They return at evening,
snarling like dogs,
and prowl about the city.

15 They wander about for food
and howl if not satisfied.

16 But I will sing of your strength,
in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
my refuge in times of trouble.

17 O my Strength, I sing praise to you;
you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God. (Ps 59:14-17 niv)

V. 14 is a refrain that crops up twice during Psalm 59. The psalm is a prayer of David for deliverance from the wicked. He even boldly prays that his enemies not be merely killed, but that they may live and serve as an example and warning for his people. That’s the kind of wisdom that governs nations.

Who are the dogs? “Outside [the heavenly Jerusalem] are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Rev 22:15). They are those who make their living by being crueler, more cunning, more crafty, more ruthless than the next guy. They defraud, lie, cheat, and steal, and then justify it with boldfaced impudence. They answer to no one but themselves and they defy God’s clear Word in arrogance and self-condemnation. They are those who surrounded the cross and mocked Him as He poured out His blood for them:

“Dogs have surrounded me;
a band of evil men has encircled me,
they have pierced my hands and my feet. (Ps 22:16)

I am not strong enough, cunning enough, or smart enough to handle the dogs on my own. I cannot beat them at their own game. I lack the animal instinct to sniff out and exploit weakness. I do not see the openings they see until it’s too late. I cannot compete with them or keep myself safe in battle against them.

Yet they are not as strong, powerful, or impressive as they seem. They’re like a pack of stray dogs that wanders around, unable to fill their bellies. They never cease from their endless pursuit of mindless pleasure and pointless gain. They’re forced to roam about because they are enslaved to their cravings. Ceaselessly they wander around, never finding what they want the most. Their words and thoughts never rise about the meaningless snarls and yelps of stray dogs.

What a contrast for the child of God! I have been enlightened by God’s Spirit, washed, cleansed, and sanctified through the work of His Son, given all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ. There is dignity, and freedom, and joy, and security, for those who call on the name of the Lord. God’s strength fights my battles and preserves me in the face of constant danger. God’s love makes me into a dearly loved child, instead of a gaunt, hungry dog. He feeds me with His own body and blood, and assures me that nothing will separate me from His love.

There’s quite a few contrasts in these few verses: many dogs vs. one child of God, their meaningless snarling and howling vs. his purposeful, joyful singing and praising, dogs wandering the streets of the city vs. God being a refuge and fortress for His own. The dogs return in the evening and prowl all night, looking for what they need, while I can rise in the morning, joyful and content to sing of God’s strong love.

God is my refuge, and He keeps me safe. “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (II tim 4:18).

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