“Destroy All Those Who Afflict My Soul” (Praying like David?)

I’ve mentioned before that the Book of Psalms is not my favorite portion of Scripture. Among other things, I find many of the psalms difficult to relate to—especially the rain down justice on my violent and oppressive enemies ones.

To begin with, I have been fortunate enough that no one has ever tried to assault or kill me. I don’t know what it’s like to be threatened that way. I can’t say I’m sure who should be counted among my enemies.

Meddling family members? Rude drivers? An annoying co-worker? The lady who darted in front of me in the express line with her 32 items?

Even during seasons when someone is being legitimately malicious toward me or my family, it’s in a whole different league than the sort of malice David dealt with.

There is a chance I could feel this way about my “enemies”:

Pay heed, you senseless among the people; And when will you understand, stupid ones?   Psalms 94:8

But so far I haven’t had any occasion to honestly feel this way:

Look upon my enemies, for they are many, And they hate me with violent hatred.   Psalms  25:19

My enemies speak evil against me, “When will he die, and his name perish?”  Psalms  41:5

When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies…   Psalms 27:2

I’m simply not a God-appointed-Hebrew-warrior-king in the 10th century BC. Just because someone is antagonistic toward me, doesn’t automatically make them the enemy of God. My enemies aren’t so clearly defined.

Besides, as a follower of Jesus, I know that my attitude toward those who would make themselves my enemies should be one of love and compassion. I have experienced God’s mercy, and I ought to desire that same experience for friend and foe alike.  I find it unlikely that dwelling on the violent downfall of my enemies would help me toward that goal.

Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t offer the following prayers in good conscience:

And in Your lovingkindness, cut off my enemies And destroy all those who afflict my soul, For I am Your servant.   Psalms 143:12

 …For You have smitten all my enemies on the cheek; You have shattered the teeth of the wicked.   Psalms 3:7

You will aim with Your bowstrings at their faces.   Psalms 21:12  [Yikes!]

Other than relating to general feelings of anger, frustration, and a desire for justice, I’ve never really known how I was supposed to connect with these kinds of passages. But just the other night, my husband shared a little insight with me that I think will help a lot.

I do have a very real, clearly defined enemy. He just isn’t human.

He hates me. He wants to destroy all that is good, precious, and beautiful. He stands for everything sick, vile, and corrupted. He is the enemy of God.

Aha!

In the “enemy psalms” I can find expression for my battle with Satan and his foul followers.

Consider these lines:

Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; Fight against those who fight against me. Take hold of buckler and shield. And rise up for my help. Draw also the spear and the battle-axe to meet those who pursue me; Say to my soul, “I am your salvation.” Let those be ashamed and dishonored who seek my life; Let those be turned back and humiliated who devise evil against me. Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them on. Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them. For without cause they hid their net for me; Without cause they dug a pit for my soul. Let destruction come upon him unawares, and let the net which he hid catch himself; Into that very destruction let him fall. And my soul shall rejoice in the LORD; It shall exult in His salvation. All my bones will say, “LORD, who is like You, Who delivers the afflicted from him who is too strong for him, And the afflicted and the needy from him who robs him?”   Psalm 35:1-10

I’m sure the psalmist had human enemies in mind, but doesn’t that sound an awful lot like the enemy of our souls?

If I remember who my enemy is and what he does, I don’t think I’ll have any more trouble praying along with the psalmist for triumph.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12




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7 thoughts on ““Destroy All Those Who Afflict My Soul” (Praying like David?)”

  1. Good thoughts. Maybe this is one way the New Testament re-interprets the Old. I am in a different place. I (feel) I do have an enemy. And, the struggle is not to be consumed by hatred for someone who is also a child of God (at least in some sense). The reminder that our true struggle is not against “flesh and blood” really helps.

    1. Indeed. My husband and I were just talking about this difficulty. Every one of our human enemies (who may be doing very wicked things) is either our brother/sister in Christ or a lost soul who needs to be won to Christ. Makes it very tricky to know how to respond.

      1. Standing firm and not jumping into our “enemie’s” scramble is a bold and loving act which can have a profound effect.

  2. At times, it seems as though I have the position of being a “God-appointed-Hebrew-warrior-king”
    (maybe not so much the Hebrew part). With the Armor of God on, righteous anger on one side of me, and bravery on the other side, fighting to protect my domain.

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