Deal with My Enemies

Psalm 35

Imprecatory psalm – prayer for judgment on evildoers. No specific circumstances identified, only authorship. While can apply to variety of situations, lack of specifics means we must be diligent to interpret and apply correctly.

We’re quick to pray for help, deliverance, Christ to build his church; how do we expect God to do that? At what cost to his enemies and opposers of his purpose? Surgical strikes? Force field? Cone of silence (that works)? Bloodless coup? Do we even consider the how? OT pretty graphic, giving details of ways God helped, delivered his people, furthered his church in wilderness. NT not so much, but it’s in there: Ananias & Sapphira (Acts 5:5, 10); Herod (Acts 12:23-24); and Revelation.

Keep in mind: talking about enemies of God acting like enemies of God. Not simply fallen people doing stupid stuff. God’s enemies can’t get at God, have to direct their evil actions against God’s people. Ultimately it’s spiritual warfare, sinful human agents incited by Satan and their own nature to actively oppose God. Kind of situation that would make this sort of prayer necessary/justified has not been common for much of history here in USA. Much more prominent in non-Christian and anti-Christian countries: Russia, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, to name a few. Could be changing for us, though, given recent trends.

Also keep in mind: one who prays this psalm not asking for permission to get revenge. Not asking for pass to go beat ’em up personally. Are asking for God to act like God – it’s God’s place to carry out vengeance (Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:19). He already has, and he will – in history, at the Cross, in eternity. No conflict here between OT and NT, between this sort of prayer and injunction to “love your enemies”. Prayer/psalm addresses how God acts toward enemies, Matt. 5:44 how we are to act toward our enemies.

Furthermore, one who prays this has duty and delight to submit to God’s sovereign purpose with thankful praise – praise when delivered from enemies, praise when strengthened to resist enemies, acknowledgment that God’s ways are beyond us. May suit his purpose to convert an enemy into a child – that should definitely cause rejoicing.

A. plea – I don’t deserve this v.1-10 (7)

I need help

(1) take my side – be my advocate – fight my fight: language of courtroom, implication is that charges are unjust; tone of desperation, perhaps no “friendly” witnesses, no one to defend. Graphic illustration in spiritual arena – Joshua, high priest, Zech. 3:1-5; also Rom. 8:33-34

(2) go to war to defend me – use whatever resources are necessary; not that God needs small & large shields

(3) this is serious – first of 7 uses of nephesh (soul) 3, 4, 7, 9, 12, 13, 17; not always translated directly. Significant here because of number of uses – 7x; emphasizes sense that more at stake than simply physical well-being, perhaps more than even physical life.

3. …say to my soul, “I am your deliverance.”

4. Let them be frustrated and put to shame, those who seek my soul {life};

7. …without reason they shamelessly dug [a pit] for my soul {life}.

9. Then my soul shall exult in the LORD,

12. They repay me harm for good—my soul’s bereavement.

13. …my soul {myself} kept a fast, my prayer resting on my bosom;

17. …Rescue my soul {me} from their calamity,

You deal with the wicked

(4) they want me dead, or at least seriously harmed – not talking about random act, it’s result of thought and effort

(5-6) bring in the “big guns” – turn up the heat, increase opposition to their evil designs; such harsh consequences justified when wicked persist in wickedness, become more determined to do evil in response to God’s restraining of their actions

“A slippery way, a dark night and a swift and mighty destroyer in pursuit are theterrible images presented in the verse.” Plumer

(8) bring their plot on their own head – when they least expect it, plan backfires; trap they set for the righteous becomes their own ruin.

Esther 7:9-10 “Indeed, there is the gallows that Haman made for Mordecai, who spoke out in the king’s behalf. It stands near Haman’s home and is seventy-five feet high.” The king said, “Hang him on it!” So they hanged Haman on the very gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. NET

without cause

(7) I’ve given no cause for this treatment – done nothing to provoke them, to injure them; cannot be considered retaliation, counts as pure malice – because of who he is or what he represents, in this case a servant of God

B. protest – I’ve done my best v.11-18 (13-14)

(11) I am honest, they aren’t

fierce, malicious accusers; attempt to coerce a confession of a crime not committed, unjust self-incrimination achieved by putting spin on either circumstantial or fabricated evidence. All the while, accusers know the truth, know the innocence of the accused.

(12) I do good to them, they return evil

made even harder to take since good done came from genuine spirit/feeling of good will, desire to be of help and encouragement. Instead of gracious reception, they try to take even greater advantage

(15-16) they just won’t let up, took pleasure in my misfortune

had benefited from kindness, benevolence, would be in order to “return the favor”; instead turn God’s order on its head – return evil for good instead of good for evil (Rom. 12:21), rejoice in misfortune instead of blessing on others (Rom. 12:15)

(14) I demonstrated increasing love: friend –> brother –> mother; can’t do any more

treated enemies as though they were friends or even brothers; expressed genuine sorrow over their misfortune as deep as if were own mother in trouble. No greater expression / demonstration of compassion and empathy possible. Still, they persist in persecuting…..

C. prayer – they’re “over the top” v.19-28 (20)

v.19 – applied by Jesus to self: John 15:25

(19) enemies for no reason

animosity expressed and practiced is both unjust and baseless; may they not have cause to rejoice

(20) have no intention of pursuing peace – refuse to even talk about it

perjury, false accusation (11), malice (15), vicious attacks (17) the ongoing character of their speech in spite of attempts to live at peace; have no desire for peace, making no attempt at peace – have not, are not, will not – with those who want to live and let live

(20-21) continually plot treachery

planning ways to deceive and ensnare the unwitting, clapping with joy when treachery succeeds

(23-24) I’m righteous, they’re increasingly outrageously evil

the cause of the righteous is a just one; not talking about an event but a habit of life, a trend: upward / downward

(25-26) don’t let them have the last word

more at stake than outcome for one individual; has consequences in cosmic contest between good and evil. If good prevails in ultimate sense, should prevail in this circumstance too. Is there any hope (confidence) that will be so?

D. praise v.9-10, 18, 27-28

each section concludes with praise; on what basis?

God will deliver – I meet the qualifications

poor and needy – “God resists the proud…” James 4:6

waiting expectantly, ready to praise God for his deliverance: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me…” (Psa. 103:1)

God must deliver – I’m out of resources

soul is in danger – “rescue my soul…” (17) God is committed to delivering those who cannot deliver themselves when they recognize need and cry out to him.

when you get to end of rope, discover there’s not enough for a knot – God is ready to catch when you fall

God delights to deliver

it brings glory to God

it is good for his servant

Reaches highest epitome in Lord Jesus – experienced all described here, absolutely unjustly. While he was the object of persecution by enemies, he was victorious over greatest enemy of all: sin & Satan.

In Deerfield Beach, FL, a local atheist has erected an 8-foot-tall “Festivus” pole with beer cans just six feet away from the manger, the Christian Post reports. “It’s just 23 beer cans stacked eight feet high conveniently located six feet from Baby Jesus,” the Sun Sentinel quoted atheist activist and blogger Chaz Stevens as saying. “Think of how many people have died over the years to give us our freedoms. So I’ve got to push back a little.”

John Milton didn’t see need to push back a little! Instead, wrote closing hymn of praise in 1623, at age 15. Causes for praise Milton stressed are valid regardless of our circumstances; may God’s praise be ever on our lips, even when praying that God will act like God toward his enemies.

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