Arguably the most famous parable Jesus told was prompted by the question, “Who is my neighbor?” For the psalms, the question seems to be, “Who is my enemy?”
Many of the Psalms have Davidic provenance, either given in the titles or superscriptions to the Psalms (which are inspired and inerrant as much as the verses themselves; the Hebrew text has them as verse 1, so don’t skip them) or by New Testament interpretation (Peter says David wrote Psalm 2, but there’s no author given for Psalm 2).
We know that David had real, flesh-and-blood enemies: Saul had lost his mind and wanted David dead, the Amalekites and Philistines were a constant international threat, and the jealous Benjamites were a regular source of skulduggery (see Psalm 7). When David prays in Psalm 13, for example,
Consider me and answer, LORD my God…My enemy will say, ‘I have triumphed over him,’ and my foes will rejoice because I am shaken” (13:3, 6 HCSB).
it’s easier to narrow down who isn’t an enemy of David.
For the majority of Christians in the world today, it isn’t hard for them to identify enemies, either. It may be ISIS marking your house with the Arabic nun to identify you as one of the Nasara—one of the Nazarenes—or it might be a despotic government outlawing the Way.
For American Christians, it’s not as easy to identify enemies. If you’re a jerk, you’ve probably made some by being yourself (raises hand as guilty); the reality, however, is that the only danger typically faced is one of embarrassment or faux pas rather than literal life-and-death. Does that mean we don’t have Davidic enemies? Are we one (or more) steps removed from the Psalms because we don’t have ready answers to “Who is my enemy?”
Death is our enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26).
The Devil is our adversary (1 Peter 5:8).
Demons are our enemies (Ephesians 6:11).
Deceitful sin is our enemy (Romans 8:12-13, Hebrews 3:13).
For all the saints, regardless where or when we live, these are enemies of us all. The Psalms become immediately relevant to us all, even in America when read in light of these enemies.
We pray for deliverance and judgment and destruction upon our enemies because we deeply and rightly hate them. We hate death. We hate the Devil and what he does to our brothers and sisters. We hate the forces of darkness that spawn so much evil in this world. We hate the reality of yet-indwelling sin that deceives us and leads us astray. We long for the new heavens and the new earth in which righteousness dwells.
So we pray against our enemies with the same confidence in deliverance that David had:
But I have trusted in Your faithful love;
my heart will rejoice in Your deliverance.
I will sing to the LORD
because He has treated me generously (Psalm 13:5-6 HCSB).