Deliver Me

Psalm 56: 1-2, 5       NLT

O God, have mercy on me, for people are hounding me. My foes attack me all day long. I am constantly hounded by those who slander me, and many are boldly attacking me. They are always twisting what I say; they spend their days plotting to harm me. They come together to spy on me – watching my every step, eager to kill me.

I feel David’s anguish in this passage, do you? As he fled from town to town, he never knew whether he would find friend or foe. Worst yet, some of those he thought to be friends, betrayed him to Saul. Maybe you can relate to David’s angst. Perhaps you feel attacked by a co-worker or betrayed by a friend. Chances are they twist your words too. They may re-characterize what you meant for good into an evil plan. You are frustrated, angry, forlorn and you wonder where you can turn for relief. David had the same problem; pressure and stress on every side, where to turn?

David is an iconic example of a person who learned to run away and hide in the refuge of the Lord. He made it a real thing, not just a lofty idea. He sang frequently of God his refuge in his songs. One of those uses is in Psalm 7: 1 where David wrote, “O Lord my God, in You I have taken refuge; save me from all those who pursue me, and deliver me.” The same idea, if not language, recurs in today’s psalm. It is an anthem to every person who has ever felt attacked, wrongly accused, or slandered.

How did David hide himself away in God when he, like us, has to live in the physical world? Still, to David, this wasn’t poetry, it was survival. When you are spiritually so in the Father, you are less bothered by the problems of the physical but there is more to it than that. Do you remember the time when David was hiding in a cave and Saul went into that very cave to relieve himself (1 Samuel 24: 3)? How is it that Saul didn’t find David? That is where hiding yourself in the refuge of God comes in to play. God may have hidden David behind a shroud. He may have blinded Saul to David’s presence. Maybe God sent angels to form a barricade between them. We don’t know how God does it but He has power which is applicable in this physical world. His spiritual power trumps the physical realm. Therefore, taking your refuge in Him can, and does, have physical world implications. He will confound your enemies. He will bless you in their presence.

Don’t discount the spiritual realm. It is actually more powerful than the physical realm and God can make physical things happen with His spiritual power. It is how He made the earth after all. Get your mind focused on God and His ability to care for you. See yourself ensconced in the fortress that is God. Picture thousands of angels all about your castle and the Holy Spirit presiding over the entire estate. You are safe in the hands of God. Your enemies will pay for their attack. Those who have disparaged you will eat the fruit of their mouths and you will be vindicated. Just pray to the Father, hide yourself in Him and keep your mouth from sinning. You will carry the day.

Brotherly Love

Psalm 55: 16 – 18

As for me, I shall call upon God, And the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, And He will hear my voice. He will redeem my soul in peace from the battle which is against me.

This is a psalm of David and at once tragic, sad and victorious. David’s lament was not solely that his life was pursued relentlessly but rather that his life was sought by one he loved. The enemy was not a Philistine, as it were, but rather Saul whom he loved as a Father and revered wholly as his king. His devotion to Saul was absolute but, as is so often the case, the demon in Saul’s soul, the jealousy and emotional scars, set upon the innocent David.

Being pursued across the land, your very life in mortal peril night and day, was tortuous for David, as it would be for any of us. The greater tragedy though, is when your enemy is your brother. How, do you fight an enemy whom you love? How do you even defend yourself against your attacker when that attacker is a “friend”? Jesus actually had an answer for this dilemma. He said to pray for them. Since Jesus came, we have a clear mandate that we are supposed to love everyone. That means every enemy is one we are to love. Then how do we fight? We are not supposed to cause harm. So, Dad has us pray for them and in that simple act is our release and our victory.

David’s landing spot is very reminiscent of the 23rd Psalm. In Psalm 23, verse 4, David wrote, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.” Do you see the similarity with “He will redeem my soul in peace from the battle which is against me?” In the midst of battle, even when surrounded by foes, your soul can rest in peace because of God is the keeper of your soul.

I would point out one other thing about this passage. There is, perhaps, a better way to think of communicating our need to our Father than complaining and mourning though we will give those words their space. The Passion Translation translates that language as, “Every evening I will explain my need to him. Every morning I will move my soul toward him.” I quite like that, and I believe it almost visually depicts the reality that David lived. We emotionally, spiritually and mentally move ourselves towards God and in that, we receive the peace our souls long for.

The truth of life is that those who attack you are most often friends or loved ones. This reality makes the challenge harder and the pain more intense. None the less, our Father says to us that even in the midst of battle, or more to the point, when attacked, stand and be delivered. Your Father is knowledgeable and attentive. He knows your pain, you situation and the limitations you are under. Let Him be your refuge. Let Him rescue you. It really is the only viable plan. Move your heart closer to Him and let Him comfort and keep you.  Call upon God.

Convinced

Psalm 52: 8 – 9              TPT

But I am like a flourishing olive tree, anointed in the house of God. I trust in the unending love of God; his passion toward me is forever and ever. Because it is finished I will be praising you forever and giving you thanks. Before all your godly lovers I will proclaim your beautiful name!

Yesterday I sent you the first seven verses of Psalm 52. I thought you needed to see how David finished this song. Not only is it beautiful but in the face of adversarial persecution, he stands in the love and the grace of his heavenly father.

The first seven verses have more to do with the wicked people and how God will deal with them. This second part is about us, those of us who put our faith, not in the work of our hands, our wealth or our righteousness, but only in the “unending love of God.” When David turns to thinking of himself his thoughts are filled with God’s love and his love for God. Praise and thanksgiving come immediately to his awareness. His trust is in that love, knowing that God’s love is not only unending, but also passionate. David had a real, palpable awareness of God’s love for him and it altered his life. I so look forward to hearing him sing his praises to our beloved Father and I am going to go stand beside him and join in. I imagine I will never experience any greater joy than I will in that moment. My God is so worthy, and it is an honor to get to praise him.

In this earth, we too can trust in God’s love the way David did and it will protect us. It will keep us calm in the midst of the storm. Even when your Saul or Doeg threatens, God will keep your peace. He will guard your heart and soon you too will be singing your praises to the Beloved One.

I wish we understood how much Yahweh loves us. I wish we understood how real the force of his love is. I wish we all understood how to stand in trust, leaning on our faith in that love. David was hounded and persecuted relentlessly yet a song was never far from his lips, praise in his wake. He says with confidence and conviction that though persecuted, “I am like a flourishing olive tree, anointed in the house of God.” Can you picture what image must have been in David’s mind when he wrote those words? Doeg did evil and of course it pained David. That is why he sought the Spirit and poured out this psalm. However, at the end of the day, David saw himself flourishing under God’s blessed anointing. He saw himself planted in the house of God where his roots went down deep and drew nourishment.

I am very grateful David gave us this psalm. I hope you will find comfort in it. Let all our enemies be on notice. God will rip them up by their roots, but we will be firmly planted in the garden of the Lord, enjoying his anointing.

Vindicated

Psalm 52: 1 – 7         TPT

 

For the Pure and Shining One
A song of instruction by King David composed when Doeg, the Edomite, betrayed
David to Saul, saying, “David has come to the house of Ahimilech!”

 

You call yourself a mighty man, a big shot? Why do you boast in the evil you have done? Yet God’s loyal love will protect me and carry the day!

2 Listen, O deceiver, trickster of others: Your words are wicked, harming and hurting all who hear them.

3 You love evil and hate what is good and right. You would rather lie than tell the truth.

Pause in his presence

4 You love to distort, devour, and deceive, using your sly tongue to spin the truth.

5 But the Almighty will strike you down forever! He will pull you up by your roots
and drag you away to the darkness of death.

Pause in his presence

6 The godly will see all this and will be awestruck. Then they will laugh at the wicked, saying,

7 “See what happens to those great in their own eyes who don’t trust in the Most High to save them! Look how they trusted only in their wealth and made their living from wickedness.”

The word “Selah” means to pause and consider what you’ve read. Here is it rendered “Pause in his presence.” I felt compelled to stop and think about this when I read it. David used strong language and I could feel the conviction of his experience and emotion. Though pursued relentlessly, though treated unfairly, though spoken about untruthfully and harshly, David persisted in the grace of the Lord.

In verse seven I also hear, those “who brag in their wealth.” It is unseemly to begin with, but the greater sin is that they give no credit to God who causes them to prosper. They strut about like a peacock trying to gather praise, but their boasting is repugnant and odoriferous. In other words, it stinks. It is putrid in the nostrils of God and it doesn’t smell like roses to us either.

The Geneva Bible calls these people arrogant. Verse one in the God’s Word translation reads, “Why do you brag about the evil you have done?” None of us has anything to brag about except Christ Jesus and him crucified for us. We are nothing, absolutely nothing, apart from him. However, in him, we can shout, “glory” because Christ has redeemed us from ourselves. David endured all the hateful things said about him. He had to put up with Saul, and others, whose words were, “wicked, harming and hurting all who hear them” but David said, “Yet God’s loyal love will protect me and carry the day!

Do you have one of these people in your life? Someone who lies and distorts, who uses their words to hurt others? Someone boastful and arrogant? Well, take heart for, quite literally, you will have the last laugh. Verse six and the first part of seven says, “The godly will see all this and will be awestruck. Then they will laugh at the wicked, saying, “See what happens to those great in their own eyes.” In verse one David wrote some very powerful words that I want you to absorb into your heart. He wrote, “Yet God’s loyal love will protect me and carry the day!” It’s so true. Believe me. God’s love will buoy you up and protect your heart in that day. No matter what that arrogant, tyrannical bully says of you or to you, no matter what evil they attempt to plot against you, the love of God will wrap you in a cocoon of protection. God, Himself, will be your forward and rear guard.

If you have a Saul in your life, pray for them. That is what Jesus told us to do and what he demonstrated himself. No one knows exactly what Saul’s damage was. Some say it was a mental disorder, some say he was influenced by evil spirits. Regardless, the damage was very real. His actions against David were ruthless and unjustified. David had more than one opportunity to kill him but passed up all the chances and restrained his men as well. David set a good example for us. If you will pray for them, even though they don’t deserve it, it will honor your Father and I can’t think of a better reason to do it.

Full Recovery

1 Samuel 30: 19

Nothing was missing: small or great, son or daughter, nor anything else that had been taken. David brought everything back.

The Jews have a ideal of peace which I hear ringing out through this verse. They call it “Shalom” and it is a very comprehensive idea, much fuller than our “Christian” idea of what peace encompasses.

The Jewish sense of peace is rich and complete. It has little to do with tranquility and calmness other than that those are the natural outcomes of fullness of peace. I have heard Shalom described as “nothing missing, nothing broken.” I absolutely love that. It blesses my soul and expands my thinking. And blessing really is the right word to be applied here because our Jewish brothers and sisters bless each other in greeting with, “Shalom.” Think of it, every time you are greeted by your Jewish kin they speak blessing over you. The blessing is, “For your life I speak nothing missing, nothing broken.”

The backstory to today’s verse is that the Amalekites invaded the territory of Judah, plundering its wealth and taking women and children as slaves. David’s wives were part of this plunder. Verse six tells us that “David found strength in the Lord his God” so he sought the Lord, our God, asking whether God was with him to go after these heathen Amalekites. The Lord answered, “Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you!” (v. 7). So, David pursued them and recovered everything the enemy stole.

Do you see a parallel here with your own life? Has the enemy stolen from you? Then you, too, should seek the Lord and ask if God is with you. You know the answer in your head, but head knowledge is not what David sought when he inquired of the Lord. We, like David, must be convinced in our hearts that the Lord is with us and that He is our strong right arm, that He will fight our battles and return to us all the enemy stole.

God’s will for us is Shalom; nothing missing, nothing broken. That is the way He made us and that is the life He constructed for us. However, we have an enemy who has wasted our resources and stolen our prized possessions. We should go get what the enemy has stolen. We should make him return everything he has plundered. We would be foolish, besides unsuccessful, if we go upon this raid of the enemy’s camp without first beseeching the Lord. But that the Lord go with us, we should go not. There is no victory apart from the Lord.

God’s will is nothing missing, small or great. Be bold like David but be accompanied by the Lord or else stay home. Don’t let the enemy steal from you. Petition your Father. Hear His words and hearken to them. If He says, “Go,” then go, for He will be with you.

God of the Sword

Psalm 35: 1 – 3                 God’s Word

O Lord, attack those who attack me. Fight against those who fight against me. Use your shields, both small and large. Arise to help me. Hold your spear to block the way of those who pursue me. Say to my soul, “I am your savior.”

How many facets of Yahweh do you know personally? He has many titles He connects to people through. Whole books have been written on the “Names of God” though I would argue those aren’t His names as much as they are positions or titles. For example, your name may be Mary, but you may also be known as a CEO, a musician, mother, daughter, grandmother, etc. We all hold many positions in life and in the lives of others. God is the same. His name is Yahweh but He is God, Father, Lord, Master, King, Provider, etc. He is warm and comforting in His role as Father but He is also a proud and bold warrior, one unparalleled and He dons His armor and weapons on your behalf.

It may sometimes be hard to see God in this way if you have been relating to Him as a loving parent. It is important that we realize He is our advocate and more than that, He is our defender. If someone threatens us, then they have to deal with Him. When I have been in stressful situations before, I have thought, “My Dad is bigger than your Dad.” It is, perhaps, a childish idea but one which reframes problem situations very quickly for me. In verse 3 the Passion Translation reads, “Stand for me when they stand against me!” The essence of that idea is not only comforting but empowering also. We need not cower. We have a very strong general at the head of the column leading the way but one who will also stand shoulder to shoulder with us in the time of trouble.

These verses reveal that He has shields with which He is able to block the way. He will not allow the enemy to get to us. Surely, that is comforting. The NASB reads, “Draw also the spear and the battle-axe to meet those who pursue me.” While the spear and battle axe can be used to fend off attacks, don’t you also get the impression that He has them for offensive tactics as well? He has a buckler and a shield. We see that from verse two so why does He also draw the battle axe and the spear. I think His defensive posture with these weapons at the ready is a clear message to the enemy that should they breach the boundary, Yahweh God is ready and willing to defend His kid.

Lastly, I know we are supposed to pray for our enemies, and do, but isn’t it good to know that you have a well-armed giant at your side should those enemies not hearken to the voice of prayer and intercession? And, if you turn your eyes to the left and right, spiritually, you will see that He has legion upon legion of warrior angels arrayed in their battle armor too. Fear not my beloved. The army is at your side.

Friend or Enemy

James 4: 4              NIV

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

On a recent trip out of town I visited a YMCA in that city. Of course, many of you know the YMCA is a Christian organization. This particular Y says of its mission: “To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.” A noble mission statement, you would agree. You know, as well, that I am a fan of the YMCA organization and its mission. Ivey Ministries, in fact, has donated to the Y and I have personally too. It is a great organization which is helping many people.

Even the Y, though, is vulnerable to the wiles of the world. Each of us is susceptible to becoming so friendly with the world that we become enemies of God. On this day I rode a bicycle spin class. The instructor gave each song title as it began to play. Imagine my surprise when she announced the song playing as, “Summer of the Occult.” Really? I said, “What?” So, she repeated it. Yep, that’s what she said alright. I just knew I misheard her. After class I approached her and mentioned that, in my humble opinion, songs of the occult are not appropriate for a Christian organization. She immediately looked threatened and began walking away but answered me saying, “Well, it’s just music.” Of course, that is not a sufficient answer. That is called friendship with the enemy which puts us at enmity with God, or hostile to God.

You know, for the first time in my life I had a very clear picture of what it must have been like in the story of the Gadarene demoniacs from Matthew 8. Verse 29 reads, “And they cried out, saying, ‘What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?’” That woman could not get away from me fast enough. The spirit behind that song selection could sense the Spirit in me and it wanted no part of Jesus’ Spirit.

We need to exercise caution in our lives because that easily could have been you or me. For all I know, that instructor may love Jesus intensely. This is not a criticism of her or the YMCA but if this is happening in a declared Christian organization, don’t you think it can happen other places too? Our homes and our churches are not even immune.

The problem is that we fall in love with the things of the world, such as the world’s music. We may say to ourselves, like the instructor said to me, “It’s only music.” Well, first of all, few things have the power to move our spirits more than music which is exactly why this is problematic. As it is, we use worldly music at the Y for our classes but occult music goes too far. It makes me wonder, though, if we have tolerated or befriended too much of the world’s music.

For some of us it isn’t music but rather television shows and movies. Their very themes fly in the face of holiness and godliness, but we enjoy them. So, bit by bit we sequester our Christianity to give lee way to the things of the world. We court the world and its many enticements, but the price is very high. Look at today’s verse from the Passion translation, “You have become spiritual adulterers who are having an affair, an unholy relationship with the world. Don’t you know that flirting with the world’s values places you at odds with God? Whoever chooses to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy!”

This is a big problem which, I think, needs attention brought to it. Our Christianity is often more worldly than holy. Just a little of this or a bit of that and the next thing you know, we are more heathen than Christian. It is a challenge. We live in this world but we are not to be a part of it. We are supposed to be sanctified, which means set apart. We shouldn’t look like, sound like or sing like the world.

I do not want you to react in fear over this, however. This is a call to faith, prayer, and devotion. It is a caution too. We should pay attention to ourselves, our churches and our church programs, especially youth programs. Most of us want to be cool but at what price? I hear pastors saying things that make my skin crawl. It is not that they are bad people. They have just been enticed by the world. Guard yourself. Guard your family and home and guard your church and all its programs. Pray for your workplace and your workout place. Pray for the stores you frequent and every place you go. All these places need the presence of God in them.

The enemy is on the move and we are fools if we don’t understand that. He is infiltrating our Christian sanctuaries. We must awaken and get our heads out of the sand. We have floated around too long in the comfort of worldly pleasures. Now we are about to pay the price and a very high price at that if we don’t awaken and become the vigilant force we were always meant to be. The time for fat, cultural Christianity is at end. Take up your sword, which is the Word of God, and stand for your God. And by all means, push back. Don’t just tolerate this heathen infiltration of your life and organizations. Pray but also do not be afraid to speak up. Even if you are the only person willing to stand, stand just the same. Write to me and I will support you. You are not alone.

Friends of the world are enemies of God. We are forced to choose. Don’t tell me your choice. Show me!