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).

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No Translation Necessary

robertson-flow_of_psalms

In contrast with the difficulty of vocalizing YHWH, what is the English equivalent of the Hebrew phrase Hallelu-YAH? It’s simply Hallelu-YAH. How do you say the Hebrew phrase Hallelu-YAH in Greek? in Spanish? in German? in French? in Swahili? in Chichewa? in Luganda? It’s all the same in these languages, with minor differences in spelling. No translation is necessary. Indeed, the phrase may be rendered “Praise the LORD.” Yet it has achieved spontaneous universality.

The Psalter has shown the way for the universe to praise its Creator and Redeemer. The Psalms consummate with Hallelu-YAH, and all nations and peoples can join in the joyful, spontaneous celebration. Even the ease with which the expression can be articulated deserves notice. In a remarkable way, the word Hallelu-YAH is particularly suitable for opening wide the mouth, dropping the jaw, and loudly shouting God’s praise. Try it!

— O Palmer Robertson, The Flow of the Psalms: Discovering Their Structure and Theology, Kindle Location 4411

Psalm Tweets: Book II (Round 3)

Psalm 42: “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”

Psalm 43: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

Psalm 44: Your smile on us has been eclipsed, and we wonder why we wander in darkness. Nothing can help us or save us but You.

Psalm 45: A scandalous psalm: the Sovereign Soldier weds a bride He makes beautiful when she leaves all and becomes His.
Psalm 45: Ruth is a model bride (Ruth 1:16-17 → 45:10-11).

Psalm 46: We are in the Greater Goshen, which remains untouched by the plagues visited on God’s enemies.
Psalm 46: Yahweh is a river of delight; we have peace with Him, so let us have peace with each other.

Melody+Theology new post: Jonah Knew His Psalms wp.me/p4mEGr-8L

Psalm 47: Let the volume of our applause drown out the grumbling of rebellion.

Psalm 48: The security of the citadel is not in its towers or ramparts, but in Yahweh within it.
Psalm 48: “…you yourselves, as living stones, are being built together into a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5 HCSB)

Psalm 49: Those who are arrogant in their wealth have Death as their shepherd. But Yahweh is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
Psalm 49: Riches without wisdom is just a well-stocked cattle barn.

Melody+Theology new post: Rest in God Alone, My Soul wp.me/p4mEGr-94

Psalm 50: Sacrifices are burned up and blown away by the storms and fire before Yahweh; only faith and thanksgiving remain.

Psalm 51: I’m covered in the filth I’ve wallowed in. Wash me whiter than snow, so I’ll shine like a beacon of Your forgiveness.

Melody+Theology new post: 50 (Medallion) wp.me/p4mEGr-9k

Psalm 52: Dastardly Doegs don’t deserve to dwell in David’s domain; they aren’t deeprooted like divinely delivered devotees.

Psalm 53: Evil everywhere tempts us to the darkest despair, but we rejoice instead, because deliverance comes from Zion.

Melody+Theology new post: Psalm 50 wp.me/p4mEGr-9m

Psalm 54: Those who once looked down their nose at me now look up from afar off to see me in Abraham’s bosom.

Psalm 55: The burden of betrayal is too heavy for me, but Jesus trades me for His lighter and easier one, and I find rest.

Psalm 56: Every Philistine will give account for every wandering and tear they caused; You recorded them all.

Melody+Theology new post: 56 wp.me/p4mEGr-9G

Psalm 57: “Anyone who touches you touches the pupil of His eye. I will move against them with My power” (Zech 2:8-9 @HCSB).

Psalm 58: Might doesn’t make right; He who alone is righteous is mighty. “There is a God who judges on earth!”
Psalm 58: Talk all you want, O mighty man. When God the Judge comes, you won’t have time to say a word.

Melody+Theology new post: Praises and Arrows wp.me/p4mEGr-9X

Psalm 59: I am under constant attack and still I’m safer than my attackers. Yahweh is my shield; they have none.

Psalm 60: Armies and reinforcements stand against God as successfully as styrofoam against a tornado.

Psalm 61: Home is where the ark is.
Psalm 61: Save us from Denethor and Wormtongue; give us Faithful Love and Truth!

Psalm 62: “The life of faith is pretty much evenly divided between serving and waiting.” — Patrick Henry Reardon
Psalm 62: While others scramble and grasp and fret, I will rest, because God is my salvation.
Psalm 62: Rest in God Alone, My Soul (Melody+Theology): wp.me/p4mEGr-94

Psalm 63: Soul, enough with the empty cisterns! Go to Jesus–He will satisfy me with living water, and I’ll never thirst again!

Melody+Theology new post: Enthroned (Sedōka) wp.me/p4mEGr-bj

Psalm 64: My soul’s enemies are Imperial Stormtroopers with terrible aim; God will turn them into redshirts on an away mission.

Melody+Theology new post: Near and Far wp.me/p4mEGr-by

Psalm 65: The blessing of calling the temple Home (65:4) is the blessing of imputed righteousness (65:3).
Psalm 65: Creation sowed the seeds for a perpetual harvest of God’s goodness.

Psalm 66: Deliverance can’t help but lead to delight; salvation leads to singing.

Psalm 67: May the sunshine of God’s favor shine upon you, that by His light the ends of the earth may walk in faith and love.

Psalm 68: Yahweh’s salvation is burden-bearing: He takes the wrath and reproach from us and gives us joy instead.

Melody+Theology new post: Return on Investment (Sacred Signia) wp.me/p4mEGr-bV

Psalm 69: Jesus bore the shame of our sin on the cross; now He is not ashamed to call brothers everyone who trusts in Him.

Psalm 70: Hurry to me, Yahweh! I’m forgetting the joy of You and Your salvation! Hurry to me!

Psalm 71: If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
Psalm 71: “you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation”

Psalm 72: When the King comes, He brings righteousness and justice and peace and blessing and prosperity. Come, Lord Jesus!

Death Is No Friend

Death is sin rendered visible. What we see death do to the body, sin does to the soul. Death is the externalizing of sin. Death is no friend. Apart from Christ, the Bible sees death as the realm where God is not praised. As the bitter fruit of sin, death is the enemy; indeed, it is the “last enemy,” says 1 Corinthians 15:26. When the psalmist, then, prays for deliverance from death, he is talking about a great deal more than a physical phenomenon. Death is the “last enemy,” the physical symbol of our sinful alienation from God: “For in death there is no memory of You; in the grave, who will give You thanks?”

— Patrick Henry Reardon, Christ in the Psalms, 12.

Jonah Knew His Psalms

Jonah 2 resonates with beauty and aches with honesty. Where the Writings have Psalm 51, the Prophets have Jonah 2. And its absolutely filled to the brim with Psalms.

Psalm 139 had to be on his mind and in his heart:

LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I stand up;
You understand my thoughts from far away.
You observe my travels and my rest;
You are aware of all my ways (Psalm 139:1-3 HCSB).

I wonder if Jonah chuckled in his repentance at Psalm 139:3–“You observe my travels and my rest.” The Psalm continues its parallels:

Where can I go to escape Your Spirit?
Where can I flee from Your presence?
If I go up to heaven, You are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there.
If I live at the eastern horizon
or settle at the western limits,
even there Your hand will lead me;
Your right hand will hold on to me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me,
and the light around me will be night”–
even the darkness is not dark to You.
The night shines like the day;
darkness and light are alike to You. (Psalm 139:7-12 HCSB)

Jonah had certainly made his bed in Sheol (139:8). Then verse 9 his close to home as well: Nineveh was to the east, and Tarshish was as far west as you could go. The HCSB Study Bible notes that the most likely location is the “Phoenician colony of Tartessus, located on the Guadalquivir River on the southwestern coast of Spain about 2,000 miles west of Palestine. This is about as far in the opposite direction from Nineveh that Jonah could have gone” (1517).

Jonah went to the “lowest part of the vessel” en route to Tarshish, and may have even thought something along the lines of 139:11-12.

Jonah also draws from Psalm 42:7, “All You breakers and Your billows have swept over me.”

Then Psalms 31:22 and 138:2: “In my alarm I had said, ‘I am cut off from Your sight'” and “I will bow down toward Your holy temple.”

He finishes with Psalm 26:7-type language: “…raising my voice in thanksgiving and telling about your wonderful works.”

In all, the HCSB cites a total of 31 cross-references to the Psalms.

This encourages me to know and love the Psalms more, because the Holy Spirit keeps bringing them up in the rest of Scripture in beautiful and powerful ways.

2015 Reading Log: Slogging Along in the Paths of Righteousness

Davis, Dale Ralph. Slogging Along in the Paths of Righteousness: Psalms 13-24.

I was introduced to Dale Ralph Davis by Ray Van Neste and Chad Davis during my time at Cornerstone Community Church in Jackson, TN. There are many things about them and that time for which I am thankful; this recommendation is second only to my appreciation of Ray’s Jedi-mastery of puns (“these are the groans you’re looking for”).

At the time, we were preaching through Joshua, and I was given Dr. Davis’ No Falling Words from the Focus on the Bible series as a commentary to help with sermon preparation. The way in which he clearly explained the text and pointed the heart and mind to Jesus from it was water in the wasteland of youthful ignorance for me.

With that experience in mind, I eagerly picked up his small book of sermons on Psalms 1-12: The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life. Later, I was only too excited to find that another volume on the Psalms was available: Slogging Along in the Paths of Righteousness: Psalms 13-24.

I’ve interacted with a bit of Dr. Davis’ take on Psalm 18 and “Lead On, O King Eternal” previously on the blog. I hope the respect for his teaching was as evident in that post as it is in this one; I really did wrestle with whether or not to scrap the song from our music at Grace based on that chapter. I can hardly pay a higher compliment to a teacher than to say, “I really had to think hard and investigate what I do and think based on what you say.”

For each psalm, Dr. Davis combines an agility with Hebrew, biblical theology, and passion for Jesus with a preacher’s cadence and clarity. In many cases the style reminded me of Adrian Rogers, who in my mind is a preacher par excellence. For example, see the alliterative splendor from Psalm 19:

What We Must See: God’s Silent Splendor
What We Must Hear: God’s Clearest Speech
What We Should Say: God’s Prayerful Servant

or those from Psalm 21:

God’s people remember a particular deliverance
The king enjoys an indestructible stability
The people anticipate a final triumph.

The language is lyrical, metered–truly a preacher’s cadence. It flows. It’s poetic and creative, but not contrived. Aside from the many instances of showing me a splendor of the text, I am indebted to Dr. Davis for teaching me about preaching. It’s far, far more than information delivery; it’s far, far higher than showboating or mere oration. It’s engaging the heart and mind with the beautiful, painful truth and showing Jesus as greater and higher than anything else.

31 (Arnold)

I know You are a Rock,
A fortress in the hills;
You guard me as I walk,
I trust Your sovereign will.
How many are the snares and schemes laid out for me!
I find no one to aid,
No friend supports me here
Sin’s burden on me laid
With no relief, I fear.
Through sorrow, anger, shame, O help my unbelief!
No warehouse can contain
The goodness You have stored
For those who call Your name,
Who wait upon the Lord:
Your faithful love has answered my despairing cry!
Be what I know You are:
A refuge for my soul,
Be near when You feel far,
Restore me to Your fold.
With all Your faithful ones, I’ll love You till I die.

1-14-2015

Fog of War (Psalm 3)

The Devil whispers lies to me;
He shouts to blame and to accuse.
He says to me, “Your hope should flee–
Your God will not help you!”

But Yahweh is a shield from him;
My Glory raises up my head.
I shout above the Devil’s din
To hear the truth instead.

Though thousands of demons may storm,
Your strike will break all of their teeth.
Salvation belongs to the LORD;
His blessing is on me.

12-15-2014

Battlefield (Cavatina)

Let shouts of “Hallelujahs” raise to God;
His way is pure.
He clothes Himself in perfect majesty,
His vict’ry sure.
Not only does this Warrior fight for me,
My hands He trains
for war. My arms can bend a bow of bronze
Because He deigns
In humble grace to raise me in His sight.
My refuge, He,
My fortress, He, impregnable; I stand
Behind my shield.
Play lutes, guitars, and harps with many strings!
New songs, new Hallelujahs we must sing!

Inspired by Harps Unhung.

12-2-2014