Wilcock (quoting Tate) speaks of Psalm 83 as “this little-read psalm.” (# 5) This may be true, but is there still a word of instruction for you and me today from the message of this heartfelt prayer-poem to Yahweh? This very interesting prayer with the request that God would make them [his enemies] like tumbleweed… like chaff before the wind. (verse 13)So, let’s see what we can learn!
Listen to the psalmist’s cry to God:
1 O God, do not remain silent;
do not turn a deaf ear,
do not stand aloof, O God.
2 See how your enemies growl,
how your foes rear their heads.
I don’t know about you but there certainly have been times, for whatever reason, in my life when God seemed silent… deaf… aloof. Life is hard enough sometimes, friends or family or our health fails us, everything seems to be against us, but even this is bearable when the assurance that God is near and cares is still there. If not, what hope do we have?
One amazing thing that we can learn from the psalmist is that even though God seemed to be silent… deaf… aloof, he didn’t just “throw in the towel”, and give up and give in to his circumstances. No, he kept on believing and praying, believing that as God had come through for him and his people in the past, he would again in the present and future.
Ans so he reminds God of His past interventions (as found in the Book of Judges):
9 Do to them as you did to Midian,
as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon,
10 who perished at Endor
and became like dung on the ground.
11 Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb,
all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna,
12 who said, “Let us take possession
of the pasturelands of God.”
Although He does seek God’s judgement upon his enemies, he doesn’t ask God for the resources to personally inflict the pain upon them. He leaves the final judgement in God’s hands:
13 Make them like tumbleweed, my God,
like chaff before the wind.
14 As fire consumes the forest
or a flame sets the mountains ablaze,
15 so pursue them with your tempest
and terrify them with your storm.
When we turn to the New Testament, we see this truth magnified in the words of Paul in Romans, as he quotes from Deuteronomy 32:35 (1) and Proverbs 25:21-22 (2), reflecting also the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:43-48 on loving your enemies:
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” (1) says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (2)
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17- 21)
Considering how nasty his enemies were, the really inspiring part of this psalmist’s prayer are the words of verses 16 and 18, when he asks God to give them another chance at life:
16 Cover their faces with shame, Lord,
so that they will seek your name.
18 Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord—
that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.
“The final stanza expands upon the thought of verse 16. The psalmist wishes the enemy to be humiliated in their defeat by God. But he also wants them to know that the Lord alone is the Most High. (# 30)
Let me finish with some comments, for you to reflect upon, on Jesus’ famous words, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44):
“While Jesus’ teaching involves the repudiation of the revolutionary violence that erupted in the Jewish wars, which resulted in the terrible destruction of the city of Jerusalem. It does not counsel indifference and inaction in such situations. Jesus instructs his disciples to take what has been called a ‘third way’ between armed resistance and passive indifference. It is a path that reflects the love and kindness of God, yet involves actions which, by their startling visual impact, expose the inhumanity of the oppressor and are intended to shame him into repentance.” (David Smith, writing for Scripture Union Notes, Encounter with God, 2021)
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect. (Jesus – Matthew 5:48)