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The King’s Enemies

The King’s Enemies
2nd January 2011

The King’s Enemies

Speaker:
Passage: Psalm 3:1 - 8

Psalm 3
The King’s Enemies
A need that must be met 1 – 2
God hears and answers 3 – 6
Past experience of God’s confidence 7 – 8

We love the Psalms

If you take your Bible, and just kind of flip it open , there’s a reasonable chance that you’ll find yourself in the Psalms.
It’s the longest book of the Bible, and of course being in the middle of the Bible, if you use the “flip and point” method of choosing your daily Bible reading passage, chances are you’ll end up in the Psalms fairly often.
And in fact many people who turn to the Bible in times of need, or sadness, when they’re looking for some comfort or hope, they turn to the Psalms.

And it’s not just Christians , I know lots of people who aren’t Christians who, when things have got tough, perhaps when the bottom drops out of life, they blow the dust off the old family Bible, and their first port of call is the Psalms.
A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.

O Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
2           Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”
It’s easy to see why we love the Psalms.

Here is real human emotion, coming out of real human experiences,
In the Psalms we find questions and ponderings, and the outpouring of people’s hearts, that sound very much like our questions, and our ponderings, and the outpouring of our hearts.
Whose words are these?

And we’ve all had days when we’ve felt like David in Psalm 3, haven’t we?
No matter where you turn, someone’s got it in for you, opposing you, just , making life miserable.
The story’s told for us in 2 Samuel 15 and 16.

David is king of Israel, and while he’s busy doing king things, his son Absalom sets about trying to win the hearts and the loyalty of the people away from David and then conspires with some others to have himself proclaimed as king.

And so while David’s fleeing for his life, out the back door of the city, he gets heckled and cursed all the way by a guy, hurling rocks and throwing dust at him, saying God’s judging David,
God’s abandoned David,
God’s handing the kingdom of Israel over to Absalom.
It’s like Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd amplified a thousand times, who would be king?, who’s got the numbers!

And in some form or another, we’ve all been there. We know something of this, and probably what hurts most of all is, is that accusation that perhaps God has turned his back on us.

Maybe we’re not as close to God as we thought.
But is this Psalm really describing our experience?

On the face of it, yes, to some degree, this is our experience,
But whose words are these?
Psalm 3 is a Psalm of David, God’s king, the one to whom God promised, an eternal dynasty, 2 Samuel 7.

The one to whom God said, one of your descendents will reign , forever,
David is the anointed king talked about in Psalm 2, whom God has raised up to rule his people
This is David, the great great great great great great grandfather of Jesus,
It’s pretty clear that David is a key figure in God’s plan for all of creation.

And Psalm 3 is about David, in the first instance, and not about us.
And so we need to be careful, and not jump straight in and make ourselves the speaker, or the hero, of Psalm 3.
Maybe when you were a kid you had one of those books, with you in there alongside the other characters.
Hansel and Gretel , and Clayton.
Little Red Riding Hood , and Andy
Well the danger is we do that with the Bible. We jump straight to the point of “this is about me”, ignoring the specifics of who actually is speaking and what they’re saying.
So we end up claiming promises of God, and even a place in the events of salvation history that were never intended for us.
And to make matters worse you can now buy a Bible where the personal pronouns are taken out and your name is printed in there about 7000 times.
So, for example, 2 Corinthians 5:18 & 19 becomes,
But, God, reconciled Clayton to Himself through Jesus Christ, and gave to Clayton the ministry of reconciliation; namely, that God was in Christ reconciling Clayton to Himself, not reckoning Clayton’s trespasses against him, and having committed to Clayton the ministry of reconciliation.
Or John 3:16 For God so loved Clayton, that He gave His one and only Son, that Clayton, believing in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life.
Which, yeah, is true, but it’s dangerous to make that our first step when it comes to the Scriptures.
To be sure, there are great promises of God made to every person who trust that Jesus is good for his word, when he says, “I’ll take the punishment you deserve for the way you’ve treated God in his world.”
Promises like, no other payment for your sin will be required.

Promises like, your sins are forgiven.

Promises like, all who trust in Jesus will never be put to shame.
But let’s not put these words from Psalm 3 our lips, as our first step.

Let’s make sure we understand how we as Christians, or even if you’re not a Christian here this morning, but as someone who stands 3000 years after these words, separated from their context by the death and resurrection of Jesus, how do we understand, and apply them?
The King’s Enemies 1 – 2
Well this king David is crying out to God, because his enemies seem to be winning the day.

O Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
2           Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”
What was described in Psalm 2, is happening to David.

He is the Lord’s anointed, he is God’s chosen king, and his enemies are plotting against him,
People are conspiring together, to overthrow him.
He is God’s anointed ruler, and yet he’s not ruling in power and majesty, and destroying all his enemies, and just zapping people because of their opposition to God’s anointed king.

He is suffering at the hands of evil men,
People are attacking him, They’re saying, “he shouldn’t be our king, he has no right to be our king.

We don’t want him ruling over us”
David’s position, his identity, his place among God’s people are all being threatened.
And verses 1 and 2 are really just the same thing being expressed 3 different ways, but kind of ascending to a climax at the end of verse 2, David’s enemies hope that God has abandoned him.
That’s what it looks like to the casual observer.

David has scampered out the back door of Jerusalem, while pretty much the entire nation have allied themselves with Absalom.
It looks like the enemies have won.
God hears and answers 3 - 6
But look with me at the next section, because here we see the heart of David’s theology.
His confidence in God comes to the fore.

We’ve been told about the enemies, but now the focus shifts to God.
I like those scenes in movies and TV shows where the focus shifts, and someone who has been in the frame all along but out of focus, suddenly comes in to focus, and what had been in focus is still there, but it’s no longer what we’re looking at, it’s just kind of blurry and in the background.
That’s Psalm 3.
But you are a shield around me, O Lord;
you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.
4To the Lord I cry aloud,
and he answers me from his holy hill.

I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear the tens of thousands
drawn up against me on every side.
David is convinced that God is able to do something about his situation. He knows God will hear and answer his prayer.
Our hot water service at home has started leaking, and so sometime pretty soon I’m going to need to call someone to come and fix it.
But say it was your hot water service that was playing up, would you tell me all about it, in the hope that I would came round and fix it for you?
That would be a nice vote of confidence in my handyman skills, but no, you wouldn’t would you?
You would call someone who you know will understand the problem, and be able to do something about it.

You call the plumber, because you know, he can do something about it.
The whole point of this Psalm,
The reason David says any of this stuff,
The reason he bothers to open his mouth and describe his situation to God, is because he knows that God will hear him.

David knows that God hears and answers his prayers.
Charles Spurgeon, the famous London preacher of the 1800s commented once that he heard Christians saying things like “God, we know that you hear prayer, and we know that you answer prayer.” And Spurgeon said this kind of expression, “contains a superfluity , that is, it’s superfluous, since for God, to hear is , according to Scripture, the same thing as to answer”.
For God to hear prayer, is for God to answer prayer.

It’s not always the answer that we would have,
But David, like Spurgeon, is absolutely confident, for God to hear is for God to answer.
And if we look at the story of David’s relationship with God, we hear some of the promises that God has made to David,
2 Samuel 7 for example, God says, .

9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you.
Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed.
Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel.
I will also give you rest from all your enemies.
Pretty great promises aren’t they?

Rest from your enemies, freedom,
No longer disturbed,
No reason to fear!
No wonder that David knows God’s going to answer him!

God’s already told David what he’s going to do.
So David can say, I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
I will not fear the tens of thousands
drawn up against me on every side.

Where is David’s confidence in the midst of his trouble?

It’s in God.
Now David had some other things he could have put his confidence in.
2 Samuel 15 and 16 tells us David sent the high priest back to Jerusalem to gather intelligence,
He got one of his staff to infiltrate Absalom’s inner circle and sabotage the planning and plotting,
And he actually manages to get Absalom to unwittingly follow his plan, rather than the plan of Absalom’s own advisors,
But those are not the things he’s trusting in, are they?

Does he say in verse 3, I lie down and sleep, I wake again, happy and refreshed because of my cunning plan?!

I will not fear the tens of thousands, because my staff show initiative and courage?!
You know the story of the minister and his friend who were travelling and one night the hotel they were staying in catches fire, and the friend wakes the minister, yelling, “The building’s on fire! Pray for us!”
And the minister replies, “Well you can pray if you want, but I’m going to get a fire hose!”
It’s just a silly story, and yeah, we’d probably reach for the fire hose too, but David’s not like that is he?! He prays and he gets the fire hose, and he knows which one is more powerful!
No matter how sharp his strategy,
No matter how good his staff.

They’re of no consequence without God’s blessing, without God’s hand at work.
David knows and understands God’s Word.

He knows and understands God’s purposes.

He knows that God hears, and he understands that God answers.
And so his confidence is in the God who answers prayer. So much so that although his enemies are surrounding him, he gets a good night’s sleep.
William Gurnall a 17th Century English pastor commented, Truly it must have been a soft pillow indeed, that could make him forget his danger.
God’s faithfulness is a soft pillow! There’s your take-home line from Psalm 3!
God’s faithfulness to his promises, the assurance of answered prayer, is a soft pillow.
The Lord brings deliverance 7 – 8
The third section of the Psalm is about the deliverance the Lord brings, in each of these 3 little couplets.
The king draws on past experience

First we see another reason for David’s confidence, past experience.

Arise, O Lord!
Deliver me, O my God!
Arise, O Lord!
It might seem strange telling God to get up, like he’s some lazy teenager who won’t get out of bed, but this actually really significant language from Israel’s history.
We see it in places like Numbers 10, When the people of Israel set out from Mount Sinai towards the Promised Land,
We read they set out from the mountain of the Lord, The ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them, 34 The cloud of the Lord was over them by day when they set out from the camp.
35 Whenever the ark set out, Moses said,
“Rise up, O Lord!
May your enemies be scattered;
may your foes flee before you.”

So all throughout Israel’s history, to say, Arise, O Lord, was to draw on that history, . to connect yourself with what God had done previously. It was a way of saying, “I’m marching into battle,
Knowing that God is going before me,
Confident that God is going to be victorious
David here is reaching back into Israel’s history, and saying we’re doing this once more.

Just like in the days of old, God will be victorious.
The king is a bully?
The next bit about God’s deliverance, sounds strange and, even pretty horrible to us.
David prays, Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.
Smacking someone on the face, breaking their teeth, it sounds like the work of bully, or a gang of thugs, the sort of thing that might have happened in Hindley Street 3000 years ago,
But while it is an act of force on view here , David’s not saying to God, “just smack them around the head a bit for me, will you?”
To strike someone on the face or on the cheek was an act of rebuke, more than an act of violence.
In the Ancient Near East it was a symbol of putting someone, who had got way too big for their boots, back in their proper place.
When I first moved to Darwin as a little kid, I was 5 or 6 years old, and I had to walk to school past a house with a really aggressive pit bull terrier in the front yard, and I was terrified of it.
My Dad told me, “when he barks at you, just go like this (HANDS) and yell ‘Do you want a knuckle sandwich?’”, and that made me feel much more empowered, and the little 5 year old wasn’t afraid of the dog any more!
But even that’s not what’s on view here in Psalm 3, it’s not about standing up for yourself and smacking the bully in the mouth.
Similar to the symbolism of striking the jaw, breaking the teeth is a symbol of rendering someone powerless. If the image is of someone who would tear you to shreds, well, take out their teeth and they’re powerless against you aren’t they?
It’s like our baby Abby, she’s 2 weeks old now, she’s got no teeth, and so, you have really no reason at all to be afraid of her, do you? What’s the worst she can do to you, gum you to death?
David is calling on his God, to take away his enemies’ ability to do him harm.
“God, triumph over your enemies, and render them powerless.”
The triumphant king means a blessed people
And then finally at the very end, verse 8, we see that when the king is triumphant, the people are blessed.
From the Lord comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.
See here, King David king identifies himself with the people.
His success is their success.

When the Lord raises up his anointed king, the people prosper.
And so, as the story plays out, God does exactly what David has asked him to do.
Those who opposed God’s anointed one, are defeated.

Those who had set themselves up against the one about whom God had said “this is my chosen king”, find themselves, facing God’s judgment.
God’s ultimate King
Which, begs the question, does all of this sound like anyone we know?
When we come to the New Testament, we learn that Jesus is the one who is ultimately God’s anointed king. That’s what the words Messiah or Christ mean, “anointed one”,
We see that Jesus is the descendant of David who will reign forever.

We discover that David’s experience, foreshadows Jesus’ experience , remarkably.
If you know something of the story of Jesus, it’s remarkable at how many points in his life this would seem to have been an entirely appropriate prayer for him to pray.

Let me pick one example, as he’s hanging on the cross, Luke records for us, chapter 23 verse 35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”
how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”

These words are ultimately fulfilled in Jesus.

They’re true of David, but they are true of Jesus, more completely even than of David.
And if we look again at the deliverance David prays for at the end of the Psalm,
We see how true these things are of Jesus, how he fulfils these words unlike anyone else ever has or will.
Who more than Jesus as he approaches the cross, can draw on everything summed up in those words from Israel’s history, Arise, O Lord ?

And therefore be saying, “I’m marching into battle,
Knowing that God is going before me,
Confident that God is going to be victorious
Who more than Jesus can pray Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked
?

Surely, none more than Jesus, who in his death and resurrection trampled on his enemies, sin and death, so much so that the Apostle Paul could ask in 1 Corinthians, Where, O death is your sting?

We could paraphrase, where, O death, are your teeth?
And of course, when king Jesus is triumphant, when he is delivered, the blessing that flows to his people is unparalleled.

Forgiveness.

Peace with God.

Eternal life.
And so knowing that the words of Psalm 3, are not the words of just an ordinary person like us, but the words of God’s anointed king,
Knowing that’s who’s , asking God to deliver him from his enemies, in order that the promises that God had made could be fulfilled.
It would seem inappropriate for us, to make these words our own words, regarding people who might oppose us from time to time.
You get stuck in a traffic jam:, “O Lord, how many are my foes! I am pressed in on every side.”

A colleague is making life difficult for you at work, or someone in your family even, “deliver me O God, strike my enemies, ”
Does it not seem a little odd to take the words from the lips of God’s anointed king, and try and fit them into my life, with the disagreements and frustrations I have with those around me?
Because ultimately those people aren’t our enemies, are they?

Sure, they can make life difficult, and I don’t, for a moment, want to minimise the harm and hardship that other people can bring into our lives,
But what does the Apostle Paul say, a thousand years after David, about a Christian person’s enemies. And let me say, Paul would know a thing or two about enemies.
He’d been imprisoned, flogged, falsely accused, whipped, beaten, and so on.
And yet Paul has a much bigger perspective on enemies. Ephesians chapter 6, For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
I once heard someone on the radio, trying to be funny actually, arguing that Australia wasn’t really a country of any significance, because we don’t have any enemies. This guy’s logic was, if you want to be a real country, a player on the world stage, then you need to have some enemies, some country that wants to invade you!
But you know the first thing I thought of, was Osama bin Laden’s threat , that Australia’s involvement in the establishment of a free and independent East Timor made us a target for terrorist attacks.
Just because no one is planning to invade us doesn’t mean we don’t have enemies.
Realise who your real enemies are!
The same goes for us who are followers of Christ.
If you’re a Christian here today, your enemies ultimately are not those who oppose you and persecute you.

If you’re a Christian, your enemies ultimately are the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Paul doesn’t go into any detail about who or what these powers are. I read an article a few weeks ago that said that the Bible’s relative silence on details about the devil and evil powers is a minor hitch that can become a major distraction.
A minor hitch because we don’t get told everything we might like to know, and then a major distraction because it’s easy to drift of into imagination and filling in all the gaps.
What the Bible majors on, is exactly what Psalm 3 is all about, not the enemies per se, but God who is victorious over the enemies.
And so is it not absolutely true, that knowing who the real enemies are, we can say these, with David, with Jesus,
O Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”
Is that not the cruellest of Satan’s taunts.
“God will not deliver him,
God will not deliver her,
God will not deliver you, ”
And yet, remember the focus shift.

Move your focus from the enemies, though they be all around, to God, who is , always around.
The shift in focus doesn’t mean the enemies disappear, they’re still they’re, but in their right perspective.
You see, what’s great about Psalm 3, the reason it’s a wonderful part of Scripture, is not that it gives me words to pray, so that those who would do me harm will drop dead.
But it reminds me how to approach God.

It reminds me to put my focus on God, and not on my enemies.

It reminds me to look to God’s Word,
To rejoice in God’s plans,
To listen to God’s promises,
It teaches me to trust in God’s chosen king who , has won a great victory over his enemies, and my enemies.
Psalm 3 means I need have no fear of my enemies, because they have been defeated, because that’s what God does to his enemies.