Rescue me, Lord, from evildoers;
protect me from the violent,
2 who devise evil plans in their hearts
and stir up war every day.
3 They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s;
the poison of vipers is on their lips.[b]
4 Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
protect me from the violent,
who devise ways to trip my feet.
5 The arrogant have hidden a snare for me;
they have spread out the cords of their net
and have set traps for me along my path.
This psalm, like many others, is the prayer of a warrior.
There is not a general agreement that David actually wrote this one, but it is attributed to him in the heading and its theme and expression are quite consistent with what we know of David from our study of the Old Testament. Here the writer finds himself compassed about by enemies – violent and evil men who are determined to undo him. The psalmist spends some ink describing what low-down creatures his enemies are and then cries to God for deliverance, asking that his enemies be drastically and violently punished.
How is it that people – people like me – have continued to find value and inspiration in this poem when most of us are not warriors? Most of us are not military men – soldiers on an active battlefield. Most of us don’t have evil men plotting to take our lives. How is this poem anything to us?
Because, soldier or not, military career or not, active battlefield or not, all of us are at war. Well, maybe not all of us are at war. Some of us may be so oblivious to it that we can’t really be seen as participants. But there is a war raging that affects us all. If we give any credence to the New Testament, then we know that there is a spiritual battle being fought right here and in our time between good and evil. The Bible tells us that the players in this conflict are not mere mortals:
Ephesians 6:12 English Standard Version
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
I’ve spent some time lately here on this blog taking about these “rulers, authorities and cosmic powers” that Paul refers to more than once. (see Colossians 2:8 and Galatians 4:9) These passages have always intrigued me because they seemed to point to beings or forces that are not directly identified elsewhere in the scriptures. Kind of spooky in a Stephen King sort of way. I have never seen any Christian writer say much about them until I read Andy Crouch’s excellent book, Playing God. He suggests that they are
“shadowy [and supernatural] powers that lurked behind human institutions and indeed the whole natural world” They “are at the root of . . . cultural patterns . . . that have enslaved God’s image bearers, cutting them off from sight and life.”
All of that is pretty dramatic. I don’t doubt it for a minute, but I wrote this post for the purpose of suggesting that most of us normal, non-super-hero type people do have some experience with this kind of thing. How many times have we, perhaps after years of frustrated effort, said something like “There is just something in that [here insert personal preference: school, town, country, company] that will not let me loose, or that will not let me succeed.”
I wonder if this complaint is truer that we even suspect! And if it is, how necessary for you and I to recognize what we are up against and to align ourselves with Christ, before whom such powers tremble and flee.