Monday, April 21, 2008

Psalm 3

Today's psalm is one written by David as he was fleeing his son Absalom. It's one of those psalms in which David reminds the Lord about all of his enemies and how they mock him and claim that the Lord will not deliver him. Then, he confesses that he survives each night only because the Lord is his protection. He expresses his confidence in the Lord, and then calls the Lord to kick in the teeth of his enemies. Finally, he reminds the reader/hearer of the psalm that the Lord puts such "blessing" on all of His people.

David's world seems so far removed from my own. I can't imagine what it would be like to have a number of people "out to get me" in the sense that they wanted to kill me. David recognized that these guys were acting against the Lord and not for Him, and therefore they would be foiled in their attempts.

The part of the psalm that sticks out to me is verse 7, in which David calls on God to give his enemies the beat down. This is hardly turning the other cheek. Somehow, I don't see Jesus echoing this prayer. I guess Peter called down the thunder on a couple of people (Acts 5:9, 8:20–23) and Paul handed some people over to Satan (1 Cor 5:5, 1 Tim 1:20), but these reactions seem to be the exception rather than the rule. That really raises the question of what is going on in this psalm.

I am reading Wolfhart Pannenberg's Systematic Theology right now, and I think he presents a solution to me. In his discussion of the world's religions, he says that the relative truthfulness of a religion has to be demonstrated on its own terms, i.e. how the claims of the religions play out in the experiences of (primarily) the adherents of that religion and (secondarily) the non-adherents of the religion. So, how do we know that Marduk isn't the supreme deity? Because his people were conquered and worship of him disappeared from the earth. History showed that the Babylonian religion was "false." In the case of Yahweh, He has to demonstrate His superiority to the other religions by action in history. This is what was going on when Elijah took on the prophets of Baal. They were having a contest to see which deity was true. (Perhaps you can say that the resurrection of Jesus was the proof par excellence of Yahweh's superiority.)

In the case of David, God had sworn to protect David and failure to do so would be evidence of His weakness. (Even the bad things that happened to David are presented in Scripture as judgments of Yahweh on David for his unfaithfulness.) So, I think that David could pray for Yahweh to kick in his enemies' teeth because, in a way, that was demonstrating God's power. By protecting the king, God would be preserving His own reputation.

The situation is different for us today. Jesus reversed the paradigm so that by suffering with faith we are actually "overcoming" our enemies. (I wrote my masters thesis on this theme in the Book of Revelation.)

So, if you are my enemy--rest assured. I am not praying for God to kick your teeth in.

"Father, I was to thank You for the way that You have watched over me and preserved me. It's a testimony to David's words about Your blessing that I haven't experienced the things he did. God I confess that when I have encountered opposition, my reaction has been to want to kick in the teeth of my enemies--not for Your glory--but for my own. I confess that this is not the way of Jesus. God, I pray that You would help me to be a part of the solution. I pray that I would stand up for Your glory by my willingness to suffer for those who hate me. I pray that You would give the courage to do so, because my instinct will be to respond to hate with hate.

I pray that You would strengthen my faith--that I would never doubt Your protection or Your superiority to the "gods" of my age. Too often I take You for granted. I thank You for Jesus. I thank You for Your grace. Amen."

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