end of the Psalm he does not yet know the exact outcome of this situation. Will it go on, or will it come to an end suddenly? He cannot be entirely sure. But he is sure of one thing: God will give justice to His elect, and even when the accusations of the wicked ring hollow, the living God will vindicate His people.