Advent Meditation: Psalm 61

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Unlike the provincial deities of the ancients, Yahweh is not limited by geography. David boldly prays—desperate, yes, but bold—”from the ends of the earth,” and even when his boldness outstrips his strength (“when my heart is without strength”) he is still heard. Neither Tarshish nor Nineveh is beyond the LORD’s reach or earshot.

David then prays the prayer God loves to hear: I can’t, but You can; You lead the way.

Lead me to a rock that is high above me,
for you have been a refuge for me,
a strong tower in the face of the enemy (61:2-3 CSB).

David can’t get to the rock himself; God must take him there. God alone has been a refuge and a strong tower. God is the rock higher than David. The next verse makes this even clearer:

I will dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge under the shelter of your wings (61:4 CSB).

The allusion in Psalm 57 is more explicit here: God’s tent is the tabernacle, and the shelter of His wings would be beneath the cherubim and the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies.

The connection between the rock and the tent, then, is this: David can’t go into the Holy of Holies himself. God must come to him and lead him there. That’s precisely what He has done in the Incarnation: Jesus has come as the Great High Priest in Melchizedek’s line to rend the curtain and lead us into the New Jerusalem—Revelation’s Holy of Holies.

David celebrates the “heritage” given to every God-fearer. What is this heritage? It’s the king’s own inheritance, for we are “heirs of God and coheirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17 CSB)!

What king is this? The one whose “years span many generations,” who sits “enthroned before God forever” (61:6-7 CSB). This King who is God sits before God; the Word was with God and was God (John 1:1).

The King’s bodyguards are faithful love and truth. You have to go through them to get to Him. John also says that’s exactly how Jesus comes: full of grace and truth (John 1:17).

This King is Jesus, Emmanuel, the curtain-tearing High Priest who leads us into the shelter of the cherubim’s wings. This King is the one we serve, the one we sing of, and the one we sing to.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

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Advent Meditation: Psalm 58

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This is from my journal meditation on Psalm 58. Psalm 58 is not a go-to passage for Advent, but perhaps it ought to be.

The world reels at the revelation of some new credible accusation of immorality or at the scope of injustice that still happens in our supposedly enlightened, evolved era. Slavery, rape, sexual assault, racism, and more all exist today and seem to thrive unabated. Christians are persecuted more than any other century in the Church’s history.

Rather than being on the “wrong side of history,” the Christian stands with the Judge of all the earth in the middle of history. It is not yet the end. Judgment will come one day, some day, but perhaps not today. It will still come, and that’s David’s foundation for Psalm 58.

Injustice is not a mirage nor misunderstanding; David refuses to be gaslighted by Satan or the wicked (58:1-2). We desperately need the reflex of asking, “Do you really speak righteously, you mighty ones? Do you judge people fairly?” and then honestly answering, “No, you practice injustice in your hearts; with your hands you weigh out violence in the land” (58:1-2 CSB).

The wicked are so from birth, and no charmer’s recorder can whistle a tune to charm them. They are deaf to the cries of those they oppress.

David trusts in God’s righteous judgment, both now and future. He prays that they would be broken and swept away from their oppressive ways.

The sight of righteousness will cause the saints to rejoice, since their long waiting has ended. Though it may not seem so now, one day, some day, we will know with visible certainty that “there is a reward for the righteous,” that “there is a God who judges on earth!” (58:11 CSB).

The problem is, we too are wicked from the womb, deaf to the charms of righteousness’ flute. We practice unrighteousness and injustice. We deserve judgment. The only way this can be a psalm of good news is if that judgment can be meted out, but not on us.

It’s not enough to simply not give justice; that gives no hope. That lets righteousness go unpunished.

Justice must be done and its wrath spent. However we avoid wrath, we still must be able to say at the end, “There is a God who judges on earth!”

That’s why the Incarnation matters. That’s why Advent matters. That’s why imputed righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21) matters.

I deserve to be swept away, consumed by fiery wrath for my anger, selfishness, for all the immorality bound up in my heart.

Yet Jesus came, so that “the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. That is why he is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters” (Hebrews 2:11 CSB).

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has come to thee, O Israel!

Where Could I Go But to the Lord?

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I’ve been journaling my meditations on the Psalms (in the wonderful journal from IJM we got from the Gettys’ Sing! conference), and Psalms 47-48 over the last two days have proven remarkably apt for current events.

On Psalm 47:

It is better—it is joy—to submit to Yahweh the Most High than to anyone or anything else. Every other king, every other candidate, every other official, every other party, everything else can and will fail and fall before Him.

It is better—it is wisdom—to submit to the Triune throne. It is wisdom if for nothing else than because it is true; wisdom accepts reality and lives accordingly. It is wise to see the reality of the greatness of God and praise Him for it. It is wise to see our own limitations and the frailties of our heroes and leaders, so that we may only stand on the Solid Rock.

Our allegiance must lie with the triune God over and above every other. Our other allegiances must be judged in light of our allegiance to Him: is His cause furthered? Is His name honored? Are His people protected? Are sinners welcomed to receive forgiveness?

On Psalm 48:

The result is joy and gladness (48:11), not fear or cowering. Zion’s inhabitants are not bunkered, shivering in dread of the carnage awaiting them. They’re celebrating the famed justice of God and their salvation consonant with it!

O that we would rest in the fortress of Zion, forsaking the vain hope of politicians and policies and armies and laws. Why rely on dust and drops when the Mountain-Weigher and Star-Surveyor [Isaiah 40:12] loves to redeem those who simply trust Him? Why let our joy dribble out of a rusty, clogged spicket when there is a river whose streams delight the city of God [Psalm 46:4]?

Where laws fail, His right hand is filled with justice.

Where princes fail, He is the great King known as a stronghold.

Where men fail, generations line up to witness and testify to His faithfulness.

“Do not trust in nobles,
in a son of man, who cannot save.
When his breath leaves him,
he returns to the ground;
on that day his plans die” (Psalm 146:3-4 CSB).

Or, to borrow from Luther’s musical exposition of Psalm 46,

That word above all earthly powers,
No thanks to them abideth.
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill,
God’s truth abideth still:
His Kingdom is forever.

Logs of sin are never made specks—or vice versa—because of (R) or (D) after someone’s name. If the letter after someone’s name is more important than the Name above all names, politics is the least of our worries and the least of our problems.

Time Travel, Part 1

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I became a Doctor Who fan rather late in the game, (binge-) watching on Netflix a couple of years ago. I struggled through the first episode; I think it took me three tries to finish it. I couldn’t see what the big deal was: it was a goofy show with props and sets reminiscent of original Star Trek episodes. I persevered, however, and the hook was set. I missed the Ninth Doctor for a few episodes of Series Two, only to have David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor become my favorite. (Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor gave Tennant’s Tenth a surprising run for his money. The jury’s still out on Peter Capaldi.)

It’s not surprising from this first paragraph that Doctor Who has become one of my all-time favorite TV shows. I love “Blink,” with the Weeping Angels who remain immobile and stone as long as you look directly at them. It also has one of the timeless (pun intended!) quotes in it:

People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect. But actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey…stuff… (quoted in Christian Leithart’s superb essay in Thornbury and Bustard’s Bigger on the Inside: Christianity and Doctor Who, 25).

I love the pathos of “Vincent and the Doctor.” I love the truly excellent storytelling of “A Good Man Goes to War.” (Seriously, what an episode!)

The fascinating thing about my affinity for Doctor Who is that I have, for a long time, been unable to stomach pretty much any story that involves time travel. “I don’t do time travel,” I have often said. The paradoxes about changing the past and future, the impracticality of actually accomplishing such travel, and the naive way that most movies, shows, or stories deal with these things–usually by ignoring them outright–was just a bridge too far for me.

Of course, time travel is science fiction. Is it possible in real life, though? Will we one day build our own TARDISes (TARDISi? TARDii?)? Will we encounter an alien species who has?

My answer is no. I don’t think the Bible allows for such a thing as time travel, other than the one-moment-at-a-time pace God has decreed for us (we’ll talk relativity later. maybe.). I say no for two reasons: first, certain Bible passages seem to categorically deny the possibility; and two, overall Biblical theology would deny the possibility as well.

In this post, I’ll discuss God as the true Time Lord. In a second post, I’ll discuss our relationship to time. In a third post, I’ll address how the “theology of time” and shows like Doctor Who can still help us worship.

The One True Time Lord

One of the ways that God taunts the idols and their worshipers, showing that they are empty and powerless, is to point out that He alone can declare what has been in the past and what will be in the future:

“Submit your case,” says the LORD. “Present your arguments,” says Jacob’s King. “Let them [the idols] come and tell us what will happen. Tell us the past events, so that we may reflect on them and know the outcome, or tell us the future. Tell us the coming events, then we will know that you are gods. Indeed, do something good or bad, then we will be in awe when we see it. Look, you are nothing and your work is worthless. Anyone who chooses you is detestable” (Isaiah 41:21-24 CSB, emphasis added).

God determines not only where we live, but when we live, and we have no say in the matter:

From one man he has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live (Acts 17:26 CSB, emphasis added).

God is the one who establishes time and how we are to mark it:

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night. They will serve as signs for seasons and for days and years” (Genesis 1:14 CSB).

Joshua 10 relates the story of the Battle of Gilgal. Yahweh promises Joshua that Israel will be victorious. Joshua, believing that promise, prays for the sun to stand still to give them more time to finish the rout:

On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, Joshua spoke to the LORD in the presence of Israel:

“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
and moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”

And the sun stood still
and the moon stopped
until the nation took vengeance on its enemies.

Isn’t this written in the book of Jashar?

So the sun stopped
in the middle of the sky
and delayed its setting
almost a full day.

There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD listened to a man, because the LORD fought for Israel (Joshua 10:12-14 CSB).

Notice that Joshua prayed (“Joshua spoke to the LORD”). Joshua wasn’t able to make more time in the day, but Yahweh Almighty could.

God’s testimony is that of filling time, and yet living beyond it as well:

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;
your rule is for all generations (Psalm 145:13a CSB).

“And as for the dead being raised—haven’t you read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush [Exodus 3], how God said to him: I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead but of the living. You are badly mistaken” (Mark 12:26-27 CSB).

Lord, you have been our refuge
in every generation.
Before the mountains were born,
before you gave birth to the earth and the world,
from eternity to eternity, you are God. …

For in your sight a thousand years
are like yesterday that passes by,
like a few hours of the night (Psalm 90:1-2, 4 CSB).

“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.”

The Jews replied, “You aren’t fifty years old yet, and you’ve seen Abraham?”

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:56-58 CSB).

In these passages (and many more), God is not bound by time as we are. He fills it, His reign extends for all of time, but He is not limited by its progression as we are.

The point of all this is to provoke a holy “Whoa….” from us. Time is not a factor of concern for God. Psalm 121 tells us that He never gets tired. God never has to rush. He never has to worry about being late or getting everything done in a day. His schedule is never overbooked. He is completely, joyfully, gladly sovereign all the time. And beyond time. (You know what I mean.)

This also means that we never have to worry about God needing to “squeeze us in” between appointments. We’re never “penciled in” on God’s schedule. He is never rushing past us to get to something “more important.” To Him, there’s no such thing.

In fact, God’s “slowness” as it seems to us in time is actually His immense kindness:

Dear friends, don’t overlook this one fact: With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:8-9 CSB).

Don’t blink. Bask in the glory of the One who is I AM, beyond and filling time!

With or Just Watching?

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Truly he did not know if the gods were with him, though he was sure they were watching, which was not quite the same thing.

— Sigurd Haraldarson, in Giles Kristian’s God of Vengeance, 242.

I’ve mentioned before how reading Viking historical fiction highlights for me the superiority of Yahweh, the true and Triune God, over any other pretender deity.

Having started Kristian’s prequel series The Rise of Sigurd, the same is still true. The Norsemen are constantly trying to earn the gods’ attention, and if they succeed, there is no guarantee that Odin Allfather will look favorably with his one eye.

In the hall of Jarl Guthorm, Sigurd boasts that the gods are with him, and thus Guthorm should support his mission of vengeance. But the boast is largely empty, because “he did not know if the gods were with him.” He only had confidence that they were watching, but it was cold comfort.

Compare that empty hopelessness with the declarations of Yahweh Himself:

This is what the LORD says:

Heaven is My throne,
and earth is My footstool.
What house could you possibly build for Me?
And what place could be My home?
My hand made all these things,
and so they came into being.

This is the LORD’s declaration.

I will look favorably on this kind of person:
one who is humble, submissive in spirit,
and trembles at My word (Isaiah 66:1-2 HCSB).

The promise of Zechariah 4 is that God does not miss even the smallest act of trust in Him:

These seven eyes of the LORD, which scan throughout the earth, will rejoice when they see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand (Zechariah 4:10 HCSB).

The foundation of confidence is that

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
and His ears are open to their cry for help (Psalm 34:15 HCSB).

Sigurd knew the gods were there, watching. He did not know if they were with him. He did not know if they were for him.

Yahweh is there, and He is watching, too. We don’t have to do anything to catch His attention. But He’s more than just watching:

Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6 HCSB).

Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14 HCSB).

See, the virgin will become pregnant
and give birth to a son,
and they will name Him Immanuel,
which is translated ‘God is with us’ (Matthew 1:23 HCSB).

‘And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20 HCSB).

Remember that He is greater and more powerful than any other, but He is kind and compassionate and Immanuel—God is with us.

Think You a Little Din Can Daunt Mine Ears?

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Why came I hither but to that intent?
Think you a little din can daunt mine ears?
Have I not in my time heard lions roar?
Have I not heard the sea, puffed up with winds,
Rage like an angry boar chafèd with sweat?
Have I not heard great ordnance in the field
And heaven’s artillery thunder in the skies?
Have I not in a pitchèd battle heard
Loud ‘larums, neighing steeds, and trumpets clang?
And do you tell me of a woman’s tongue,
That gives not half so great a blow to hear
As will a chestnut in a farmer’s fire?
Tush, tush, fear boys with bugs!

— Petruchio, The Taming of the Shrew, I.2.201-213

I’m working through six of Shakespeare’s major plays with the help of Peter Leithart (via his excellent Brightest Invention of Heaven: A Christian Guide to Six Shakespeare Plays). I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading through the histories (Henry V and Julius Caesar) and the tragedies (Macbeth and Hamlet), and now I’ve come to the comedies, The Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing.

Leithart makes an interesting interpretive point in the introduction to Shrew when he writes,

It does not go too far to suggest that, making allowances for the comic setting, Petruchio’s training of Katherina is similar to Christ’s training and discipline of His unruly Bride, the Church (211).

With that in mind, I read the above passage and was struck anew by the wonder of grace. Petruchio’s fellows are waxing eloquent about how awful Katherine is and how idiotic a man must be to woo and wed her. Petruchio is astounded; should he be afraid of her? Should he cower in fear at her tongue-lashings and tempers? He’s been on the battlefield with artillery barrages exploding everywhere. He’s sailed the seas in the midst of raging storms. He has personally heard the roar of lions. Is she more fearsome than these?

Leithart’s point rings true with the greater Suitor and Beloved. Jesus has spoken the world into existence. He has looked the Devil and Death in the eyes and crushed them both. He has defanged the prowling lion and turned his roar into a whimper. He has sailed on stormy seas, too, and they shut up precisely when He told them to. Are the sins of His Bride more fearsome than these? Can the little din of her blemishes daunt His ears?

Jesus is not frightened by the spots and warts of His Beloved. He has overcome the world, and now He washes her clean with the water of the Word. We the Bride are the Beloved, whom He woos with kindness and forgiveness. We need not flee from Him in fear of His disappointment or disapproval or disavowal; we should run to Him who is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

When we are tempted by the Liar’s whisper that Jesus can’t or won’t forgive us this time, think of our Lover saying:

Why came I hither but to that intent?

As Were A War in Expectation

For peace itself should not so dull a kingdom
Though war nor no known quarrel were in question,
But that defenses, musters, preparations
Should be maintained, assembled, and collected
As were a war in expectation.

— Henry V, 2.4.17-20

Now these things happened to them as examples, and they were written as a warning to us, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall (1 Corinthians 10:11-12 HCSB).

The Dauphin’s counsel to the King of France is obvious wisdom: be ready to defend armour-1306294-640x960yourself, whether the Huns (or the English) are at the gates or not. But it’s also spiritual wisdom.

The plagues and punishments inflicted upon the wilderness generation of the Exodus were not isolated historical happenings. They were teachers. The water from the rock, the quail out their noses, the bronze serpents, the closed door to Canaan—these were all professors in the school of faith.

Think about how many times the command “be alert” or “watch out” or “be ready” is found in the New Testament. The thief doesn’t announce his arrival ahead of time, so the homeowner has to be ready. Peace in previous nights “should not so dull” his house that he fails to keep watch tonight. In the same way, Jesus says, I will return suddenly. Be alert.

This readiness for Jesus’ return is also battle-readiness for every day until then. The same commands come from Peter:

Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that hte same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world (1 Peter 5:8-9 HCSB).

If things are going well for you, then rejoice and thank God. But be alert. A fiercer foe than the forces facing France fights to destroy you. Resist him, firm in the faith. What faith? The one that holds to this promise:

I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world (John 16:33 HCSB).

Shaky Shakespeare

manuscript-3-1418231-639x960.jpgShakespeare’s play The Life of Henry V was published in 1600. According to Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine, this edition was a quarto, a “pocket-sized” book that was rife with errors. So error-laden, in fact, it was believed to be the product of actors recording their lines and stage directions from memory of recent performances.

Two more quarto editions were printed in 1602 and 1619. Q2, as it’s called, was essentially the same as Q1. Q3, however, introduced significant changes that couldn’t be attributed to misprints or typos.

Then the larger Folio edition was printed in 1623. This seems to be a more reliable (but not entirely) version of the play, as you like it.

All this seems like much ado about nothing, but I believe it illustrates something vitally important, particularly this sentence from the Folger Shakespeare Library edition of Henry V edited by the aforementioned Mowat and Werstine:

Nevertheless, as today’s scholars reexamine the narratives about the origins of the printed texts, we discover that these narratives [e.g., that Q1 came from actors’ recollections] are based on either questionable evidence or sometimes on none at all, and we become more skeptical about ever identifying how the play assumed the forms in which it came to be printed (Henry V (Folger Shakespeare Library), KL 672, emphasis added).

A play written just over four hundred years ago has a rather shaky provenance. What’s the big deal, you ask? All’s well that ends well, right?

When we hold the Scriptures in our hands, we hold documents that are at least five times older than Henry V. Revelation was likely written sometime around AD 95; Galatians and James were written sometime in the AD 50s (ish). Zechariah 1:7-6:8 is based on a vision given on February 15, 519 BC. Jeremiah and Daniel lived during the Babylonian exile around 586 BC. Isaiah prophesied in the early 700s BC. David and Solomon reigned around 1000-900 BC, and we have their Psalms, Proverbs, and writings. Moses wrote sometime in the mid-1400s BC.

We have more confidence in the accuracy of the Old and New Testaments, which go back nearly 3500 years, than we do a four-hundred-year old play. As well-known and admired and loved as Shakespeare was and is, the provenance of the text we have today is in the hands of editors and scholars making informed decisions.

But when it comes to the Scriptures, there is such a wealth of manuscript evidence (Greek copies, translations of the Greek copies into other languages, quotations in lectionaries and letters and books, etc.) spanning so many centuries that there’s no doubt whatsoever that the text we hold today is an accurate, faithful translation into English of what Moses wrote 3,400 years ago. Of what David wrote 3,000 years ago. Or Jeremiah 2,600 years ago. Or John, 1900 years ago.

What could possibly account for such an ancient text being so well-preserved? Other writings were just as popular. Other plays were written and performed before the time of Christ. In fact, Paul quotes from a few in his epistles. Why aren’t we as rich in them as we are in biblical manuscripts?

Aye, there’s the rub. There has to be something, Someone, protecting and preserving the Old and New Testaments from the tempest of time, unlike Homer or Aeschylus or Aratus.

The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever (Isaiah 40:8).

Think About It

hebrew-text-1307511-639x422Psalm 18’s superscription (which is just as inspired as “I love You, Yahweh, my strength”) tells us that David is the author, the “I” of the song. This is his contemplation and reaction to his life and what God did in it. And it’s a song, because it’s addressed to the “choir director.” But above all, Psalm 18 is a biographical masterpiece in the hands of a Holy-Spirit-inspired prophet.

Or, to say all that a whole lot more simply, Psalm 18 is a summary of the New Testament.

David writes this song as a celebration of surviving “the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.” The first three verses of the song are as powerful as you would ever find (or write) today:

I love You, LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock,
my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my mountain where I seek refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation,
my stronghold.
I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise,
and I was saved from my enemies.

This sounds much like Zechariah’s song when his tongue was loosed:

Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
because He has visited
and provided redemption for His people.
He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of His servant David… (Luke 1:68-69 HCSB)

Then David recounts his harrowing experience of running and hiding for his life, but does so in terms strikingly familiar to us New Covenant believers. In fact, I believe Psalm 18 was also inspired as a prophetic description of the New Covenant era, especially starting in verse 4.

  • Jesus’ death (18:4-6)
  • Jesus’ resurrection (18:7-19)
  • Jesus’ ascension (18:20-24)
  • Jesus’ presence and empowering of the Church (18:25-36)
  • Jesus’ return in power and judgment and bloody (not His this time!) victory (18:37-42)
  • Jesus’ exaltation as King of kings and Lord of lords, having all His enemies put under His feet (18:43-45)
  • Jesus’ eternal and mutual rest and delight in His bride (18:46-50)

Since this is Good Friday, read Psalm 18 with this in mind. Think of Jesus’ agony when “the ropes of death were wrapped around [Him]” and He “called to the LORD in [His] distress” (18:4,6). Think of the darkness and earthquakes that accompanied His suffering on the cross (18:7,11); think of the graves that were opened (18:15).

Think of that glorious morning when the Son of God was declared to be so in power, when the Father raised Him to life out of the dead-fish grip of death (18:16). Death, that “powerful enemy” who “hated” Him, who for a time was allowed to be “too strong” for Him (18:17), was no match because the Father was Jesus’ support (18:18), the One who delighted in Him (18:19).

Think of what it meant that Jesus was raised from the dead: the Father “rewarded [Him] according to [His] righteousness; He repaid [Him] according to the cleanness of [His] hands” (18:20). Jesus never “turned from [His] God to wickedness” (18:21) so that we who turned only to wickedness would be given that same reward for righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Think that we who are afflicted by sin and its consequences are rescued (18:27), transferring us from darkness to light (18:28) and giving us strength over the enemies of our soul (18:29, 32).

Think of the strength it took to raise Jesus from the dead, then rest in peaceful contentment that He has “given [us] the shield of [His] salvation; [His] right hand upholds [us]” because His “humility exalts [us]” (18:35).

Think with glad hope on that day when Jesus returns in the splendor of His glory, not in the humble rags of flesh as in His first coming. On that day He will “pursue [His] enemies and overtake them” (18:37); the enemy He saves for last is Death itself (1 Corinthians 15:26). It’s personal, after all.

Think about what it will be like to see all the enemies of Jesus no longer raging against Him, but cringing under His feet (18:43). Think about what it will be like for our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters to no longer live in the shadow of the Islamic State, because IS is now the one terrified and weak (18:45).

Think about what it will be like for all of God’s people from all the ages to have true, lasting, eternal freedom from sin and death (18:48).

Think about what it means that God’s loyalty to David and his descendants—don’t forget we’re adopted into the family as joint-heirs with Jesus—is forever.

Think about that every time you read Psalm 18.

Who Is My Enemy?

questions-1151886-640x480Arguably the most famous parable Jesus told was prompted by the question, “Who is my neighbor?” For the psalms, the question seems to be, “Who is my enemy?”

Many of the Psalms have Davidic provenance, either given in the titles or superscriptions to the Psalms (which are inspired and inerrant as much as the verses themselves; the Hebrew text has them as verse 1, so don’t skip them) or by New Testament interpretation (Peter says David wrote Psalm 2, but there’s no author given for Psalm 2).

We know that David had real, flesh-and-blood enemies: Saul had lost his mind and wanted David dead, the Amalekites and Philistines were a constant international threat, and the jealous Benjamites were a regular source of skulduggery (see Psalm 7). When David prays in Psalm 13, for example,

Consider me and answer, LORD my God…My enemy will say, ‘I have triumphed over him,’ and my foes will rejoice because I am shaken” (13:3, 6 HCSB).

it’s easier to narrow down who isn’t an enemy of David.

For the majority of Christians in the world today, it isn’t hard for them to identify enemies, either. It may be ISIS marking your house with the Arabic nun to identify you as one of the Nasara—one of the Nazarenes—or it might be a despotic government outlawing the Way.

For American Christians, it’s not as easy to identify enemies. If you’re a jerk, you’ve probably made some by being yourself (raises hand as guilty); the reality, however, is that the only danger typically faced is one of embarrassment or faux pas rather than literal life-and-death. Does that mean we don’t have Davidic enemies? Are we one (or more) steps removed from the Psalms because we don’t have ready answers to “Who is my enemy?”

Hardly.

Death is our enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26).

The Devil is our adversary (1 Peter 5:8).

Demons are our enemies (Ephesians 6:11).

Deceitful sin is our enemy (Romans 8:12-13, Hebrews 3:13).

For all the saints, regardless where or when we live, these are enemies of us all. The Psalms become immediately relevant to us all, even in America when read in light of these enemies.

We pray for deliverance and judgment and destruction upon our enemies because we deeply and rightly hate them. We hate death. We hate the Devil and what he does to our brothers and sisters. We hate the forces of darkness that spawn so much evil in this world. We hate the reality of yet-indwelling sin that deceives us and leads us astray. We long for the new heavens and the new earth in which righteousness dwells.

So we pray against our enemies with the same confidence in deliverance that David had:

But I have trusted in Your faithful love;
my heart will rejoice in Your deliverance.
I will sing to the LORD
because He has treated me generously (Psalm 13:5-6 HCSB).