June 12, 2016, Enemies. What Are You Gonna Do? – Carroll Boswell, guest speaker
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Let’s start this way. Picture in your mind one person you regard as an enemy. I am not talking about public enemies like ISIS; make it personal to yourself. I bet many of you are having a hard time coming up with even a single enemy; we are a congregation of really nice people; and I’m not joking. But a few of you may find it hard to narrow down to just one or two. But even if you can’t think of a single enemy, there has probably been someone in your past life that was.
The reason I ask you to do this is that dealing with enemies is the focus of Psalm 5, which we are going to be looking at now. This is one of David’s Psalms, and David was an expert on enemies. He was a king and had a lot of military enemies, and for a king that kind of enemy is pretty personal. He went to war with the Philistines, with the Edomites, with the Ammonites, with the Moabites, and there were others I can’t remember off hand. Before he was king, the man who was the king – Saul – was also David’s enemy; he hunted David like a dog to kill him so that David had to hide in caves in the wilderness to escape. David’s own son, Absalom, became his enemy later in his life and tried to kill him as well. David understood enemies very well, and so we have this Psalm.
At first Psalm 5 doesn’t seem to be about enemies. The first three verses are a cry for help without specifying any reason. “Consider my groaning” he says in verse 1 but doesn’t say what he is groaning about. “Give attention to the sound of my cry” he says in verse 2 but doesn’t say what he is crying about.
The next three verses are all about how much God cannot abide evildoers. Specifically, the boastful, the liars, the bloodthirsty, the deceitful, those are all people David singles out as the kind of people who can’t stand before God. But David was also an honest man. Even as he wrote the psalm, memories of his own past would have haunted him. David was boastful; he would well remember how he treated his ex-wife’s second husband. He was bloodthirsty; he would remember more battles than he could easily count and how he delighted in the violence. He was a liar. His conscience may have still been tender when he remembered how one of his lies had cost the lives of 85 priests. He was deceitful, willing to use people for his own gain as he would deceive Uriah the Hittite. In short, a man as honest as David would be forced into admitting that he was one of those evil people whom God could not abide.
So you can feel his amazement when he gets to verse 7: “But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter you house.” He knew as plainly as he knew the shepherding business that God could not abide evil, and yet he equally well knew that God did abide him. How could those two things both be true? He didn’t know why God loved him, but he didn’t waste time figuring out the details of it all. He experienced it, he was thankful, he was joyful.
But he didn’t take it for granted. “Oh, I am an evildoer and God’s steadfast love is still mine, so I have got it made; I don’t need to take this whole evildoer thing very seriously; that’s for other people,” he might have said. It would have been easy, but David was too honest with himself. And so in verse 8 he comes back full circle to what he was groaning about in the first place. “Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies. Make your way straight before me.”
It was not that David didn’t know how to handle enemies. He had handled more enemies than all of us put together. He had handled more ruthless enemies than any of us have ever met. But David did not know how to handle enemies righteously. “Lead me in your righteousness because of my enemies.” He wasn’t groaning about being in danger. He wasn’t crying out for deliverance. There are other psalms where he does, but here he faced up to how dealing with his enemies had made him an evildoer. “Lead me in your righteousness because of my enemies.”
Fortunately, our enemies are on a less lethal plane than David’s. There are four kinds of enemies people like us face, four kinds I can think of: people who hurt us, our feelings or finances or reputations; people who make us afraid; people who make us angry; and finally many of us are our own worst enemies. So how well are you doing handling your enemies in righteousness?
God answered David’s prayer in verse 8 most perfectly when He sent Jesus. He led us in His righteousness because of our enemies. Are there people who try to harm you in some way? “Do not return evil for evil, but overcome evil with good.” Paul said that but it was Jesus who taught him to say it. Are there people that scare you? “Do not be anxious about anything, but with prayers and petitions bring your requests to God.” (Paul again.) Are there people that make you angry? “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness God requires.” (James this time) Are you always doing the same stupid things over and over again and messing up your life? “He will never fail you or forsake you.” Have you been hurt? Do good to the one who hurt you. Are you afraid? Pray and commit everything to God’s care. Are you angry? Try really listening and hold your tongue. Are you disgusted at your own failure? Remember that God never fails and never gives up.
Here is the point of the homily: Make verse 8 your prayer this week. When you are hurt or afraid or angry: “Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies.” Pray it in the morning like David says in verse 3. Pray it repeatedly all during the day.
If you go on in this psalm you can see just how much David needed God’s leading. He didn’t understand God’s righteousness. He showed how much he didn’t understand in the rest of the psalm. “Make them bear their guilt, let them fall, cast them out.” Really? The path of righteousness was something that David didn’t know, was always learning, and never got quite right; you as well. You will stray from the path, maybe during coffee hour in a few minutes. You may be an evildoer before you walk out of the door of the church, and you know God can’t abide evildoers. But astonishingly He abides in you. You know He does. That’s why you walked in those doors this morning. “But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house” verse 7. You are just like David, an evildoer who is amazed every day to be stuck in the abundance of God’s steadfast love. That’s us. We need to pray this prayer as much as David ever did. “Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies.”
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