On having enemies

LORD, lead me in Your righteousness,
because of my adversaries;
make Your way straight before me.
(Psalm 5:8 HCSB)

I really think the Psalms come alive when you read them with a Samuel L. Jackson accent – Particularly Psalm 5.

I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable with the idea of giving God a list of reasons why he should help us when we pray. Pulp FictionIt gets fairly well drummed in to us that we are saved by grace, sustained by grace, and we have nothing to offer God that isn’t automatically his by right.

We aren’t in a bargaining position.

David’s prayers don’t really sound like this. David is completely comfortable with giving God long lists of reasons for action.

Psalm 5 is full of great examples but verse 8 has got to be the most audacious.

“Lead me in your righteousness because of my adversaries.”

Are you struggling with prayer? Feeling that your prayers just bounce off the ceiling? that God doesn’t hear?
The tele-evangelists have got it all wrong, you don’t need more faith.
You need more enemies!

It’s an interesting strategy…

But David’s prayer isn’t just based on the fact that he has enemies. In fact, the whole Psalm is essentially a reminder to God of who God is, who David is, and who David’s enemies are.

God is good:

“For You are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil cannot lodge with You.
The boastful cannot stand in Your presence;
You hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who tell lies;
the Lord abhors a man of bloodshed and treachery.”
(Psa 5:4-6 HCSB)

There is a thorough going consistency to God’s actions – he is utterly reliable. And he hates all evildoers.
(incidentally, that doesn’t leave much room for ‘hate the sin and love the sinner’ does it?)

God has never given up on his good plans for creation. He has never had the failure of imagination that leads us to accept less than perfection in our world and our selves. God’s endless creativity and endless love of goodness means that he cannot tolerate evil.
Our willingness to do so continually makes us complicit with it.

Bathsheba BathBut David has the nerve to remind God that he hates all evil-doers, that God isn’t at home with evil.
This is the bloke who coveted his neighbour’s wife, lied, engaged in conspiracy to murder, and committed adultery. That’s four of the ten commandments right there. It certainly sounds like “bloodshed and treachery.”

Yet David can say:

“But I enter Your house by the abundance of Your faithful love;
I bow down toward Your holy temple in reverential awe of You.
Lord, lead me in Your righteousness,
because of my adversaries;
make Your way straight before me.”
(Psa 5:7-8 HCSB)

David, clearly a doer of some substantial evils, has entrance to God’s house.
He is not there on the basis of merit but because of God’s love for him. (This definitely presents a bit of a problem, how can God be just and justify the wicked? Isn’t God now complicit with evil? Stay tuned for the New Testament…)
David is God’s man.
Without disregarding his failure and sin, he remains someone who’s life, identity, future, and loyalty are all wrapped up with God. So much so that there is a total identification between God’s enemies and his.
David’s enemies are God’s enemies.
God’s enemies are David’s enemies.

Look at David’s description of these people:

“For there is nothing reliable in what they say;
destruction is within them;
their throat is an open grave;
they flatter with their tongues.
Punish them, God;
let them fall by their own schemes.
Drive them out because of their many crimes,
for they rebel against You.”
(Psa 5:9-10 HCSB)

David’s enemies are those who rebel against God.
It’s strong language. It probably makes you feel a little uncomfortable. (I wouldn’t be suprised if there is now a file on you, stored somewhere in an office in Canberra, flagging that you visit extremist websites…)

Would you be willing to say that your enemies are any and all who rebel against God?

We generally imbibe the cultural assumption that, ‘everyone ok with me as long as they don’t hurt anyone.’
We’re not real comfortable with the idea of having enemies. And we are very uncomfortable with the idea of having specfic enemies, particularly when that includes everyone who isn’t a Christian. That’s a lot of enemies…

But it really comes down to how firmly your interests are bound up with God’s.
If you have half a million dollars sitting in a superannuation fund, I imagine that you take a reasonable interest in the stock market. If something is preventing your Super Fund from getting you the best return, you get cranky.
How much have I got invested with God?

Cigarette ButtIs it enough to make God’s enemies your enemies?
Enough to make any opposition to God’s plans direct interference with your interests?

I get angry when I see people dropping cigarette butts. They show reckless disregard for our world, how angry should I be at someone who opposes the good plans of God to create a new heaven and a new earth?

We should have enemies.
If we don’t we haven’t really understood faith in God.

And if we don’t have enemies, these words don’t make any sense:

““You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt 5:43-45 HCSB)

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