Our Enemies or God’s Enemies?

November 2013 Scripture of the Month

Psalm 139:19-24

Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men. 20 For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain. 21 Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? 22 I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies. 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

 

“Your cause is my cause” is David’s main thought in the last six verses of Psalm 139. He turns to the wicked now and tells them to get away from him, reminding God of all of their words and acts against Him. David boldly declares that he abhors those who hate God – an extremely politically incorrect statement in our day, to say the least – and calls his hatred toward them “perfect”. This is an interesting idea. At first glance it seems to go against the command of Christ to “love your enemies” in Matthew 5:44. Instead of taking this at face value, however, let’s dig a little deeper. Is there any difference between the enemies David hates in Psalm 139 and the enemies Christ commands to love in Matthew 5?

Matthew 5:44 says in part “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.” Notice my emphasis on the word “you”. As Christians, we have in fact two different classifications of enemies: those of God whom David described, and those of ourselves whom Jesus described. The enemies of God curse Him and hate Him rather than cursing and hating us. To be sure, enemies of God may rail against Christians, but this is because the Christians are on God’s side of the battle and are damaging Satan’s kingdom. These are the enemies of which David describes his hatred in the Psalms. Our own enemies, however, are made because of our own human failures. There is a profound difference between the two.

In order to more fully understand the difference between our enemies and God’s enemies, let us turn to an experience in the life of the very author of this Psalm, King David. In 2 Samuel 16, we find David’s realm in a dreadful civil war. Absalom the prince was attempting to take the throne of the nation of Israel from his father and king. In one of the saddest family splits ever recorded, David was forced to flee from his capital city and seek refuge because of the aggressive gestures of his apostate son. In an already bleak and humiliating situation, ostensibly the worst possible time, Shimei, a relative of the late King Saul, appeared, and began to malign and curse David, throwing stones as he did so. When one of David’s loyal officers asked for permission to put this slanderous enemy to death, David answered “Let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, ‘Curse David’” (2 Samuel 16:10). This answer was doubtless surprising to hear from the anointed king of the mighty nation of Israel. King David understood, however, that this enemy was not an enemy of God, cursing him because of his allegiance to the Lord; instead, this was his enemy, brought upon him as part of the judgment he rightly deserved for his sin with Bathsheba. Therefore, David chose to accept the cursing as God’s will and entrusted the matter to Him. When Shimei later came to David and humbly repented of his sin of slander, David freely forgave him, and again implied an appeal to God to do as He saw fit.

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