Reading: Psalm 109
Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy;
let an accuser stand at his right hand.
When he is tried, let him be found guilty,
and may his prayers condemn him.
May his days be few;
may another take his place of leadership.
May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.
May his children be wandering beggars;
may they be driven from their ruined homes.
May a creditor seize all he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.
May no one extend kindness to him
or take pity on his fatherless children.
May his descendants be cut off,
their names blotted out from the next generation.
May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD;
may the sin of his mother never be blotted out.
May their sins always remain before the LORD,
that he may blot out their name from the earth (NIV).
This portion of Psalm 109 contains fourteen mays of condemnation. After reading this long list of curses spoken against this unnamed individual, it becomes abundantly clear that David, the author of this psalm, was not affectionately inclined toward this man of treachery. This man, who earlier was identified as a friend, had turned against David. In the verse just prior to today’s reading, David laments, “They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship” (Psalm 109:5).
Psalm 109 is called an imprecatory psalm. The word imprecatory simply is a fancy term for cursing. I am sure many Christians are unaware that there is cursing in the Bible—cursing coming from the man who penned Psalm 23—the LORD is my shepherd.
Many find the imprecatory psalms deeply troubling. I include myself in that number. Does God condone calling down curses on our enemies? What about the words of Jesus? “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, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5:43-46).
I remain convinced that Jesus calls us to live on a higher plane—the plane where he dwells. This requires grace—more grace than I can muster.
Response: Father God, I need your help. I find it easy to lash out at those who have hurt me. When I want to go for the jugular help me reach out for the wisdom and compassion of Jesus instead. I want to be more like you, Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Is there a place for the imprecatory psalms in the Bible? What purpose might they serve?
Reading: Psalm 83
Do to them as you did to Midian,
as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon,
who perished at Endor and became like dung on the ground.
Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb,
all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,
who said, “Let us take possession of the pasturelands of God.”
Make them like tumbleweed, my God,
like chaff before the wind.
As fire consumes the forest
or a flame sets the mountains ablaze,
so pursue them with your tempest
and terrify them with your storm.
Cover their faces with shame, LORD,
so that they will seek your name.
May they ever be ashamed and dismayed;
may they perish in disgrace.
Let them know that you, whose name is the LORD—
that you alone are the Most High over all the earth (NIV).
Bible scholars believe the psalms that comprise the Book of Psalms were written over a period of about seven hundred years between 1000 BC and 300 BC. One of the challenges of writing something daily about the Psalms is discovering something personally relevant about each scripture portion. What could these ancient writings mean for me today? Is there something in there for me—something relevant for my walk with the LORD?
Today’s reading illustrates this point. The psalmist is calling for the destruction of Israel’s enemies who have invaded the land and brought death and devastation. In his appeal for God’s help, the psalmist recalls the great victories the LORD wrought in the past. He prays against Israel’s enemies, “Make them like tumbleweed, my God, like chaff before the wind.”
In our daily walk through life do we face enemies? Of course we do. Their names are not Sisera and Jabin or Oreb and Zeeb, but nevertheless we face enemies. They come with names like Discouragement and Depression or Complacency and Apathy. Occasionally, I run into Disappointment and Bitterness. Now those are two tough characters. If you let them take hold, they can pin you down and leave you defeated in no time.
The negative thoughts that we permit can devastate our lives as effectively as any marauding army. That’s why Asaph, the psalmist, calls on the wind of God’s Spirit to blow such enemies away. There is no value in chaff or tumbleweed. Similarly, some thoughts simply should have no place in our lives.
Response: LORD God, today I choose to think thoughts that lift me up and bring me closer to you. With your help I reject those thoughts that bring me down. Holy Spirit blow through my life. Amen.
Your Turn: What thoughts bring you down? What thoughts bring you joy and victory?
Reading: Psalm 83
A psalm of Asaph.
O God, do not remain silent;
do not turn a deaf ear,
do not stand aloof, O God.
See how your enemies growl,
how your foes rear their heads.
With cunning they conspire against your people;
they plot against those you cherish.
“Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation,
so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”
With one mind they plot together;
they form an alliance against you—
the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites,
of Moab and the Hagrites,
Byblos, Ammon and Amalek,
Philistia, with the people of Tyre.
Even Assyria has joined them
to reinforce Lot’s descendants (NIV).
Do you have enemies? Ancient Israel certainly did. Here in Psalm 83, Asaph lists ten traditional enemies of Israel. The psalmist clearly states the objective of these foreign powers. Their objective was the annihilation of Israel as a nation. “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”
Though they may not have a physical form, our enemies are real. The trap called pornography is real. The idolatrous nature of greed is real. The crippling effects of resentment and bitterness are real. These sins and the demonic forces that continually prompt us to disobey God are real. They are constantly working to annihilate our faith.
Our enemies growl and like cobras they rear their heads to strike. But in our hour of need, if we call out to God, He will not stand aloof. He will deliver us. Lord, teach us to pray. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Response: LORD God, we have a powerful opponent, but we have victory through your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I call on your awesome name. Give me victory over sin and the forces of evil that are out to destroy my life. My strength is in you. Amen.
Your Turn: Can you identify the sins and snares the enemy has set for you?
Reading: Psalm 60
For the director of music. To the tune of “The Lily of the Covenant.” A miktam of David. For teaching. When he fought Aram Naharaim and Aram Zobah, and when Joab returned and struck down twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt.
You have rejected us, God, and burst upon us;
you have been angry—now restore us!
You have shaken the land and torn it open;
mend its fractures, for it is quaking.
You have shown your people desperate times;
you have given us wine that makes us stagger.
But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner
to be unfurled against the bow.
Save us and help us with your right hand,
that those you love may be delivered.
God has spoken from his sanctuary:
“In triumph I will parcel out Shechem and measure off the Valley of Sukkoth.
Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet, Judah is my scepter.
Moab is my washbasin, on Edom I toss my sandal; over Philistia I shout in triumph.”
Who will bring me to the fortified city? Who will lead me to Edom?
Is it not you, God, you who have now rejected us
and no longer go out with our armies?
Give us aid against the enemy, for human help is worthless.
With God we will gain the victory,
and he will trample down our enemies (NIV).
David was Israel’s great warrior king. Through conquest he expanded and secured the nation’s territory against enemies who for generations had ravaged the land. His success as a warrior is fully reflected in the words of Psalm 60. Conquerors often boast of their accomplishments, but David does not take the credit for his victories. He attributes his success to God. He asserts, “With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.”
On a personal level, we too have enemies who ravage and sabotage the excellent plan God has for our lives. Many a Christian is fighting a personal war with lust and pornography, pride, greed and envy. These are enemies of the soul that rob us of spiritual vitality, leaving us bereft of the fruits of the Spirit. The battle is real. We are in desperate need of victory, but many lack even the will to fight. Over you God speaks from His sanctuary. Victory is available. Hear and believe these words: With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.
Response: LORD God, help me to put on the armor of God and voice the battle cry. You are my strength. Victory is mine in my personal battle through the all-powerful name of Jesus. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you identified the personal enemies of your soul? Have you taken up the battle cry?
Reading: Psalm 59
For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” Of David. A miktam. When Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him.
Deliver me from my enemies, O God;
be my fortress against those who are attacking me.
Deliver me from evildoers
and save me from those who are after my blood.
See how they lie in wait for me!
Fierce men conspire against me
for no offense or sin of mine, LORD.
I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me.
Arise to help me; look on my plight!
You, LORD God Almighty, you who are the God of Israel,
rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
show no mercy to wicked traitors.
They return at evening,
snarling like dogs, and prowl about the city.
See what they spew from their mouths—
the words from their lips are sharp as swords,
and they think, “Who can hear us?”
But you laugh at them, LORD; you scoff at all those nations.
You are my strength, I watch for you;
you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely (NIV).
The back story to Psalm 59 is an episode of high drama, betrayal and treachery. Despite winning several battles as a loyal warrior for King Saul, in a fit of jealous rage Saul attempted to kill David by pinning him to a wall with his spear. David fled to his home, but his wife, Michal warned him, “If you don’t run for your life tonight, tomorrow you’ll be killed” (1 Samuel 19:11).
David made good his escape, while Michal put an idol in his bed to deceive the men who were sent to kill David. Undoubtedly, this deception bought David some precious time as he fled. It is within this context that David makes this double plea for deliverance, “Deliver me from my enemies, O God; be my fortress against those who are attacking me. Deliver me from evildoers and save me from those who are after my blood.”
Saul’s murderous attack was demonically inspired. See 1 Samuel 19:9. Christian believers today should not assume they are immune from demonic attack. Peter gives us this warning, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Fortunately, we have a fortress. God is that secure fortress to whom we can flee in our time of need. Hallelujah!
Response: LORD God, when I am under attack, you are my help and defender. I run to you. Surround me and protect me by the blood of Christ. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you need the safety of God your fortress today?
Reading: Psalm 44
But now you have rejected and humbled us;
you no longer go out with our armies.
You made us retreat before the enemy,
and our adversaries have plundered us.
You gave us up to be devoured like sheep
and have scattered us among the nations.
You sold your people for a pittance,
gaining nothing from their sale.
You have made us a reproach to our neighbors,
the scorn and derision of those around us.
You have made us a byword among the nations;
the peoples shake their heads at us.
I live in disgrace all day long,
and my face is covered with shame
at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me,
because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge (NIV).
Psalm 44 begins on a very positive note as the psalmist recalls the goodness of the LORD and the great victories Israel has won because of the LORD’s help. But that was the past. This is now and the triumphs of bygone years are just fading memories. The current reality as described in this portion of the psalm is a depressing litany of disgrace, disaster and defeat.
But now you have rejected and humbled us; you no longer go out with our armies. You made us retreat before the enemy, and our adversaries have plundered us.
We can all pretend that after we turn our lives over to Christ everything will go well for us. Often it does. After all, isn’t He on our side? Isn’t He working on our behalf for our success? Why would He allow stress, trouble and hardship to come our way?
The truth is the LORD is far more interested in developing our character than our comfort. Character development doesn’t happen without adversity. James, our Lord’s brother has some sound advice on this topic.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).
I dislike adversity, but we should greet adversity as a friend—a friend that provokes us to prayer and to overcoming. Hard times push us into discovering God’s grace afresh.
Response: LORD God, help me to see the difficulties I face as stepping stones to victory. I know I need your help, so I call out to you. Change me through the hard times. You are my Savior and my God. Amen.
Your Turn: How has adversity helped to develop your character?
America, attack, Christian, David, enemies, forgiveness, forgving, Gaza, Holy Land, Israel, Jesus, peace, peacemakers, Philistines, retaliation, rockets, strength, turning the other cheek, war, weakness
Reading: Psalm 35
LORD, you have seen this; do not be silent.
Do not be far from me, Lord.
Awake, and rise to my defense!
Contend for me, my God and Lord.
Vindicate me in your righteousness, LORD my God;
do not let them gloat over me.
Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!”
or say, “We have swallowed him up” (NIV).
There’s an old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” That certainly is true of the conflict in the Holy Land. About 3,000 years ago, in David’s time the Kingdom of Israel was in a struggle for survival. Chief among its enemies were the Philistines along the Gaza coast. On the day when I originally wrote this post, Israel’s chief enemy Hamas was firing rockets into Israel from the Gaza coast.
David’s words from Psalm 35 have a present day resonance. LORD, you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. Many in present day Israel are praying this prayer with the fervour of those who are being attacked.
But the residents of Gaza could pray this prayer with equal fervour. Their homes and businesses are also under bombardment. Where is God in all this suffering? Whose side is He on? Many in the Christian community affirm with great confidence that God is on the side of Israel. Does that make God complicit in the deaths of innocent children in Gaza?
Jesus gave this counsel to his disciples, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:38-39). Present day Israel (and America for that matter) has a well-established policy of hard-hitting retaliation when attacked. What are the long term consequences of this policy? Is the conflict resolved or is it inflamed?
Jesus’ admonition to turn the other cheek goes unheeded. Most feel that turning the other cheek implies weakness. In reality it requires far more strength, but in the end it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness—not a righteousness that insists on its own way—but a righteousness that sees both sides of an issue and works hard for peace and reconciliation.
Jesus asks us to do the far harder thing. Retaliation is easy. It’s the natural response. Forgiving when we are wronged, that requires far more effort. Whose side is God on? He is on the side of peace. That’s something worth fighting for.
Response: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9). LORD God, help me to be a local peacemaker in my world today—someone who builds bridges between people and communities. Amen.
Your Turn: Forgiveness and turning the other cheek works on a personal level. Can it work on an international level as well?
Reading: Psalm 35
Contend, LORD, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me.
Take up shield and armor; arise and come to my aid.
Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me.
Say to me, “I am your salvation.”
May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame;
may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay.
May they be like chaff before the wind,
with the angel of the LORD driving them away;
may their path be dark and slippery,
with the angel of the LORD pursuing them (NIV).
David was a man acquainted with warfare. Throughout his life, Israel was in a prolonged struggle with its neighbours, even as it is today. From time to time this struggle would flare into open combat. Quite naturally in those times David would turn to the LORD in prayer. Psalm 35 is David’s call for help against his enemies—enemies that may be external or internal.
Who doesn’t want God on their side? The answer is obvious; we all want God’s help when we find ourselves in trouble. Therefore, David cries out: Contend, LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me.
But there are some questions we should ask ourselves before we enlist the LORD’s help. Am I being truthful? Is my cause just? Am I in the right? Do I know all the facts in this matter? Am I seeing this issue solely from a narrow personal perspective? Finally, we should ask ourselves if our heart is right. One can be totally right about a matter, but have a heart that is full of hate, bitterness, jealousy and anger.
God always stands on the side of truth and justice. He knows the full extent of a matter. He sees all sides, not just our perspective. We can’t fool Him or hide from His searching eyes. The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion (Psalm 11:5). Therefore, we need to come before Him humbly with hearts opened wide.
David asks this of the LORD: Say to me, “I am your salvation.”
The LORD will be our salvation—He is on our side—if our hearts are open and humble before Him. David’s confession in Psalm 51 confirms this truth. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise (Psalm 51:17). In other words, God is on our side when we move to His side in honest, humble contrition.
Response: LORD God, give me a humble heart that sees beyond my narrow interests. Help me to stand for righteousness, justice and truth. First, I want to align my heart and my spirit with you. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Your Turn: Has the LORD fought on your side? Did you need to get your heart right first?
Reading: Psalm 25
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Relieve the troubles of my heart
and free me from my anguish.
Look on my affliction and my distress
and take away all my sins.
See how numerous are my enemies
and how fiercely they hate me!
Guard my life and rescue me;
do not let me be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.
May integrity and uprightness protect me,
because my hope, LORD, is in you.
Deliver Israel, O God,
from all their troubles! (NIV)
David begins Psalm 25 on a note of confidence, but as this psalm draws to a close he truly bears his heart. David plaintively calls out to the LORD, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.”
The warrior king let’s his guard down and we see into his soul. There is a time for putting on a brave face, and there’s a time for open and transparent honesty. Here within the context of this psalm we see both; David the brave heart and David the lonely heart. Earlier in this psalm David showed absolute confidence in his God, but now he pours out his soul in humble petition. Hear the cry of his heart, “Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish. Look on my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins.”
David recognized his greatest need. David’s greatest need was forgiveness. That’s our greatest need too. We need the peace of mind that forgiveness brings.
David was surrounded by mortal enemies, but then so are we. The legions of hell are arrayed against the Christian believer. At this moment worldly philosophies and demonic forces are conspiring to destroy your home, your marriage and your life. Along with David we pray, “See how numerous are my enemies and how fiercely they hate me! Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.”
Our hope must always be centered in the LORD. Integrity and uprightness form a wall of protection around the people of God. But our deliverance comes from the LORD. Along with David we affirm, “No one who hopes in you [LORD] will ever be put to shame.”
Response: Lord Jesus, help me to be open and transparent before you. Take away all my sins. My hope is in you. Protect me the attacks of the enemy. Deliver me from all my troubles. Amen.
Your Turn: How much do you need God? Do you need His forgiveness?