We recognize that there is something powerful in the utterance of words. Thoughts may influence us greatly, but speaking them into existence makes them somehow more – well, real.
The drill sergeant, with the goal of getting a green recruit to recognize his dependence on the group, doesn’t merely want to know the recruit’s beliefs, but demands “Let me hear you say it, private!”
Parents who want reconciliation between siblings aren’t satisfied with a penitent heart, but insist that the offending one “tell your brother how you feel.”
And the frustrated girl dealing with her reticent romantic interest doesn’t want to know he loves her, but longs for the day he actually says it.
In Psalm 35, David reflects this same idea when in the midst of an otherwise imprecatory litany he makes a request of God that he “Say to my soul, ‘I am your salvation!’” (35:3b). Two things occupy David’s mind about God: 1) a fact, 2) a proclamation.
David faced myriad problems: men sought his life, devised evil against him, laid traps for him, bore false witness, rejoiced over his calamity. All of this resulted from the animosity of God’s anointed, King Saul, and the mere fact that David had been called of God to replace Saul. David had a calling and ministry that others resented and didn’t understand.
But against these David seeks the Lord’s aid, and though he suggested that God fight with shield and buckler, with spear and javelin (vv. 1-2), his true request was otherwise: that they be put to shame, disappointed, caught with their own snares, and that David’s cause be vindicated…in other words, that they fail in their attempts against him.
In this midst of all this David seeks assurance. He knows he cannot trust the might of his own armies, or the cleverness of his schemes, or the brilliance of his defenses, but can only draw confidence from the fact that God is his salvation. This Fact further demonstrates that it is not what God does to alleviate David’s temporal circumstances that make him his salvation, but simply – and profoundly – who he is.
But David isn’t satisfied with the Fact: he wants Proclamation. Perhaps sensing the reality of his nature and that he, like us, needs the Gospel preached to him daily, insists that God declare again to him the Fact: I am your salvation! Like the one who longs to hear his master say “Well done, good and faithful servant,” David knows that unless he heard Proclamation of the Fact from God, he would tend to look elsewhere for sources of salvation, or relief, or solution.
Some of us have never heard God say “I am your salvation!” because we remain in our sin. Some of us don’t want to hear it, because we prefer to look elsewhere for salvation. David reminds us that we need both fact and proclamation.