Of Cheeks and Teeth

Psalm 3 
A Psalm of David, when he fled from his son Absalom.

O Lord, how many are my foes!
    Many are rising against me;
many are saying to me,
    “There is no help for you in God.”                      Selah

But you, O Lord, are a shield around me,
    my glory, and the one who lifts up my head.
I cry aloud to the Lord,
    and he answers me from his holy hill.                Selah

I lie down and sleep;
    I wake again, for the Lord sustains me.
I am not afraid of ten thousands of people
    who have set themselves against me all around.

Rise up, O Lord!
    Deliver me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
    you break the teeth of the wicked.

Deliverance belongs to the Lord;
    may your blessing be on your people!             Selah

By John Grimm

David’s problem was of his own making.  The fallout from David taking Uriah’s wife as his own was evidenced in David’s own family being torn apart.  Absalom wanting his father’s throne was part of the reason David was fleeing from Absalom.  Now, David must find a way through this situation.

Yes, David had confessed his sin regarding the murder of Uriah and the rape of Uriah’s wife.  Yet, we read David’s foes tell him: “There is no help for you in God.”  David has known otherwise for his whole life.  Whether David’s foe was Saul, Absalom, or others, God delivered David.  This deliverance by God is what David is waiting for now.

How do we know he is waiting for God to act?  Selah.  This term is known as a signal for rest in Jewish poetry.  Notice where David rests.  He rests after hearing the foes speak of the lack of deliverance.  David rests when he cries to the Lord.  He rests in full assurance that God will bring deliverance to him and blessings upon God’s people.

When do we rest?  Do we follow the same pattern?  Or do we wait until we have struck our enemies on the cheek and broken the teeth of the wicked, in our own strength?  Maybe we are afraid that the Lord will not act.  Do we not remember that God has acted for our benefit, previously in our lives?  When it comes to our foes, God can and does provide deliverance for us.  Can we rest while we wait for the Lord to do so?

God, yes, we need a Selah or two in our lives.  You will deliver us from our foes.  We have known you to do so in the past and we trust you to do so now.  We know that you have forgiven us, delivered us from our sins.  We can trust you to deliver us from the sins of our foes.  In the name of Jesus Christ, bless your people through all the means that you find necessary.  Amen.

Fight My Enemies

“The Angel Michael Binding Satan,” W. Blake, circa 1805

Psalm 35:1-10

I hope you’ll take time to read these verses from Psalm 35, which can be found by clicking the above link. You can examine the psalm in different translations, if you want.

If you are someone who believes others are working against you, acting as your enemies, this psalm makes an excellent prayer to God for assistance. It creates a stirring mental picture when read; imagine the eternally powerful and wise Lord of All arming himself for battle and coming to your aid.

A word of caution, though. Praying this psalm is no magic trick, no casual incantation. Our God cannot be trapped and contained the way people believed (and still believe) pagan, little “g” gods can be controlled.

There are some serious actions that must accompany such a prayer. First and foremost, people who would lift it need to do some deep soul-searching, examining whether they have aligned themselves with the Lord. Scripture would be their best source of guidance, of course. Is what they desire precisely what God desires?

Do their tormentors, as unrighteous as they may seem, have anything resembling a valid point to make? Might they, too, be in at least partial agreement with God, and might that mean there is a place for reconciliation, for middle ground?

As Paul reminds us in Romans 3:10-12, “There is no one who is righteous, not even one; there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, there is not even one.”

We are all dependent on Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross for salvation. Any righteousness we have flows from our belief in the cross. Any success we might have in praying this Psalm 35 prayer would be rooted in our faith, and a willingness to also pray for our enemies, just as Jesus taught us.

Dear Lord, as we meditate on our relationship with you, may we find ways to escape hostility and be rejoined to our enemies, seeking peace. Amen.

Ready

Occasionally, a piece of Scripture is so clearly instructional that a preacher or a devotional writer mostly needs to get out of its way and let the original author continue doing his holy work.

Ephesians 6:10-17 is one of those texts. I’ll offer a few starter questions here and there, but please, take time to meditate on the words and hear what they say to you. What a great way to start a work week during a difficult year!

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

Do we genuinely believe we can draw strength from God? It’s not difficult to see God as simultaneously mighty and inaccessible. How do we know his power is fully available to us?

Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

We tend to imagine other humans when we think of our enemies. How does it affect our outlook when we acknowledge there are unseen powers at work around us, and that these powers are the real enemy?

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.

Are we bothered by the idea of this being a “battle”? What do warlike images say to us about the focus and commitment required of every Christian? How does God’s armor differ from our own?

Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

These verses continue the battle imagery, but we also need to think about them more literally. How will truth-telling, truth-seeking, and the pursuit of righteousness improve our chances in this world?

Does the story of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection give us lasting peace? If not, have we considered the story from start to finish recently?

When faced with evil, do we first trust that our faith in Jesus Christ is enough to protect us? Do we have a sense of assurance about our faith that gives us great confidence?

And lastly, do we know and trust God’s word enough that we are confident we can use it to defeat evil?

Dear Lord, thank you for reminding us that we are a people fully equipped to face whatever might come our way. Help us to be a people who trust and tap into the power you offer us every day, making a difference for your kingdom. Amen.