Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Enemies and Ourselves

I have been chewing on this one for awhile. I have been reading Psalms in the morning for quiet time and this one jumped out at me as relevant for my life recently. I have been struggling over the way to share what I have been experiencing and learning from it and my time between posting has gone on too long, so I am giving up on perfection or even something good and just planning on sharing it as it comes out of my little head right now.

A few months ago I could not even talk about this - but time gives some perspective and healing. The past year I have surronded myself with several rather unhealthy relationships. On the surface they appeared healthy and I think I wanted them to be so much that I just kept ignoring reality and kept pretending they were.

The reality is they were unhealthy people who were encouraging the unhealthy side of me. I let myself stay in a cycle of unhealthiness and walk further and further from Christ during it. Not that I ever doubted my faith, I just let my actions slip, I was not in the word, I was not as active in service, I was more selfish, I was more wordly focused, I was simply off kilter. My faith never wavered but my choices sure did and I was beginning to pay the price. Thankfully one of the natural consequences led me to realize these people were not my friends but Satan was using them to draw me further away from where I should have been.

Thus the passage takes on so much meaning for me. Especially the end of the Psalm, I have been reading NIV so this is the version I am quoting:

8 Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings

9 from the wicked who assail me,
from my mortal enemies who surround me.

10 They close up their callous hearts,
and their mouths speak with arrogance.

11 They have tracked me down, they now surround me,
with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.

12 They are like a lion hungry for prey,
like a great lion crouching in cover.

13 Rise up, O LORD, confront them, bring them down;
rescue me from the wicked by your sword.

14 O LORD, by your hand save me from such men,
from men of this world whose reward is in this life.
You still the hunger of those you cherish;
their sons have plenty,
and they store up wealth for their children.

15 And I—in righteousness I will see your face;
when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.

The words may seem harsh to describe simple people who are not criminals and are basically good non-believing individuals. Yet I have since come to realize that while it was not their intention to be harmful to me that was often the outcome of their actions and choices. Moreover, the fact that I allowed the relationships to continue and become such a central part of my life that I was facilliting the harm that was coming to me. I was choosing to continually pursue relationship and find support in a community of people who believe their rewards are in this life. I was losing sight of where my true rewards were and was getting dragged down into places I did not want to be.

Don't get me wrong, life wasn't terrible. I never made really bad choices. Okay not being in God's word each day was a bad choice. They never did anything truly horrible, though they were often hurtful to me. In the end it was small but the result was good and powerful. It helped me understand the significance of verse 15:

15 And I—in righteousness I will see your face;
when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.

and vs 8:

8 Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings

God protects me and comforts me and I need to remember that I am his and I am bought at a price. I am made in his likeness and called to be in his likeness. I am protected from my enemies but sometimes we don't quite know what it is we need protecting from. I need to stand in the shelter of God's wings and be satisfied in Him. I know he will look out for me, but I also know I need to be more careful too.

This is not to say I don't think I should have non-Christian friends or anything like that. There is an important place to that and we are called to be salt and light and the truth is if Billy took that stance I would not be part of this wonderful family today and I would have lost so much.

I do think though that sometimes things are more subtle then we realize and when we read a passage like this we often think about a voilent surronding of obvious enemies and that is what our protection needs to be from. Often Satan uses subtly and we miss out on it until things have carried on too long or gone too far. I think my personal situation of the past year helped me see that sometimes the bible is not talking about extremes though on first blush it may seem like that. So often it can apply to the here and now, the mundane and the everyday, even when it sounds like it is talking about something else.

To me phrases such as "mortal enemies", "wicked who assail me" and this passage:

11 They have tracked me down, they now surround me,
with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.

12 They are like a lion hungry for prey,

These things make me think of criminals, or violent attacks or definately not something subtle and unexpected like a friendship. Of course the passage is probably written in the context of great enemies as David is writing it - yet I see its application in my life in real and smaller ways.

Just my thoughts, hope you could make sense of them.

Monday, September 05, 2005


This psalm is not one that stands out, yet when I read it I find it has several of my favorite images, of God and people. The first that stands out is the image in v. 8 " Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings." The 'apple of your eye' phrase is also found in Deut32:10 and refers to God's care of the new nation of Israel which He guarded as the apple of His eye which is the "daughter" or pupil...that special part of the eye which we all guard carefully in order to maintain our sight. Think how you blink when something comes at your eye...it is a reflex, done to protect. The prayer of the psalmist is that God would treat us as precious, as a daughter, as the pupil of His eye; not even needing to think but merely to react in order to protect us.
The second image, of being under the shadow of His wings refers to the way a chicken protects her chicks...sometimes with her life. This image was used by Jesus in Mat. 23:37 to indicate His desire to protect Jerusalem...In the shadow of His wings one is near to Him, protected and cared for. What a lovely thought. The obvious lesson is that we must be near enough to actually be in the shadow. How close do we wish to stay?

There are at least four instances in this psalm in which the psalmist asks God to hear his prayer. The first three are in the first two verses. The psalmist gives his reasons for God to answer him; he is not deceitful in his prayer and in vs 3-4 he states basically that he is righteous, not having followed sin, violence, wayward paths. I have always cringed a bit when the psalmists claim righteousness, as only God is righteous. I am not certain of how to understand this, but do think David, as psalmist is making a case for his effort to obey and follow God. This would include sacrifices for sin and the attendent cost. He is a man of integrity and desires to follow God. He has aligned himself with God as his King and protector and in that vein claims he is loyal, true and trustworthy, seeking God's glory and fame and not his own. This is the basis for his request.
What then is his request? He is trapped as seen in vs9b-12. His mortal enemies have surrounded him...The only way out is through the intervention of God. A reminder to us that when evil comes into our lives, and it does, God is the first one we need to turn to and the only way out...
David's comment in v14 concerning the fate of the men of this world is sobering. He states "whose reward is in this life." That is indeed a pitible state. If the great goodies of this world are all the reward on has to gain how much have they really lost...eternity, joy, love, peace, comfort and on and on. Perhaps this is one great reason to pray for my enemies.
Finally, I really like the last verse of the psalm. "And I-in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness." The idea that David will see the righteous face of God when he awakes...and that will satisfy.
Have you ever known what will bring you joy and contentment and looked forward to it anxiously? Here David knows that God alone will satisfy, will fill him to the place of satisfaction. That is a desire I wish to cultivate.