God’s Enemies

“So this is the situation: Most of the people of Israel have not found the favour of God they are looking for so earnestly. A few have—the ones God has chosen—but the hearts of the rest were hardened. As the Scriptures say, “God has put them into a deep sleep. To this day he has shut their eyes so they do not see, and closed their ears so they do not hear.” Likewise, David said, “Let their bountiful table become a snare, a trap that makes them think all is well. Let their blessings cause them to stumble, and let them get what they deserve. Let their eyes go blind so they cannot see, and let their backs be bent forever.””
Romans 11:7-10 NLT

In Romans 11:9-10, Paul quotes from Psalm 69:22-23. This Psalm, written by David, paints the picture of a man in torment. His enemies, and there are many of them, are harassing him, and his sins are weighing heavily on his mental health. His physical well-being is affected as well, and he is going around dressed in burlap, a heavy sackcloth made from jute or hemp, accompanying his fasting for God’s salvation. The first half of Psalm 69:9 was recorded in John 2:17, as a prophetic reminder when Jesus cleared the temple courtyard of the merchants selling animals for sacrifice, and changing everyday Roman money into the coins required for the offerings. John 2:17, “Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me””. 

There is another prophetic message in this Psalm, relating to Jesus on the cross at Calvary, “You know of my shame, scorn, and disgrace. You see all that my enemies are doing. Their insults have broken my heart, and I am in despair. If only one person would show some pity; if only one would turn and comfort me. But instead, they give me poison for food; they offer me sour wine for my thirst” (Psalm 69:19-21). And then in Psalm 69:22-23, we read again the words quoted by Paul in Romans 11, “Let the bountiful table set before them become a snare and their prosperity become a trap. Let their eyes go blind so they cannot see, and make their bodies shake continually”. Perhaps David was letting his musings extend into an area of judgement, as he prayed for God to deal with his enemies.

Jesus taught though, of a different approach to dealing with our enemies. In His day, when everyone present in Palestine was aware of a brutal occupation by a foreign power, the Romans, there would have been much thought, even rebellion, about how to deal with the problem. Perhaps people allowed their imaginations to run away with them, with thoughts and dreams of how they would like to see the Roman occupiers dealt with, and kicked out of their land. David, in his day, felt the same about his enemies. And we should remember that Jesus knew what was coming to Him, when He was finally arrested and killed. He too would have enemies, but here is the difference. Rather than dream up ways in which they could be eliminated, He said that His followers should pray for them. I can imagine how such a message would have cut through the fog of hatred that surrounded every encounter between a Roman occupier and a native of Israel. Perhaps the Jews thought He had lost the plot! We read what Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-44, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbour’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!”

But back to Paul’s letter and the context of our verses from Romans 11. The real enemies were those of God’s people who rebelled and sinned against Him. They always had the choice of being able to change sides. But instead they preferred to go their own way in life, even if it meant a life of hard work and pointless living. They stumbled, they were blind to the ways of God and, in the end, they suffered. Wrong choices lead to wrong outcomes. It may be that for a while, their lives were full of blessings. But, as David said in his Psalm, they became enslaved and snared in home grown traps. All of this is a familiar scenario for life in the West today. Around us we find so many people who have rejected God and His ways. Jesus and the Cross has no relevance to them. But we pilgrims pray for God’s enemies. We look for opportunities to bless them. And we extend our prayers to include our personal “enemies”. The person who upset us with an unkind word. A social media troll who hides behind internet anonymity to abuse and vilify. The bullies who take advantage of us in the workplace or school. In this life we will always come up against objectionable people. But as we pray for them we will find feel a release in our spirits. By praying we connect with God and He will deal with our prayers. And if we have contributed to the problem He will help us sort it out. Our loving Heavenly Father is on our side, as we are on His. And remember, by leaving any thought of retribution to God, we gain a reward. Proverbs 25:21-22, “If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink. You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads, and the Lord will reward you“.

Dear Father God. Once again in our prayers we remember all those who are Your enemies. By their actions they persecute Your people and abuse them without mercy. We bring to You these people and we pray, as Jesus did – as they hammered the nails into His hands and feet, He prayed “Father forgive them..”. Such mercy and grace! Amen,

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