When Under Attack, 29 April 2018

When Under Attack
D6 Series—
Songs from the Heart (Psalms)
Psalm 109

Series Overview: The Psalms reveal hearts poured out in inspired song.

Big Idea: God is our shield and help when we experience injustice and opposition.

Scripture Reading: Psalm 109:30-31

With my mouth I will greatly extol the LORD;
in the great throng of worshipers I will praise him.
For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save their lives from those who would condemn them. (Psalms 109:30-31)

Isn’t that nice? God stands at the right hand of the needy. So that means when we get a flat tire, God is with us. When we catch the flu, God will help us. We will praise the LORD even if we don’t get the promotion we were hoping or when we experience ridicule for being a Christian.

But what about serious condemnation? Where is God when things get really rough?

Jesus famously told his followers…

…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8b)

That word “witnesses” in the original Greek is “martus,” related to our word “martyr.”

We’ve all experienced injustice and opposition in our lives, but few of us can say our lives have been in jeopardy. I rarely hear of people martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ on American soil, and for that we can be grateful, not only to God but also those who have fought for our freedom.

Throughout history, godly men and women have been threatened. They have had contracts on their lives. They have been hunted down. Can you imagine? What would you do if you received a death threat?

Today we are continuing our series, Songs from the Heart, on select Psalms. I have mentioned how the book of Psalms was Israel’s hymnbook…and my favorite book of the Old Testament. The passion, authenticity, and artistry of these lyrics are so real, relevant, and inspiring…thousands of years after their writing.

On Resurrection Sunday, we saw glimpses of the suffering Jesus in Psalm 22. Then we looked at the Messianic nature of Psalm 72 and God’s love expressed in Psalm 89. Last Sunday we looked at what it means to bless or praise the LORD in Psalm 103.

Our psalm for today is 109 and it is quite different from the previous psalms we have examined. This psalm was used by Thomas Hardy in his novel
The Mayor of Casterbridge. It is often called an imprecatory psalm, a zealous prayer and song to God calling out the wicked. This psalm is similar to Psalm 69, but here the writer is innocent, not a wrongdoer. He is a victim, yet his response to his enemies is somewhat surprising.

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

My God, whom I praise,
do not remain silent,
for people who are wicked and deceitful
have opened their mouths against me;
they have spoken against me with lying tongues. (Psalms 109:1-2)

Has anyone ever lied about you? Gossiped about you? Slandered you? How does it feel? David understands. He wants God to intervene, to take action, to not remain silent. God, where are you? Do you see this? Do you hear this?

With words of hatred they surround me;
they attack me without cause. (Psalms 109:3)

Remember that old expression, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”? What a lie! Words can actually lead to our bones being broken! Charles Spurgeon said, “In all Satan’s armoury there are no worse weapons than deceitful tongues.”

In return for my friendship they accuse me,
but I am a man of prayer. (Psalms 109:4)

Satan is called the accuser. These people are satanic, they are accusers. David is
innocent, yet he is being attacked. What a contrast—accusations and prayer. His
enemies are talking falsely about him to others and David is talking to God. What
does David do when treated unjustly? He drops to his knees. The Hebrew says literally,
“But I prayer.” In other words, he’s all about prayer. Are you?

I wish I could say prayer is always my first response to attack. It’s not. I get defensive. I strategize a retaliation. I seek revenge. My mind refuses to shut off, engaging in imaginary conversations. I want justice. I want to cry, “Foul!”

They repay me evil for good,
and hatred for my friendship. (Psalms 109:5)

No good deed goes unpunished! Notice David’s mention of friendship. No one can hurt you like a friend. You can sometimes forget the words of a stranger, but wounds from those we love run deep. Now David goes into a tirade against his enemy, a singular man. These verses are incredible!

Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy;
let an accuser stand at his right hand.
When he is tried, let him be found guilty,
and may his prayers condemn him.
May his days be few;
may another take his place of leadership. (Psalms 109:6-8)

Peter quotes this last verse in Acts 1:20 as fulfillment of Judas’ death.

We don’t know if David was king when this was written, but David was a warrior. Do you remember what he did to Goliath? It’s important to understand David did not act upon these curses. He left the heavy lifting for God after he poured out his heart.

May his children be fatherless
and his wife a widow.
May his children be wandering beggars;
may they be driven from their ruined homes.
May a creditor seize all he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.
May no one extend kindness to him
or take pity on his fatherless children.
May his descendants be cut off,
their names blotted out from the next generation.
May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD;
may the sin of his mother never be blotted out. (Psalms 109:9-14)

Have you ever felt that way? He’s not done!

May their sins always remain before the LORD,
that he may blot out their name from the earth.
For he never thought of doing a kindness,
but hounded to death the poor
and the needy and the brokenhearted.
He loved to pronounce a curse—
may it come back on him. (Psalms 109:15-17)

David’s saying, “Do unto him as he has done unto me. Curse him as he has cursed
others.

He found no pleasure in blessing—
may it be far from him.
He wore cursing as his garment;
it entered into his body like water,
into his bones like oil.
May it be like a cloak wrapped about him,
like a belt tied forever around him. (Psalms 109:18-19)

Now he shifts from an individual to a plural group, perhaps the people led by the man.

May this be the LORD’S payment to my accusers,
to those who speak evil of me. (Psalms 109:20)

He’s honest! He declares his desires, but leaves the matter to the LORD. Then David
speaks one of the most important words in the English language—“but.”

But you, Sovereign LORD,
help me for your name’s sake;
out of the goodness of your love, deliver me. (Psalms 109:21)

What do we do in the midst of distress? Call upon the LORD. Ask God for help. Seek
deliverance. Ask for protection, not on the basis of your own goodness but on the basis
of God’s name and goodness.

For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is wounded within me.
I fade away like an evening shadow;
I am shaken off like a locust. (Psalms 109:22-23)

Even great men like David—king or not—are but dust. Whether we acknowledge it or
not, we all need God.

My knees give way from fasting;
my body is thin and gaunt.
I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
when they see me, they shake their heads. (Psalms 109:24-25)

This is hardly the picture we expect of David! He’s thin and gaunt, pitiful and disgusting.

Help me, LORD my God;
save me according to your unfailing love. (Psalms 109:26)

The appeal is not David’s goodness, but God’s love and mercy.

Let them know that it is your hand,
that you, LORD, have done it. (Psalms 109:27)

He wants God to receive the glory, not himself.

While they curse, may you bless;
may those who attack me be put to shame,
but may your servant rejoice.
May my accusers be clothed with disgrace
and wrapped in shame as in a cloak. (Psalms 109:28-29)

God’s blessings will always be greater than the curses of our enemies. David rejoices
knowing God is in control and will have the last word.

Now we see the context for today’s scripture reading.

With my mouth I will greatly extol the LORD;
in the great throng of worshipers I will praise him.
For he stands at the right hand of the needy,
to save their lives from those who would condemn them. (Psalms 109:30-31)

At the end of the day, David knows God is real. He knows his calamity is temporary, his life is but a vapor, a gift. He knows no matter the circumstances, God is worthy of praise, of blessing, of extoling, of worship. His story is not over. There is hope.

So What?

D6: The fact that we face opposition and attack because of our faith demonstrates that we are engaged in a spiritual warfare.

The writer of the book of Romans had some radical things to say about our enemies.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:17-19)

Then he quotes Proverbs 25…

On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”


Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:20-21)

If we are to follow the example of David, we should ask God to curse our enemies, right? That sounds like a reasonable application. After all, David was called a man after God’s own heart. Of course, that doesn’t mean he was perfect. But I love his honesty. He tells God how he feels. He expresses his emotions—constructively.

You may have been told to never get emotional. Big boys don’t cry. Don’t let them see you sweat. Never question God. Bury your feelings.

I think David would vehemently disagree! His language is raw. It’s passionate. He feels, but he channels his emotions appropriately. He gets real, but then gives it to God. This is the same God who said,

It is mine to avenge; I will repay.
In due time their foot will slip;
their day of disaster is near
and their doom rushes upon them.” (Deuteronomy 32:35)

It’s as if God says to us, “Thanks for sharing. I’ll take it from here.”

D6: God is the Sovereign Lord of all. He alone is qualified to deal with those who oppose and attack us.

Generations later, a descendent of David would pray speak harsh condemnations, too. Jesus said of Judas…

The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” (Matthew 26:24; Mark 14:21)

He said of the Jewish leaders…

Jesus answered,
“You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” (John 19:11)

Jesus was not always nice, but he never sinned, even in his anger, outraged by injustice. And Jesus not only expressed his feelings of outrage, he articulated radical love. In the presence of his enemies, as he is hanging on the cross…

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. (Luke 23:34)

What do you do when you’re angry? When you’ve been slandered, oppressed, wronged? I want to encourage you to get real, give it to God, and pray for your enemy.

Why? Why forgive? Why pray for our enemies?

First, they are as worthy of forgiveness as you and I. Forgiveness is never deserved. Remember what Jesus taught us to pray?

Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. (Luke 11:4a, NIV)

Jesus died for them, too. They might one day surrender to Christ. What if they repent and become your friend?

Ultimately, we must relinquish control of our pain, let go and let God. He will judge. He will deal with all sins…and sinners one day.

And one more thing…fear not. God is in control. No weapon—or person—will prevail.

“See, it is I who created the blacksmith
who fans the coals into flame
and forges a weapon fit for its work.
And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc;
no weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,
and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the LORD. (Isaiah 54:16-17)

Credits:
some ideas from D6

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Atrocious Abe, 5 February 2017

    Atrocious Abe
    Series: Ideal Family
    Genesis 12:10-13

    Series Big Idea:
    All families are messed up, including biblical families.

    Big Idea: Jesus, not Abraham, is the ultimate example of a godly husband.

    Today we’re resuming our series entitled, “Ideal Family.” Whether you like it or not, you’re part of a family; at least one. Ever since God said it was not good for man to be alone, humans have lived with others…for better or worse. I have yet to meet someone who didn’t have a biological father and a biological mother. Most people have siblings. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents are a vital part of life for many of us. Family is God’s design. It was His idea.

    There are two unfortunate things I’ve discovered about families. First, they are all messed up! That’s ultimately the result of sin, our disobedience toward God. Ever since Adam and Eve ate of the fruit in the Garden of Eden, we have struggled to get along. Pride divides. Greed corrupts. Selfishness hoards. Anger disturbs. Hatred destroys. Misunderstanding confuses.

    The second unfortunate thing about families is the mistaken belief everyone else’s family is okay. Listen to me carefully…all families are messed up! This includes biblical families. And the mess begins with the marriage. We all need help!

    Abraham is one of the most important figures in human history. Some have called him, “Father Abraham.” When I was a child, we used to sing a song about him.

    “Father Abraham had many sons/many sons had Father Abraham/I am one of them/And so are you/So let’s just praise the LORD.”

    I think the reason it was so popular is it had motions that accompanied the music. Nevertheless, it taught me a bit about Abe. I like to say Abe not merely to make him sound a bit more hip and cool, but because it applies to both of his names. You see, Abraham used to be Abram, much like Paul used to be Saul.

    A few weeks ago, we talked about righteous Noah and how at the end of his biblical story he is drunk and naked, not the most noble place to be! One of the lessons from Noah is even the godliest people are imperfect, and your good deeds in the middle of your life are no guarantee that your ending will be as positive. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes years to earn trust and seconds to lose it. Perhaps that is one reason Jesus said,

    Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

    He did not say, “Pick up your cross and you’ll be set for life.” He said to truly be his disciple requires daily surrender. We can never rest on our past accomplishments.

    Abe’s story ends well.

    Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. (Genesis 25:7-8)

    But let’s back up.

    The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. (Genesis 12:1)

    Imagine God says, “Go to the airport, board this airplane, and begin a new life wherever the plane lands.” Would you do it? Would you go? Would you leave your home, friends, family, and even your country to follow the LORD?

    For centuries, people have been doing this very thing. Some of you have been led by God overseas. You’ve sacrificed, studied new languages, and said goodbye to everything you’ve known in this life to obey God. That’s faith!

    If God calls you to relocate, you had better be sure you’re hearing from God and that it’s not bad lunch! I can think of two occasions when our family followed God’s prompting to move. The first was moving to Ann Arbor in 1998 to plant a church, launching a brand-new ministry from scratch. God was so good and faithful to us despite our humble beginning as a church of three in our living room!

    The second big relocation felt like an international move for us. As a Michiganian, I always considered Ohio a foreign country and when God called us to Toledo we were so surprised! Now, of course, we love Toledo!

    But I don’t say that to pat ourselves on the back for our great faith. Instead, it was God’s vision and clear direction which made both moves no-brainers for us. I’m sure Abe could relate. Listen to what God promises him:

    “I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
    I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
    I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
    and all peoples on earth 
    will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2-3)

    That sounds good, right? Would you go to Michigan or Ohio if He promised that to you? What about Canada? Mexico? Africa?

    So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. (Genesis 12:4-5)

    Obviously, he didn’t board a plane. This was a land journey of about 400 miles…without motorized transportation…with his family…

    Have you ever traveled 400 miles with your family…WITH motorized transportation?! That’s about from here to Knoxville, Tennessee.

    Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. (Genesis 12:6-7)

    That’s a special moment! Look at this land, Abe. It’s not yours, but your offspring will get it someday. But don’t stop now! We’re not there yet!

    From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. (Genesis 12:8)

    Abram is obviously devoted to God. He must be quite the altar builder!

    Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev. (Genesis 12:9)

    So far, so good. Then we get to this unusual story.

    Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. (Genesis 12:10)

    Remember, God promised to make Abram into a great nation. That means he will become a dad…eventually. In a sense, he was invincible. He
    couldn’t die! God always keeps His promises. Always.

    We’ve never experienced a famine, but I can imagine it would be scary. We all need to eat. But we don’t see Abe consulting God about what to do. Maybe God was going to miraculously feed Abe manna and quail. Perhaps God wanted this couple to travel to a place other than Egypt. We don’t know, but there’s no indication that Abe followed God into Egypt.

    Have you ever faced a challenge and ignored God? Have you ever taken matters into your own hands rather than consulting the Creator? I confess I have. We often talk about making Jesus the LORD of our lives. That means He’s the boss. He’s in charge. He is always consulted before making important life decisions. Always.

    But let’s suppose God told Abram to go to Egypt (which
    is possible).

    As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” (Genesis 12:11-13)

    Do you see anything wrong with this picture?

    First, Abram is worried about himself. He’s sure his wife Sarai will be fine. The plan isn’t even for Abe to lie, but for his wife to do his dirty work! She’s supposed to lie for him! Now I’m sure if she loved her husband, she would obviously be concerned for his welfare, too. But Abe’s plan is hardly going to benefit her.

    When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels. (Genesis 12:14-16)

    Let’s give credit to Abram. He was right. The Egyptians found his sister—err—wife to be beautiful. She was taken into Pharaoh’s palace. What would Pharaoh want with a strange woman in his palace?!

    But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had. (Genesis 12:17-20)

    Abe’s plan worked. His life was spared. But what an ordeal. Can you imagine how Sarai must’ve felt during this whole experience? Abram receives grace—unmerited favor—despite his selfish, deceitful behavior. He became a biblical hero and the father of many nations, but this episode did not cause him to win Husband of the Year!

    So What?

    Abraham lied about his wife being his sister. Twice! It happened again in Genesis chapter 20. Look it up!

    Parents—and grandparents—it’s important to remember the next generation(s) is watching you. Whether it’s interpersonal conflicts as we saw in the drama or habitual sins like dishonesty, children often become like their parents.

    Abraham’s son, Isaac, lied about his wife being his sister! It’s in Genesis chapter 26. You can’t make this stuff up! I know the Bible’s true, if only because nobody would fabricate these embarrassing stories and call them sacred scripture!

    One thing we continue to see in this series is the imperfections of the heroes of the Bible. I find this encouraging, knowing I’m not alone in my weak faith, selfishness, pride, and sinfulness. Obviously, the message is not, “Husbands, lie about your wives because it’s the biblical thing to do,” but rather a message of what NOT to do…and hope when we fail.

    Jesus

    Jesus, ironically, sets the perfect example for husbands to follow…love and sacrifice, not selfishness and lies. Where Abram failed in the desert, for Jesus, the desert was the site of one of his finest hours, resisting temptation despite forty days of fasting. Paul famously wrote to the church in Ephesus

    Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)

    Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:22-24)

    Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. (Ephesians 5:25-30)

    That’s what real marriage looks like—true love that’s not based on feelings, but rather on commitment, even when it’s costly.

    Jesus loved us, the Church, to the point of laying down his very life.

    Jesus has entered into your suffering and into your disgraces and into your depressions and into your shames and into your pains. The cross is not just a redemptive place for the follower of Jesus. The cross is also the solidarity place where God joined us in our deepest death. Perhaps you’ve lost a friend who got drunk and then had a fatal car accident, or perhaps you’ve lost the joy of family togetherness because of divorce, or perhaps you’ve seen a friend waste away from some disease, or perhaps you’ve got a tattoo on your body that evokes bad memories. The cross is about that, too.

    At the cross Jesus enters into our pain, into our tragedies, into our injustices, and into the systemic evil we have created and into the sins we have ourselves committed. But his solidarity with us is also an act of redemption.

    -
    Scot McKnight, One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
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