In my youth I never thought much about having “enemies”. Maybe the “bill collectors” that we hid from occasionally, or the “truant officer” who came to our house regularly wondering why we were absent from school again. But, soon after becoming a follower of Jesus at the age of 19 I began to make a few “enemies”, well sort of. They were people (friends and family) who didn’t particularly appreciate the new Rod and his talk of God and the Bible and other such annoying topics. At one time I even received a “death threat”! It was from an older family member who had a long-standing problem with anger, most probably related to our rather dysfunctional upbringing (his worse than mine). At the time I was very excited about my new-found faith in Jesus and was keen to share this with whoever would listen. But one day he couldn’t take it anymore and stood over me and said, “If you talk once more about your religion, I will kill you!” I confess to having taken him seriously and so stopped! For 7 years anyway, until he also became a follower of Jesus!
When we look at Psalm 35 we realize very quickly that David had much more serious problems than me with some very real enemies. Let me remind you about them from David’s own testimony, as he cries out to God saying:
17 How long, Lord, will you look on?
Rescue me from their ravages,
my precious life from these lions…
19 Do not let those gloat over me
who are my enemies without cause;
do not let those who hate me without reason
maliciously wink the eye.
20 They do not speak peaceably,
but devise false accusations
against those who live quietly in the land.
21 They sneer at me and say, “Aha! Aha!
With our own eyes we have seen it.”
So, Wilcock asks the question, “Who is being cursed” by David? And we looked at some of those “curses” last time (verses 8 and 26). Well, the obvious answer is “his enemies”. If we have never really thought about this question, then, Wilcock suggests that “of course we are likely to find [David’s] attitude offensive and spiteful.” But, as we study the “curses” in the Bible stories, prophets and Psalms, we begin to understand that “all these imprecations have a similar object. They are directed against those who reject what God has said”, and this, says Wilcock, “sheds new light on Psalm 35.”
He continues; David “identified with the Lord, and with no other God (v. 10). So, the conflict was between one who accepted the Lord’s authority and others who rejected it.” In fact, “they were the Lord’s enemies…it was really the Lord with whom they were at odds.” And, “if this is all about David and Saul…it makes the theological point clearly. God had spoken through his prophet Samuel to both Saul and David [I Samuel 13-31]. Saul had disobeyed the word that had come to him and had refused to recognize the word that had come to David.” Saul had therefore become the enemy of God and then turned against David.
Of course, we would love if everyone we know would be amongst those who accept the Lord’s authority over their lives and live according to His ways. What a different world it would be! But, the reality is that many reject the Lord and therefore find themselves at odds with his people. A clear example being in the life of Saul of Tarsus. Remember the words of Jesus to Saul on the Damascus rode?
He [Saul] fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4)
And yet who was Saul persecuting? In his own words: I persecuted the followers of this Way [i.e. followers of Jesus] to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison. (Acts 22:4)
So, David’s words in Psalm 35 were against those who not only opposed him but also opposed the God whom he loved and served. The One of whom he said:
“The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.” (verse 27).
May we all be those who accept God’s authority over our lives and live according to His ways, exalting His Name and being delighted in by Him.
Father, no one wants to have enemies, but at times it seems to be unavoidable in this world. Teach us to appreciate the truth of Jesus’ words that we are “Blessed … when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” (Matt. 5:11) Amen.