Friday, August 24, 2018

Faith in a World of Hostility (Psalm 3) by Rev. Dr. Steve Locke

“Enemies past counting...” This is a phrase expressing the fears in the mind of those who feel the world pressing in on their comfort and convenience. What kind of enemies? Are they the enemies of politics or the enemies of war? They could even be the enemies of society that try to lay claim upon reputation and position. Since we know that this is a Psalm of David, after the death and treason of Absalom, his son, we should surmise that the enemies are those that try to lay claim to his position, as King. David laid out before God his pain with bitter emotion. This event is enmeshed with suffering and pain attached. His experience of the pressure upon his life is real, but in the Psalm there is no realization of his part in his son’s disloyalty. Indeed there may not be any part, but the pain of his loss as a father is specifically expressed. We, of course, do not know that he was an ineffective father, but given the circumstances and his remorse it might have led him to that conclusion.

Because his remorse is somewhat subdued I assume that he is talking to the nation, and not to God through intimate conversation. He wants to bolster the nation to believe in God and to secure their faith in order to engage the future. He is not willing to engage his sin or inability as a father; he wants to give the nation a new direction of hope. They know that his son betrayed him and the nation but he addresses only the interest of his people and not his despair. Their interest is, according to the king, that their enemies have been crushed. David expresses his pain as a king who feels the pressure of the responsibility, and of his enemies. They have suffered, they have reached out to God, and they have looked for the resolution that would bring this all to an end. God has fulfilled their desire.

Enemies are all around them but who is the enemy? David knows and the nation knows. Everyone is hard pressed to find a resolution of their pain other than in God, who is already working in David and the nation to find a new future for everyone. David narrates his pain of being attacked but it has already happened. Therefore he is providing the nation a way of coming to grips with treason and with betrayal. “There are enemies,” they are on every side and in every corner of our lives. “But you God shield us,” from the terrible forces that try and defeat us. This of course is the reality we hope for every day. We believe that God’s vision will survive and that he wants us to succeed.  This is our hope, this is our daily endeavor.

Reading the Psalm, like reading our life, depends upon knowing what is going on around us. When we do then we are able to speak with clarity and purpose. We are able to assess the situation and respond accordingly. Spirituality is not acting according to a template, but according to what God desires for us in that moment. It is this moment that the Psalms press us toward. They force us to listen to God instead of making rules for ourselves.

Enemies are those that act against us, often because of provocation from us and others. We create enemies by position, personality and actions. Enemies are not always those that are wrong and they are not always right. We must look past our position and our ideology to assess who comes against us. Humility is not a spiritual trait devoid of political will. It is a necessary trait to determine how to respond in the face of anger and hatred that seeks to destroy us.

The one thing that spirituality cannot succumb to is to dishonor God by a lie. David did not lie. He told the truth as a king. He gave the people a statement of truth to indulge their national hope. This is a Psalm of security and of personal acknowledgment of the power of God to do what is right. We struggle to see the truth, but it is hazy until we understand the vision of God. “Real help comes from God. Your blessing clothes your people!”  It is this belief that allows David, the nation and us to get up each morning with renewed hope that we can enter the world of enemies. But we miss the point of the Psalm if we think God wants us to demonize our enemies. We are not always right and our enemies are not always wrong. The Psalm points us to God and God pushes out the door to live and learn among our friends and enemies.

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