I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourneth for his mother. But in mine adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together… (Psalms 35:14-15a)
If I were to give a name to the 35th Psalm, I would call it the psalm of the ungrateful. The title would not be given because David was ungrateful, for the psalms are replete with his praises and thanksgiving for the Lord’s wonderful works. Rather, I would look at the underlying issues depicted in the psalm. This is David’s plea for God to turn back his adversaries whom he once befriended but were ungrateful for his friendship. They were people he honestly cared for and prayed for, yet they turned on him and spread lies about him. I hardly think a more loyal and trustworthy friend than David could be found, but though receiving benefits from him they did not value his friendship.
I think you can see in this assessment a striking parallel to the ungratefulness of the Jewish people that turned their backs on the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus stated clearly that He came to save them. He demonstrated boundless love and compassion by expending Himself to the state of exhaustion as day after day He healed the helpless multitude. What was His reward? “They rewarded me evil for good to the spoiling of my soul” (v. 12).
With all the helping and healing, it was very difficult, in fact impossible, to find fault in Jesus. This was exceedingly frustrating for His enemies because when seeking charges against Him they could never find any legitimate accusations. What did they do? Just as David was lied against when they said he was against Saul, so Jesus was lied against when they said He was against God and the government. The psalm says: “False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things that I knew not” (v. 11).
At the time Jesus was taken to the cross, there were plenty in Israel that had been helped by Him. There were so many they could have easily overcome the mob that was against Him. But where were they? Were they thankful? We would scarcely believe they would come to His aid when His own disciples forsook Him and fled. Despite the constant rejection of Him by Israel’s leaders, Jesus still uttered words of compassion. He truly desired even His bitter enemies to repent and He would gather them to Him in loving forgiveness. Still there was no gratitude for His concern—only relentless attempts to murder Him.
This psalm is a lament against such ingratitude. However, it is also a plea for true justice. Those that refuse Christ’s friendship, who live for personal gain, who care little to thank Him for their very breath—this psalm heaps upon them their righteous reward.
We cannot help but think the same attitude prevails today. In a world that is strangely tolerant of every evil harmful to man, there is intolerance for what will do us the most good. We partake of the Lord’s benefits every day, but as the old proverb goes, we bite the hand that feeds us. The psalmist says: “Let them be ashamed and brought to confusion together that rejoice at mine hurt: let them be clothed with shame and dishonour that magnify themselves against me” (v. 26). God will not tolerate ingratitude indefinitely. The second advent of Christ will not end like the first. The ungrateful will meet their demise while the righteous grateful will magnify the Lord forever. Ingratitude is serious sin, so do not be party to it. Praise the Lord and give Him the thanks He deserves.
Pastor V. Mark Smith