DUNCAN/God help us

DUNCAN/God help us


If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn to Psalm 83. This Psalm is an imprecatory Psalm. An imprecatory Psalm is when the Old Testament people of God prayed that He would judge and even curse His and their enemies. Do these kinds of Psalms have anything to teach us today? Some Christians have said no, that they don’t have anything to teach the Christian about how we are to view the world and the persecution of God’s people, but I want to suggest otherwise.

I want you to see three things from this Psalm. I want you to see first the cry for help that is lifted up in verse 1. And then the desperate situation that’s described in verses 2 – 8. And then finally the warlike prayer in verses 9 – 18.

I. A Cry for Help 

First of all, let’s look at this cry for help. In verse 1 we hear, “O God, do not remain quiet; do not be silent and O God, do not be still.” You see the struggle of the psalmist here. The whole nation is in a tight spot, surrounded by their enemies, and they feel as if God is not active in this situation. He’s silent. And so the question that’s in the heart of the psalmist is, “Is God silent in this time for action? Is He not there for me?”

The striking thing is that God tells His servant Asaph to write this down and to put it in the hymnbook of the people of God. Now, this is stunning! Because we know that our God is not silent in our time of need. In fact, we learn from the Scriptures that our heavenly Father watches over Israel day and night, but the psalmist doesn’t feel that right now.

We need to remember that truth in our own prayers, because all of us lift up prayers that we think are hopeless, and all of us lift up prayers that we think God has turned a deaf ear to. But God is always watching over His people, and not from a distance: right up next to us, in the middle of us. And that’s the first thing that we need to see. God is not silent, but He knows that sometimes we think He is, and He even ministers to us in that.

II. A Desperate Situation 

Next, there is a description of this desperate situation in verses 2 – 8. Here’s the encirclement of God’s people by their enemies. The whole world is against them, the whole world wants to cut them off, the whole world wants to drive them out of the land that God has given them. I want you to see two things from this.

Firstly, you need to understand that this reflects Genesis 3:15, the serpent warring against the seed of the woman. This is the story of those two seeds that begin in Genesis, flowing down through the lines of Cain and Seth: the seed of the serpent seeking to strike the seed of the woman. Why is that so significant? Because if the serpent can cut off the seed of the woman, if the serpent can break the line of Israel, he thinks he can prevent the seed of the woman from coming into this world: the Messiah.

Secondly, the psalmist, in this dire description of the enemies of God surrounding them and desiring to cut them off, is supplying you with words to pray for persecuted Christians around the world today. Countless Christians are facing persecution and martyrdom. More Christians have died the martyr’s death in the twentieth century and in our lifetime than in all the other centuries combined, and it is so important that our prayers for them become a regular part of our daily routine— not just one Sunday a year. In this Psalm, we see application for the church today because the seed of the serpent still wars against the people of God. And so we pray that God would come and judge and relieve those who are laying down their lives for the faith.

III. A Warlike Prayer 

In verses 9 – 18, we see this warlike prayer, a petition for God’s divine curse on His enemies. Now, there are many Christians who say imprecation is only an Old Testament thing. Some claim that these Psalms are sub-Christian because we are to love our neighbor and not hate our enemy. Certainly, we wouldn’t argue a moment against the call to love our enemies. And we should have a desire to see the nations come to a saving knowledge of God. But how does that square up with Paul’s prayers against the false prophets? How does that square up against the martyrs’ prayers in the Book of Revelation against those who are persecuting Christians? Let me just share with you a few quotes from some wise Christians commenting on them.

Walt Kaiser says, “These are not statements of personal vendetta. They are utterances of zeal for the kingdom of God and its glory. To be sure, the attacks which provoked these prayers were not from personal enemies; rather, they were rightfully seen as attacks against God and especially His representatives in the promised line of the Messiah. If these prayers of malediction, if these prayers of imprecation were intrinsically sinful, one would have a difficult time explaining the Lord’s curse upon Capernaum, or Paul’s prayer of anathema upon the false teachers or the prayers of the martyrs who ask for vengeance from the Lord.” C.S. Lewis says, “The ferocious parts of the Psalms serve as a reminder that there is in the world such a thing as wickedness, and that it is hateful to God.”

And these Psalms in the end are not only a call for just judgment: they are a call for God to exercise His reign against all opposition. These Psalms have something to say to us as Christians today as we face world opposition, because there are those who seek to destroy God’s church. Yes, we pray for conversion. In fact, isn’t it interesting? This Psalm gets close to praying for the conversion of the enemies of God. Look at verse 16: “Fill their faces with dishonor, that they may seek Thy name, O Lord.” It goes on. Look at verse 18: “That they may know that Thou alone, whose name is the Lord, art Most High over all the earth.” The imprecatory Psalms teach us to pray that the nations would have to acknowledge what they don’t want to acknowledge: that God is Lord. They do not, however, keep us from praying that even the enemies of the people of God would by grace become His friends. We pray these prayers of imprecation against those who would persecute our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ in hard places around the world, yet at the same time we long to see even the enemies of God become trophies of His grace.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions