Who is our enemy?
What do we do with passages of scripture that speak about our enemies?
If one has experienced the pain of injustice, it is tempting to substitute some human being or concept as our enemy.
If I come to the passage to find fault with Christianity, I can be set completely off-balance by the strong words God sanctions against our enemies. The words seem to sanction vengeance, “righteous anger”, and some sense of superiority on the part of the psalmist. Is it okay to wish our enemies destruction?
Are our enemies anyone who does us wrong, or only anyone who is against our faith?
Finally, if I “scan” and “gloss” over these passages without thinking carefully, I lose the value of what God intends for me at any point in my life. If I look at these passages as impersonal history or human poetry only, the Word of God is diluted and ineffective for practical application and the strengthening of my faith. The power of the gospel is nullified because the passage seems to see only from a human perspective and fails to appropriate the intersection of Christ in every intimate area of my life.
So, who is our enemy?
Human enemies are common. We experience injustice on many levels and in many areas of life: bosses who cheat us, co-workers who compete with us, friends that betray us, family members who press us, whole groups who hate us and seek to do us harm, nations who invade us. This psalm is meant to help us practically through these trials of life.
We know, however, that if the psalmist is foretelling Christ’s own prayer (he is), our enemy is not human flesh at all, but Christ’s enemy–the prince of the power of the air:
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)
Our enemy, then, is beyond human.
These are Christ’s psalms, expressive of his being divine as God the Son (“I and the Father are one” John 10:30) and being fully human as the Son of Man (“human” Mark 10:45; “exalted One” Daniel 7).
Only Christ, who knows the Father, and who knows us and our earthly existence more than we know ourselves, can fight this enemy. Christ is more than worthy, then, more than capable, and more than victorious! This is the hope of Zayin.
Let’s look again at our enemy:
He is real. The prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) is a real entity, not some make-believe figment of imagination or myth (Rev. 20:2). He is the epitome of disobedience to God.
He is not alone. He has legions at his disposal, demons and wandering spirits of darkness (Matthew 12:24; Jude 1:13).
He is rules this world to keep us from Christ. He is the “god of this world” who “has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).
He is in disguise as beautiful. He is disguised as an “angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14), a power that entices rather than repels! (Ezekiel 28:12, 13)
He is, instead, the ruler of darkness. But really, his reign and the end thereof is the reign of darkness (Romans 13:12; John 8:12; John 1:5; Matthew 22:13).
He is our tempter. He entices us to disobey God (Genesis 3; Matthew 4:8; Job 1:12)
He is our accuser. Being enticed, we now stand accused by our tempter. We know we are guilty of sin against God through thoughts, words, and deeds. Yet Christ brings redemption,while our accuser brings us shame (Rev. 12:10).
He is lethal. He is our adversary, a roaringlion prowling about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). He is a liar and a murderer (John 8:44). He has the power of death (Hebrews 2:14). We, alone, have no power to stop him. He does damage in this world and it is horrific. He is not only the destroyer of nations and of human physical life, he is the Destroyer of Souls. And yet….
He is limited. A principality is a “state ruled by a prince, usually a relatively small state or a state that falls within a larger state such as an empire”. Within this definition, it is evident that this kind of power is limited, restricted by a greater power–the Sovereign rule of our Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 2:14). What comfort to know that we wrestle with inferior powers!
He is defeated. This earthly power that holds us hostage will be cast out (John 12:31; Rev. 12:8; Rev. 20:1-3, 10; 2 Peter 2:4; Romans 16:20; John 16:11; Matthew 22:13; ).
Our God is the True Light. Our Triune God–God the Father, God the Son Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit–is the One True Light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).
Suffering produces good things. Suffering keeps us from conceit of self-independence from God (2 Corinthians 12:7). We come to know and confess that we need God. We wait for our Deliverer in patience and hope with the immediate deposit of love and spiritual maturity–“not lacking anything”:
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5 NIV).
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:1-4).
We have overcoming power. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection for our sin, we are given his overcoming power now, not just later (Romans 8:37-39; Col. 2:15). We can say NO to evil and all temptation, even at our weakest point.
Christ — our Psalmist, our Intercessor
Zayin makes more sense in light of this understanding. The psalmist hopes in God’s Word and relies upon it. God’s truth makes him sing songs, it quickens him and gives him hope and comfort. He perseveres because he is enabled by God to obey Him, and the psalmist is enabled to obey because he perseveres.
Christ is our intercessor because Christ is our psalmist! He was afflicted and suffered and knew the prayer of faith in the Father in the midst of that suffering. He knew the horror of satan’s destructive power and he was comforted by the wisdom and power that comes from the Father. He was fatigued by this earthly life, and He was quickened back to energetic usefulness and power by constant prayer and seeking out God’s Word.
We have far greater comfort from this passage now, because Christ’s enemy is our enemy and we know that Christ has prevailed!! Christ has won the war, though the battles still rage for us for now. “God with us” (Emmanuel) is still true now as it was that silent night in Bethlehem. He is Messiah, Redeemer, Counselor, Comforter, Deliverer, Friend.
Christ for me each day
Zayin reminds me of Christ’s own suffering-yet-faith-filled prayer and allows me to repeat His Words after Him in my own life..
I expose the deeds of darkness every time I faithfully exhibit Christ’s nature in whatever situation I find myself in relationally and by circumstance (Ephesians 5:11). This includes my attitudes, my sacrifice of will, my perseverance and endurance in great difficulty, my hope and positive outlook–because I CAN have a positive outlook even in the worst of ordeals. I can and will overcome (1 John 4:4).
I reject fear in favor of assurance of salvation and the sure hope of glory ahead. God knows what He is doing and I am safe, even in my suffering.
Finally, I expose the darkness by the love given to me in Christ. I love Christ by devoting myself to knowing him more and more and by my laying myself out for his purpose, even at cost to my pride and self-independence. I expose the darkness by the shining the light of Christ’s love through me to others by God’s mercy.
Human enemies are not the point
If my enemy is not human, then my fellowman is off the hook. Not from their wrongs (God is Judge), but from my malice. Not from the consequences of their actions, but from my unforgiving spirit and bitterness.
When I realize that the true nature of wrongs done to me are really wrongs done to Christ through disobedience, I am made aware of my own need to confess the same! I, too, am disobedient and under God’s wrath and in need of His mercy.
Thankfully, Christ has made a way of deliverance from the wrath of God through the power of the Cross (our sin-price paid) and the Resurrection from the bonds of death (our glory restored). I can rejoice and be comforted, quickened to new life, given hope, and filled with miraculous forgiving love–even under great suffering. This is the message of Zayin.
This is the power of the gospel of Christ for you, too (John 3:16).
Father in heaven, Lord Jesus my Savior, Holy Spirit my Comforter, Thank you for your personal interest in my life. Even when I think I am at peace with all mankind, you remind me that there are still battles going on in my life to wrest me from obedience to You. The enemy of my soul lurks within my human pride. There are enemies without me, Lord, who seek to do Your people harm, who seek to obfuscate the gospel You gave your life to secure for us. Remind us all, Lord, that there is no enemy that can succeed against us, for You have overthrown all darkness in Your sacrifice. You have rendered our enemies powerless against the weapon of Your Word. You never ask me to fight an enemy you haven’t already conquered for love’s sake. Still, today I realize the dangers of sloth and ease. Keep me in your love as I obey Your Word. Teach me to forgive my human enemies for Your sake and bring them to a knowledge of You so that my enemies become my family in Your Kingdom. Bring me to Your Word in faith each morning, remind me of Your Word throughout my day, and let Your Word be a benediction of grace and peace as I lie down at night. I pray these things in faith in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
© 2018 by readpsalm119.com. Page last updated Feb 7, 2019.
“I Hear the Accuser Roar” by Samuel Whitlock Gandy (1780 – 1851)*
I hear the accuser* roar
Of ills that I have done;
I know them well, and thousands more;
Jehovah* findeth none.
Sin, Satan, Death, press near
To harass and appal*;
Let but my risen Lord appear,
Backward they go and fall.
Before, behind, around,
They set their fierce array
To fight and force me from my ground
Along Immanuel’s* way.
I meet them face to face
Through Jesus’ conquest blest;
March in the triumph of His grace
Right onward to my rest.
There, in His book* I bear
A more than conq’ror’s name,
A soldier, son, and fellow-heir,
Who fought and overcame.
His be the Victor’s name
Who fought our fight alone:
Triumphant saints no honour claim,
Their conquest was His own.
By weakness and defeat
He won the meed* and crown;
Trod all our foes beneath His feet
By being trodden down.
He hell in hell laid low;
Made sin, He sin o’erthrew;
Bowed to the grave, destroyed it so,
And death, by dying, slew.
Bless, bless the Conq’ror slain!
Slain in His victory!
Who lived, who died, who lives again,
For thee, His Church, for thee.”
(contributed by Pdmorris on Notegraphy.com, Dec. 1st, 2013).
- (the accuser= Satan)
- (Jehovah= Hebrew name for Holy God)
- (appal= appall; to shock)
- (Immanuel= “God with us”; Jesus)
- (his book= the Book of Life wherein those who have received the gift of salvation are entered for eternal life against the coming judgment)
- (meed= deserved share, reward)