By James Boice
Theme: Praying for Grace
From this week’s lessons, we see that when we are wrongly attacked, we are not to seek vengeance, but instead are to entrust ourselves and the situation to God.
Scripture: Psalm 83:1-18
The second thing we should notice about the way the psalm handles its desire for judgment on the Jews’ enemies is that it does not speak of them as the Jews’ enemies so much as the enemies of God. Notice verse 2, where it speaks of “your enemies” and “your foes,” that is, the enemies and foes of God. Even when it mentions the people themselves, as it does in verse 3, it is “your people” and “those you cherish.” When the plots of enemies are mentioned, as they are in verse 5, these plots are “against you.” In verse 12 the enemies of Israel are cited for trying to steal their land; but again, these are called “the pasturelands of God.” In every case, the psalmist says that it is God’s cause that is in danger, and therefore that it is God’s battle—not that of the people.
This perspective makes a tremendous difference in how one thinks of judgment. If the evil is thought of as being against one’s self, then the call is for revenge. But if it is thought of as being against God, then our response is to leave justice in God’s hands and trust him for whatever he sees fit to do. And we can trust him! God is not indifferent! He himself says, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay” (Deut. 32:35; cf. Rom. 12:19). When we understand that, we can be like the man who always turned to God whenever he was attacked and said, “They’re attacking your property, Lord.” He left judgment to God.
The final observation on the way the psalm handles the encircling danger and the need for God’s timely intervention and judgment is the most important of all. It is the way it ends. It calls for judgment—that is true—but it ends by stating the purpose for that judgment: “…so that men will seek your name, O LORD” (v. 16). And in the last verse, the psalmist writes, “Let them know that you, whose name is the LORD—that you alone are the Most High over all the earth” (v. 18). In other words, although desiring deliverance and judgment, the ultimate desire of the psalmist is that other people, even the Jews’ enemies, might come to know and obey the true God.
That is precisely why we do not rush to calls for judgment. Judgment will come. The God of all the universe will do right (see Gen. 18:25). But this is still a day of grace in which judgment has not yet come, when men and women may still repent of their sin and seek after God, that they might find him and be rescued from the wrath to come.
Let me end by going back to the beginning of the psalm and remind you of the greatest “non-answer” to that prayer in all history. The first verse of Psalm 83 says, “O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still.” One day, many centuries after this was written, the Son of God was hanging on a cross in the city of Jerusalem, where he had been encircled and condemned by his cruel enemies, and he in a sense prayed this prayer. He cried to God, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34)? God did not answer. He did not intervene to save Jesus from his enemies or rescue him from the cross.
It was good God did not answer, for God’s silence to Christ’s forsaken cry meant our salvation from the Father’s wrath, and it meant that we have a gospel, and not just judgment, to proclaim.
- Why is it important to distinguish between your enemies and God’s enemies? How does this distinction affect your actions and prayers against your enemies?
- What is the overriding desire of the psalmist? How can we learn from that pure desire today?
Reflection: Do you trust God to achieve justice, or have you fallen into the sin of wanting revenge?
Application: Confess any bitterness toward someone who has wronged you, and resolve not to desire revenge.
Key Point: If it is thought of as being against God, our response is to leave justice in God’s hands and trust him for whatever he sees fit to do.
The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.
Think and Act Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Think and Act Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.