First Off…read Psalm 35!
This psalm is broken up into 3 sections or parts (1-10; 11-18; 19-28) with each part moving closer along in the lament as to what is happening and the request for God to deliver the author from such hate. The reason? It’s simply not justified. The words and actions of those surrounding the author are without cause (and in this case the belief is that it is Saul who persecutes him (1 Sam 24).
If you took a second to read the 1 Sam 24 text (which I hope you did) you’ll notice that Saul has a “coming to Jesus moment” (OK…he obviously doesn’t come to Jesus but you get my point) towards the end. He realizes the goodness that David sought for him…that time after time Saul was within David’s grasp and he COULD have killed him but he didn’t. And this fits exactly with our psalm reading today where David proclaims (beginning at verse 11) that while he consistently prays for his persecutors they simply never relent in their persecution of him. His goodness, time and time again, is being repaid with evil. That when they were sick he outwardly grieved for them and fasted in hopes of God healing them (13).
Why? Why with all this goodness that your servant sought and lived for other people…why was none of that being returned to him? Why was goodness not given goodness in return?
That’s a hard question to ask – and I think many of us find ourselves asking that very question. Why is it that there are people that simply dislike us? That no matter how hard we try, or how good we are to them…they simply cannot find it in their hearts to be kind in return? Why does it seem like when they are sick and I pray for healing for them…that it is in their new healing that they simply are reinvigorated to attack me more? As if their healing brought them a second wind in their horribleness!?
One answer: I don’t know.
Another answer: Some people are simply that way.
A more complete answer: I don’t know….some people are simply that way – and REGARDLESS…we still seek goodness for them.
I don’t know which is more painful. That some people are genuinely harmful to us…or that deep down inside I know that no matter what THEY do to me – I can control ME and what I am called to do and be…are seekers of peace. That means peace between us but even more so people who find peace with God.
Simply put – everything we do is supposed to be for God and others. We are called to sow seeds regardless of where they land (Matthew 13)…and as we see and read and know…we are called to pray for our enemies too. Christ says that you have been told that you are to love your neighbors and hate your enemies…but we’re actually called to love our enemies and pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).
And that is where we need to see this lament of a psalm. That yes while David is under Saul’s persecution…and while David laments for what is happening TO HIM…his lament is not so deep that he doesn’t seek restoration for the one who actually wants to kill him.
We honestly do see that David isn’t happy with what is happening to him – it doesn’t make a lick of sense to him. And yes, he wants God to make their paths dark and slippery “with the angel of the Lord pursuing them” (vs 6) and yes he cries out for God to “not be silent” (vs 22) but in that lament, in that crying out of one’s despair…there is an understanding that God is doing more things than simply things with you. That his grace goes where it goes. His word lands where it lands and upon those whom it does.
I think there are a few things we need to remember…a few lessons we can take away. We need to remember that there simply are bad people in this world. But simply because someone is bad doesn’t mean they still aren’t a child of God. And because they are a child of God we must consistently recognize that they will receive His blessings as he sees fit. AND BECAUSE THEY ARE A CHILD OF GOD…we must pray for them.
We do not repay evil with evil (1 Peter 3:9)…because it is not darkness that drives out darkness – only love can do that.
Even when it pains us…we pray for others.
Even when it hurts us and feels like it goes against every fiber within us…it simply doesn’t matter. What matters is that they deserve saving just as much as we do. And simply because we are trying to be good people now doesn’t mean that they, at some point, will not become good people later on.
So until that day comes…we shall pray…for all people.
And right now? As we are now in Holy Week? I also shout, “Come, Lord Jesus!”