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Sunday, December 11, 2016

PSALM 139



 verses 19-24

"Surely, Thou wilt slay the wicked, O God:
depart from me, therefore, ye bloody men.
For they speak against Thee wickedly,
and thine enemies take Thy name in vain.
Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate Thee?
and am not I grieved with those that rise up against Thee?
I hate them with a perfect hatred:
I count them mine enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart,
try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting."

Oh my!  Some say this is a page torn from another Psalm because it is so different from the earlier sweet verses.  However, in some ways, I believe it goes hand and glove with those prior thoughts.   Strange, yes.  But, I think we need to be reminded sometimes that it is okay to hate evil.

Jesus lived under the shadow of death, from Herod who slaughtered all the babies two and under in Bethlehem that he might destroy the infant born of virgin birth causing Joseph and Mary with their little Son to flee to Egypt.  Ultimately, the hatred from not only foreign rulers, but the Jews themselves resulted in His death on a cross, death in the prime of his life. 

Mary's life, some believe, was saturated in death, that Mary's father and grandfather were victims of the high priestly jockeying for power and were assassinated. (That left the family patriarch position to her wealthy uncle, Joseph of Arimethea.  He was untouched as he brought riches into their coffers from his mining interests.  Yes, he was the member of the Sanhedrin who offered his tomb to bury Jesus and some say helped Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, and Mary Magdaline to escape the persecution of Christians.)

The Christians were certainly hated, and persecuted.  Why even the apostle Paul before he was converted went house to house to drag Christian men and women from their homes to destroy them.  He held the coats of those who stoned the Apostle Stephen to death.  Christians were fed to the lions, torn limb from limb, burned to make human torches.  Then after his conversion, Paul the persecutor became the persecuted, and was cast in prison and eventually tortuously killed by Nero. Peter was crucified upside down, and the other disciples met similar fates.


Certainly, David as a Psalmist knew bloodthirsty enemies, not just from without but from within, King Saul himself.   After bravely standing up to Goliath, the enemy, he spent a good part of his best years running from those who would destroy him under Saul as well as and other attacking nations.  There were so many others like Queen Esther who was used to save her people while they were in exile with a threat of extermination.  Need I go on?

Of course, our thoughts go to the persecution of the Jews in the World Wars, I & II, with six million Jews killed in my parents' time--excuse me, but that was not that long ago.  As I've said before, it was shocking for my son to see the photo albums of his biological grandmother, his sweet Oma, as she showed him pictures of her father who was a Nazi, group pictures with his comrades and even of the German blimp.

Now the enemy has morphed into ISIS.  It is nothing new to be under attack from radical Muslims.  Think of the Holy Wars when Muslims back in the first centuries took over Constantinople, Jerusalem, Spain, Italy and were close to taking over much of western Europe. Much later in our national history, Thomas Jefferson organized a fleet, our early Navy, to fight them because of their attacks on our ships and sailors pirating the trade routes. 

If someone wants to put their head in the sand and not recognize radical Muslims as our own enemy, I'll provide them the bucket of sand.  Their hatred is from the days of their beginning when Abraham took Hagar as a concubine: Sara's idea since she had been barren; but then she became jealous when Isaac was born and demanded that Hagar be cast out.  This is the beginning of the Arab nation from her son Ishmael, a wild donkey of a man as Scripture describes him.  The fight has been on ever since, enmity between Arabs and Jews.

Since 9/11, we have a new perspective.  We join the cry, "Depart from me ye bloody men!"  "Do I not hate them?" "I hold their conduct in abomination."  "With perfect hatred."  "Their conduct, their motives, their opposition to Thee, their perfidy and idolatrous purposes, I perfectly abhor.  With them I have neither part, interest, nor affection." (Adam Clarke)  Matthew Henry says, "You shall not debauch me, for I will not admit your friendship nor have fellowship with you; and you cannot destroy me...I hate them because I love Thee...Am I not grieved with those that rise up against Thee, grieved to see their rebellion...Sin is hatred."

Adam Clarke goes on, "...filled with indignation against the ways of the workers of iniquity; for he who hates, utterly hates, the practices of any man, is not far from hating the man himself.  It is very difficult

'To hate the sin with all my heart,
And yet the sinner love.'"

When some of my son's friends come over and sit in my living room playing Xbox games and take the name of the Lord in vain continuously, I hate it.  So, I correct them.  It is so engrained in them to swear, that it is with extreme difficulty for them to control their tongues no matter how hard they want to please me.  So I am a nag with a constant, Uu-ah, until one day I threatened to make them drop and do push-ups if they let it slip one more time.  I love those kids.  I used to take them to church when I taught children's church.  Yet, I hate to hear my Lord's name used as a swear word so carelessly. 


Our national dialogue as we face a flood of immigrants of Arab descent, as does Europe, is how to discern who is the enemy from who are the millions fleeing for their lives.  Seeing their children is heartbreaking.  Seeing the Christian genocide in the Middle East is heart wrenching where even our own journalists are beheaded.  They are being used as human shields, gassed, beheaded, being burned alive, drowned in cages, while their wives and little girls are taken as sex slaves.  How can we not shudder when it is written in their Holy Book to take over the infidels--us. We are called Islam-aphobics for not embracing the whole kit and caboodle.  Yet, I believe we can agree with the Psalmist that there are real enemies who seek our destruction, even in our own homeland. 

The last verse spotlights how difficult it is to hate the sin, but love the sinner as God does.  So David cries out, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."  Know my heart.
God alone is perfect in wrath.  "'Vengeance is mine,' thus saith the Lord."

So the Prince of Peace has come.
The angels declared,
"Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth, peace among men
with whom He is pleased to dwell."
(Luke 2:14)

He left the comforting words to His disciples, to us...
"Peace I leave with you;
My peace I give to you;
not as the world gives do I give to you,
Do not let your heart be troubled,
nor let it be fearful."
(John 14:27)

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son..."
(John 3:16)
God's arms are open wide to all in the world who week seek Him as their Father.

This fragile, helpless, vulnerable little babe in the manger has come to bring us peace.




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