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

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)

some ideas from D6

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