Asaph prays that God will strike back at the enemies of Israel who are gathered against them. There is precedent for his request and he sites it.
This is the last psalm by Asaph included in the book of Psalm. I was just thinking that it sounds wrong to say the “book of Psalm” instead of the “book of Psalms” but then I thought about it. We don’t say a “songs” book for a book containing more than one song; it is a “song book.” I know, strange and stray thought.
When I was reading this psalm I noticed something conspicuously absent from the narrative. Asaph is telling God that all the nations around them are ganging up on them. This group is trying to erase the nation of Israel from history. Asaph wants God to rise up and put a stop to their actions, as He had done on MANY previous occasions. What is absent though is how Israel got in the predicament they were in.
We don’t hear Asaph telling of the people’s sin that was so great that it caused God to lift His hand of protection. There is no mention of remorse on Israel/Judah’s part for where they stand with God and what brought them to this place of peril. Have they learned nothing from this trial?
I think Asaph learned at least one thing. He learned not to appeal on their own merits but on God’s. David learned that same lesson as a boy. When he faced Goliath, it wasn’t because Goliath taunted and berated the armies of Israel or even their king. It was because Goliath spoke evil of God that David had the courage to challenge him. He was fighting for God’s name, NOT his own or even Israel’s.
Asaph points out to God that the group is coming together against God. “For behold, your enemies make an uproar; those who hate You have raised their heads” (verse 2). He then tells God that the people are after His chosen ones too. “They lay crafty plans against Your people; they consult together against Your treasured ones” (verse 3). But he brings it back again to them coming together against God. “For they conspire with one accord; against You they make a covenant” (verse 5).
From the words Asaph is using regarding the disposition of this assembled group, he wants them to receive the same end they are after for Israel. He wants them wiped from history. EXCEPT for ONE place where he asks that what God does to them will make then seek Him. “Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek Your name, O Lord” (verse 16). But then he goes back to wanting them devastated so “that they may know that You alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth” (verse 18).
Jesus tells us to pray for those how despitefully use us. We are to pray for our enemies and I don’t think He meant to pray down ‘fire and brimstone’ on them. I believe He wants us to pray that they would learn too, to seek His face. Sometimes that lesson is a hard one to get across and it hurts in the delivery, but it is the BEST thing we can pray for anyone. We are to love our enemies. What greater love is there than to give them into the hands of the Lord. And this INCLUDES giving Him FULL reign in how and if they are ‘punished’ for their actions towards us.
The apostle Paul is a perfect example of this principle. There is no way his captors would have come to know Jesus without Paul’s prayers for them and his willingness to give the situation over to the Lord. Paul sought no vengeance or ‘justice’. He went wherever he was sent by the Lord, in chains or as a free man.
And I will tell you right now that God is VERY good at getting ‘justice’ for His children. When we leave the matter in His hands He works it out in ways we could have never imagined. He knows what is best for our lives and has a perfect timetable for bringing it about.
Father God, thank You that You do hear when my ‘enemies’ rage against me AND You. I try my best not to have any ‘enemies’. There have only been a few people in my life that I would put in that category. Even those who did make the short list, I find myself feeling sorry for them and wanting to repair the hurt. Help me remember to pray for them instead of just pitying them. This is the BEST gift I can give anyone! And I’ll let You decide what justice is in the end.