Monday, November 18, 2013
I DON’T HAVE ENEMIES LIKE THAT!
For all the many times when I have set out to read through the Psalms seeking wise guidance from God, I have always run into a true stumbling block. Psalms 3-7. Psalms 1 and 2 are real favorites of mine. But suddenly I find myself in this quandary of war: David and his son are torn apart into a struggle over who would be the true king. Nearly every line in these chapters speaks of the enemies of David. The descriptions of these enemies are vivid and plain to understand.
But I DON’T HAVE ENEMIES LIKE THAT, so what does this all mean to me.
Let me share with you my journal page from 11-14:
Today has not been productive. My morning focus time was a little disrupted with unfinished things that I have not written. But I did revel in finally finding a way to enjoy the power of God as seen by David in these early Psalms; when he truly had serious enemies. I had always wondered how these even applied since no one was trying to kill me or was hounding me or even putting me down for my beliefs. What pain was I going through in the name of God? None. Nada. These Psalms were not comforting to me. They were confusing.
Now that I have enlisted the help of J. Vernon McGee, I am slowly seeing a picture that carries through to life today. J Vernon McGee could well be called a classic Red-neck: A simple preacher in Nashville who spoke what he thought about God’s Word in such a way that it got him many listener’s on the radio for many years and has blessed hundreds of thousands of people. Even though he died in 1990, he can still be heard in many areas of the country in the broadcast of the program, Thru the Bible. The commentaries that he wrote are what he taught and are grass roots plain. No fancy doctrinal platitudes or theological big words and phrases that are over our heads; just plain red-neck English.
As I was catching up with the theme of 3-7, he sent me to 2 Samuel 15 where we find the story of David leaving the City of David and Jerusalem. As he left, “His head was covered and he was barefoot.” (15:30b) Both of these are signs of sorrow. He knew that this was not God’s plan and he hurt inside greatly. It was very interesting to go back and see once more what was going on when Absalom turned against his father. David also knew that he was being disciplined. He lost favor with his son through his own neglect and previous sin.
But, if I see these Psalms right, David was not struggling as much against his son and the turn of events as he was against his own mind and body. He was weary, very weary; and he stayed that way through out this time period. He was bombarded with mental images of loosing this war with his son. He was bombarded with the excruciating reality that it was his own son that he was fighting. He was overwhelmed at times with realization that he did not have the strength to go on with, let alone win, this confrontation. His mind threw his spirit into turmoil. His spirit would drop steeply and he would find himself pleading for help from God and for sanity during these hard times.
McGee says that there are three ways to look at these Psalms:
1. The personal experience of David.
2. The application to the nation of Israel in the future prophecy.
3. The application to God’s people everywhere at any time in the history of the world.
So looking for some help for ourselves in these Psalms is not as impossible as I have always thought. I have just overlooked the real enemy depicted here: our own minds.
I may not be able to say that I am persecuted in any way, but I can say that my own body is not my friend and my own mind fails to assist me in my daily attempts to keep up with things and words and people. I struggle with it all daily just to keep my sanity and to keep learning and sharing what I know.
Consider memories that come suddenly to mind and defeat, at least for a moment, our attempts to trust what God is doing in us and for us. As I watched a repeat of “Flash Point” yesterday, I was again enthralled with the excellent writing as the leader of the team was finally forced to face his true feelings about what he had done over the years as a Swat Team leader. He was pushed into revealing for the first time about how much of a failure he felt he was because of the situations that ended with someone being killed (neutralized); about how he was not able to make every situation have a good ending. He was led into realizing that their actions are trained into them as black and white, but that it is okay for their feelings to be real and full of color. But they have to acknowledge and share those feelings with one another.
Since being involved with people who have had serious problems in their past, I have come to realize how beneficial it is to just talk about it. I remember the three years that it took for my Dad to come out of what was then called “shell shock” and how he took his feelings out on Mom over that time. He never did talk about the war, but he had PTSD as much as any other soldier, especially those who had any command position at all. WWII war vets were not encouraged to talk. It is only now that Vietnam vets are being encouraged to visit the past that is holding them hostage. And recent survivors of war are not getting much help at all if they just have memories but no visible injuries or dangerous behaviors. Talking is such a relief that it can heal better than any medication; but, who to talk to about such ugly things?
Isn’t that what my enemy looks like, too? Isn’t that what we are all struggling against every day of our earthly lives? Isn’t our overpowering imagination and memories of our past something we have to deal with or be broken by it? Don’t we have to plead with God daily to help us keep our sanity and trust in Him and not let our imagined foes take over our minds and dump our spirits in the drink?
And I am not talking exclusively about the distant past: The things we remember about yesterday’s failures can be just as destructive. That is why we need to discuss these things with God and remember that He does not judge us for our failures like we do. He can lift us up from them and move us along as though they never happened, except that He helps us learn great lessons from them. And, it is important to find at least one friend who will listen non-judgmentally to our horrors and remind us who we are and to Whom we belong.
David struggled to keep his faith and trust strong, and he never hesitated to tell God exactly what he was feeling and why. But he made a serious point to end his conversations with God in praise to God, with thanksgiving for who God is, was and will always be. And, just think: These words were not private; they were written to be sung. He was telling all to all.
It would seem that this is the least we can also do. At this season of thanksgiving maybe it would help us to actually thank Him for who He IS rather than who we are or what we have or can do. Maybe. Perhaps we could daily pick a promise or a divine character trait of God to be thankful for. That might actually be worth sharing and may be less on the level of the Pharisee who thanked God that he was not like other (lowly) men.
Maybe, just maybe, these Psalms are here to remind us of the only truly valuable thing we have on this earth: Our God and Savior Jesus Christ, our Father God and our “mind assister” Holy Spirit. With out all of that, we are without hope and we are hopeless to achieve any worthwhile thing. So is this something to think about? For me it is. And I hope it is for you, too.
“Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” Did you know that in the Psalms, He is never called a personal father as in Our Father or even Father God? He is formally called God, the Father. But Christ gives us not only permission, but direction to call him Our Father; joining us to Himself as siblings of the same Father. We are truly blessed. So, thank you Father for who you are and that you would make the effort to care about us--we who matter so little in the scheme of things--except that you love us and choose to be here for us and with us.
May we all recognize the weakness and danger of allowing our imagination or our memories to become ruler of our lives. May we be always careful to return to your promises for comfort and support; and may we trust in you for everything, praising you for your unfailing Love, no matter what plagues our minds. In Jesus name, Amen.