Poetic justice: an outcome in which vice is punished and virtue rewarded usually in a manner peculiarly or ironically appropriate (Merriam-Webster Collegiate). Commonly found in literature and film as well as real life, something everyone can appreciate. The evil bomb-maker blown up by his own device; Haman hanged on his own gallows; Wile E. Coyote’s traps and devices catching the Coyote rather than Road Runner; even the expression “serves you right”. We want to celebrate the outcome: recognize both the justice of it and the particular fitness of the method by which it was achieved.
Really shouldn’t be surprised when it works out that way for perpetrator of evil; after all, God said that’s how he would operate.
Rom. 8:28And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Think it through – if all things work out for good for God’s people, how do they work out for God’s enemies / their enemies? And how does God use intended evil to achieve his purpose? This psalm gives indication of the ways God moves on behalf of his people. We’re taught how to plead with God for help, the identity of both persecutor and Protector, and encouraged to properly respond with praise.
A. petition v.1-2
hear me (1a)
not necessarily a prayer well-thought out before it was prayed; here’s the situation, the problem, the need
during prayer, meditation, begin to see more from God’s perspective, at least hints of how he might work it out
all begins with plea to God for an attentive audience – you have a few minutes? got something on my mind
too often God is a neglected conversation partner – talk to self or spouse or friend to sort something out
preserve me (1b)
from paralyzing, demoralizing fear – dread, terror that interferes with normal daily life and activities
yes, Christian does have serious Protector, more on that later; but,… have serious and dangerous enemies
more apt to think about danger in other countries: Iraq, Syria, Egypt, North Korea, Sudan; risk present for Christians everywhere
1 Pet. 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
focus on danger, become preoccupied with that, avoiding harm, will be ineffective as ambassadors for Christ – Satan wins
God won’t make us superheroes, invincible to attack; will make us strong under his protection, able to do his will
hide me (2)
prevent the wicked from being successful in their attempts to harm
cloaking devices or their equivalent not anything new:
pillar of fire/pillar of cloud between Egyptian army and Israelites at Red Sea
Elisha, Syrian army, blind to angelic host, then further blinded
Peter, chained to 2 soldiers, in prison guarded by more soldiers, walked free (Ac. 12:6-11)
numerous anecdotes from such as WWII, mission field, etc.
God can hide his children in plain sight from enemies when it suits his purpose
B. persecutors v.3-6
remember the old line from the playground – sticks and stones may hurt my bones but names will never hurt me
it isn’t true; in fact, words can be more hurtful, do far more lasting damage than any physical injury
“Because of the sword’s capacity to inflict wounds, it is used to symbolize anything that causes harm and injury to people. The psalmist says of his enemies that their “tongues are sharp swords” (Ps 57:4 NIV), and the writer of Proverbs observes, “Rash words are like sword thrusts” (Prov 12:18 NRSV). A false witness is like a sword because of the damage this person can do (Prov 25:18).” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery
In contrast to most other weapons, the arrow strikes from afar. While one may defend against many other weapons, the arrow strikes suddenly (Ps 64:7), so swiftly that time stands still (Hab 3:11). The bowman may let his arrow fly from ambush (Jer 9:8). The arrow may wound randomly (1 Kings 22:34). These qualities-long range, lightning quick, unseen, perhaps even random-made the bow and arrow …a weapon to be feared. Ibid
primary issue prayed about in this Psalm – verbal assault or trap (3-4)
arrows, darts that come out of nowhere, for no apparent reason, cause hurt and perhaps harm
sometimes the assailant can be identified, other times not so much
most vulnerable – young people
statistics about what happens to “Christian” kids who go off to college – 2 out of 3 or more lose their faith
point here isn’t how many of those kids were genuine converts, how many simply professed Christ because was the church thing to do
point is the weapon was words: that found weak places in armor, intended to cause doubt, were successful; challenge, ridicule, sarcasm, appeals to pride, persuasion, all words that turn Christian kids into atheists
don’t miss this: inside all the hype and statistics, there is genuine problem, real danger, our kids are at great risk
second-most vulnerable – Christians with shallow roots
“In 2004, just 36 percent of Catholics, the Christian sect most supportive of gay marriage, favored it, along with 34 percent of mainline Protestants; today, it’s 57 percent of Catholics and 55 percent of mainline Protestants. Even among white evangelical Protestants, the most hostile group to gay marriage, support has more than doubled, from 11 percent in 2004 to 24 percent in 2013.” The Atlantic
whether you believe statistics or not, acceptance (at least outward) has increased in last 10 years; only weapon was words
ones who wield the weapons of harmful words are excessively arrogant (5-6)
believe their own position is absolutely impregnable, that they have nothing to fear from anyone
depth of their ability to plot and devise and scheme is beyond our imagination; why? think of whose agent they are
C. Protector v.7-9
don’t forget, the one to whom you pray is a Warrior, too; he has all manner of weapons at his disposal
important, also, to note: there’s a confidence expressed here, v.7, that was absent in beginning
God never misses his target, whatever his purpose; he never says “oops, sorry” (7)
he accurately targets the elect for conversion, the enemy for destruction, at least of their plans
God’s arrow strikes without warning, with penetrating effect, is not necessarily traceable by the wicked
profound blindness – inherited original sin plus willful, personal sin – often prevents wicked from correctly identifying who injured/frustrated their plans
many times unjustly blame the righteous one who is their target, even when know it is impossible
God turns arrows of the wicked against them – hoist with their own petard, bomb maker blown up with own bomb (8)
slanders and innuendo and gossip ends up discrediting the perpetrator instead of the target
story told: fellow broke into glue factory, stole several containers; stopped on way out to sniff, passed out/fell down/glued himself to floor
often God brings about downfall of wicked in such a way that it is obvious HE did it (9)
“Such amazing acts of providence are so clearly the doing of God and are withal so instructive that they can hardly fail to impress their lessons on men so as to bring them to consideration, and to wisdom.” Plumer
God’s overall purpose is to be glorified – why shouldn’t that happen with regard to the wicked in this life as well as the righteous?
D. praise v.10
just thinking about how God has worked this way in the past, whether personal or not, sufficient cause for praise
God can be trusted to do the right thing in all circumstances
we don’t need to be anxious about danger from the wicked – it’s all in God’s hands
also don’t need to worry how the wicked will get what they deserve – it will be true justice, whether poetic or not
add one more “think about it” – Rom. 12:19-21
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
if God takes the evil men attempt to do and uses it for good of his own, part of that process is probably seen in v.8 – evil effect felt by evil-doers
now, what about the good we do to evil-doers? what does God do with that? seems from Paul’s context in Rom. 12 that it’s a component part of how God repays their evil
even in circumstances where appears we are powerless to deal with evil/evil-doers, our doing good to them is one of means God uses to bring about justice, also glory to himself
another cause for giving praise and thanksgiving to God for his goodness, his greatness
Culture around us would love it if Christians just disappeared; we get in the way of so much for them – their pursuit of pleasure at any cost, satisfying self regardless of who gets hurt in process. Can’t go hide behind walls of the fort and please God, though. We are to be city set on a hill, visible for miles around.
Another image Jesus uses for how Christians are to live is salt. Told someone just a few days ago: salt that stays in the shaker isn’t worth much. In order to be useful, salt must come into direct contact with something else: food to flavor or preserve it, ice to melt it, steel to rust it. Same for Christians – serving God means coming into contact with unsavory people and situations, making them more pleasant and flavorful by our presence and influence. We can do that without being fearful of our enemies because Christ is indeed King.