Defend the Ones You Love!
Lord God, You are my maker and redeemer. I bow before You and Your holy Word in humble adoration.
Read Psalm 35:1-28
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“Truth always has a way of clashing with the status quo, with the vested patterns of sinful behavior in which even religious people get stuck” (James C. Howell).
The first three verses of this psalm, and then vs. 22-25, are an appeal to the Lord to draw swords for the psalmist against his enemies. In between, we hear what the psalmist wants for his enemies (4-8), how glad he will feel when they get it (9,10), and the wrong they have done him (11-21). Then the whole psalm is summed up in two prayers and a promise: a prayer against his enemies (26) and for his friends (27), and a promise of praise if the Lord will draw that sword (28).
What are we to make of this violent psalm? Some would argue that such language is incompatible with love for our enemies as commanded by Jesus (See Matt. 5:43-48). How can we love our enemies and pray for the Lord to strike them down at the same time? Jesus tells us to pray for them, not against them. It would be easy to say that we’ve been led beyond such language by Jesus until, that is, we notice that Jesus applies v. 19 to his own earthly experience.
Jesus talks about the world “hating” him (John 15:24), and says, “This is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason’” (John 15:25, quoting Psa. 35:19 or the very similar Psa. 69:4). Facing the horror of the cross, the rage of his enemies, and the hatred of his tormentors, Jesus recalls this psalm and says that it is “fulfilled” in his experience. Yes, it is perfectly okay to long for God to save us from injustice and to pray for our enemies to be confounded–but notice that the psalmist isn’t grabbing his own sword or plotting back. Like Jesus, he is leaving his vindication to God, and reaching for prayer, in honesty and trust.
Do you find it easier to be indignant on behalf of others, than for yourself? Why? Reflect on the injustice that angers you, and turn it to prayer.
Merciful Lord, I pray to be able to release my relational issues to You instead of holding on to them tightly. Bless those who hurt me.
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