A Season of Psalms - Psalm 83:16-18
“Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek your name, O Lord. Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever; let them perish in disgrace, that they may know that you alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth.”
English Standard Version (ESV)
What is it like to experience continual defeat before finding success and victory? Ask the Chicago Cubs and the Washington Capitals. The Cubs ended an historic 108-year World Series drought before winning the championship in 2016 over the Cleveland Indians, a team in a long title drought of its own. In 2018, the NHL’s Washington Capitals defeated their playoff nemesis, the Pittsburgh Penguins, before winning their first Stanley Cup in 43 years over the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. Losing is part of the game. Wasn’t it Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who said “You can’t win unless you learn how to lose?”
Asaph, the oft-complaining temple musician, is at it again, this time complaining about the uproar of God’s enemies. They make crafty plans against the people of God and consort to wipe Israel off the face of the map. Asaph pleads with God to punish them as He did to former foes Midian, Sisera, and Jabin. Asaph calls for their swift punishment…but with a catch. Notice verse 16: “Fill their faces with shame, that they make seek your name, O Lord.” In other words, “Defeat them, but let something good come from it.” But one verse later, he asks for them to be disgraced and perish forever, in order for them to know that God alone reigns supreme. In verses 16-18, Asaph’s chain of thought is this: fill them with shame so they’ll seek You, but let them die in disgrace so they’ll know You. Defeat, victory, defeat, victory.
Although we can understand Asaph’s frustration at the apparent ongoing success of his enemies, Jesus tells us not to plead for the destruction of our enemies, but to pray for them. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” We do this “so that we may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” We can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by praying for their salvation and praying for their evil intent to be restrained. Remember, we were once enemies of God; how can we not ask Him to show them the same grace that He has shown us? Mercy, grace, and love are God’s hallmarks. Should they not also be ours?
Further Reading: Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 5:6-11
Father, thank You that while we were still Your enemies, we were reconciled to You through the death of Your Son. Enable us to give our enemies the great grace and mercy and love that You have lavished on us. May we love our persecutors in Jesus’ name. Amen.