Save me from my enemies?

Psalm 3 English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

Lord, how many are my foes!
    Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
    there is no salvation for him in God. Selah
But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
    my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
I lay down and slept;
    I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
    who have set themselves against me all round.
Arise, O Lord!
    Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
    you break the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the Lord;
    your blessing be on your people! Selah

David was going through a rough time. His own son sought to depose him from the throne and even murder him. That cannot be easy.  Understandably, even admirably, he cries out to God for salvation from his enemies.

But how many Christians, in the West at least, would say that they have “enemies”? Should Christians even have enemies?

Given that this comes up in the Psalms pretty often I thought should probably think it through otherwise I’m going to have these questions assaulting me every morning.

So here are a few enemies that every Christian will encounter in their sojourn through this life.

Enemy 1: The World

The “world” is the word used by the Bible to describe humanity in its rebellion against God. It is the current of human culture moving away from God toward all kinds of evil. It is hard to swim against the current all the time. Sometimes we may experience this in general ways. For example, we may struggle against temptation to indulge in pornography or to believe that science is more trustworthy than God’s Word. Sometimes the enemy of the world takes a more personal form: a work colleague who openly ridicules your faith; a friend who begins to hate you because you cannot condone their actions; an extremist who threatens you and your family because you are a Christian; a senseless act of crime that leaves you reeling in shock.

Enemy 2: Your Sinful Nature

The ever-present enemy for Christians is the enemy within. Our own sinful nature is what makes the world tempting to us in the first place. But it doesn’t leave us alone when we come home from work or switch off the computer. It is an incessant urging within us to disobey God and act selfishly.

Enemy 3: The Devil

Satan and demons are still a reality in our world. I know it seems silly to believe in that these days but if we begin to buy into that then we are in real trouble. The devil is real and so is the threat he presents to health of Christians. True, he will not triumph in the end. True, he is under God’s authority even now. But he is still a prowling lion ready to devour.

Enemy 4: Other Christians

What struck me about this Psalm is that the enemy in David’s mind was not worldliness, or Satan or even his own sin. Rather His enemy was his son Absalom, who was his own family and even his own faith. To use the contemporary equivalent, Absalom went to church with David.

The influence of the world, the sinful nature and the devil on Christians means that from time to time we will be opposed in our lives and faith by other believers. It may be because they are not truly born again. It may be that they are true Christians behaving sinfully. Most of the time, these are the enemies that hurt us most.

And yes, it means that you and I are not immune to the possibility of being the enemy either.

Cry Out to God for Salvation

If you’re a little overwhelmed at the prospect of all of these foes then hopefully you will also see how wonderfully relevant this prayer is to all of us. The only one who can save us from these enemies is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God’s sustaining power and protection alone can give us peace in the face of those who oppose us and seek to harm us. This is especially true for believers living on this side of the cross because we have seen God’s triumph over his enemies through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Salvation, from beginning to end, belongs to the Lord. Cry out to Him.

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When we shake our fists at God

Psalm 2 English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

2 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
7 I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

What fascinates me about those who claim to be atheists is how much anger they have toward God. Most recently, this has been demonstrated by British celebrity Stephen Fry here, but perhaps more famously by Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchins. It fascinates me because anger toward God is not the emotion that I expect from someone who says that there is no God. I can understand apathy, or even ridicule, but not anger. I think this Psalm provides an explanation as to why it is that there are so many angry atheists in the world: the real motivator behind claims of disbelief is not science or intellect or morality but rebellion. The real reason for unbelief and disobedience is treason against the Creator.

This applies as much to the Christian as to the atheist. What grieves me most is that despite my conviction that Jesus is the rightful King of all creation, there still exists a part of me that would see His throne toppled and my own established in its place. This desire triumphs every time I choose to disobey his Word. Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

We need to recognise the rightful rule of the Creator over our lives. To do this we need to give allegiance to the King he has appointed: Jesus Christ. God has established the rule of His Son and no amount of fist-shaking can do anything about that. Yet to all who do fear Him, who do submit to Him he is also a refuge. The same King who lovingly rules over us, also forgives us our treasonous acts and offers us grace and mercy.

O God, help me to see the futility and arrogance of my rebellion against you. Help me surrender all to the service of King Jesus. Help me to know that my treason is forgiven in His name.

Who are you listening to?

Psalm 1 English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

The frightening thing about this psalm is that there are only two options.

I live my life under the influence of either righteousness or wickedness. Righteousness comes through meditating on God’s Word. Wickedness, through listening to those who oppose God’s will.

It’s been pointed out to me that there is a progression in verse 1. The one who is influenced by the world begins by walking, then standing and then sitting as if he has been slowly persuaded that this is something that is worth his while. It conjures an image in my mind that goes something like this:

A man goes on a journey through life. On his journey he is joined by various voices. At first he is hesitant but politely smiles and nods as the words wash over him. At some point however, something that the voice says catches his attention. The speaker’s words hold the promise of something that he cannot ignore. So he stops and turns to face the voice and to give it more of his attention. He has not yet committed to the ideas but is interested to hear more and, as the conversation continues, the voice promises to give him everything he wishes for: happiness, pleasure, success, popularity and wealth. He and the voice take their seats and begin to plot a new course for their lives. The traveller has bought into all that has been said to him and his sojourn has ended.

Surely the warning is that in my walk with the Lord I constantly face the same danger. I wonder how many believers have drifted away from the Lord because they began to flirt with sin, which lead to engaging with sin, which lead to immersion in sin. I wonder how many now are walking or standing or sitting in sin. Even more importantly for me however, is to honestly consider in what ways I, not others, stand or walk or sit with the counsel of the wicked. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take me very long to see how easy it is for the world to gain my attention.

Fortunately, I am also encouraged by this passage. Here are three encouragements that I offer to you as fellow sojourners who may be getting weary in the battle against sin.

First, we need to meditate on the teaching of the Bible. The solution is not so much that I need to stop listening to the world but that I need to start listening to God. It is not good enough to pull out the weeds, we also need to plant flowers (or so my father-in-law keeps telling me!). It is the same with our walk with God. We need to sow God’s Word deeply and regularly into our hearts and minds so that it begins to produce fruit.

Secondly, we need to remember the end. No matter how hard the Christian life, or tempting the ways of those who reject God, we should always keep the final destiny of all people in mind. One day you and I will stand before God. Ultimately those who reject God and embrace sin will perish but His people will live in His kingdom forever.

Lastly, we need to remember Jesus. The reality is that we will constantly wax and wane in our walk with God. We will too often flirt with the counsel of the world. We will too often neglect God’s Word. At times this may cause us to lose heart and despair. It is at these times that it becomes especially important to fix our eyes on Jesus who is the author and the finisher of our faith, the atonement for our sin, our Lord and perfect example, and the promise of our reward.

Who are you listening to?