Psalm 83: A Psalm of Action in the Midst of Evil

Do me a favor and please read Psalm 83.

As I read through this psalm what strikes me is this long list of these allied nations against the psalmist (vs 5-11). Seven verses that give us nation after nation that the psalmist sees conspiring against them but then we have a whole host of OTHER nations that conspired at one time but received the wrath of God as he defended his people. To me these types of psalms are some of the hardest to read because while they come from a place where war and battles were a matter of survival it’s still really hard for me to read a text, a BIBLICAL text, that seeks the destruction of a people (even if they were not God’s “chosen” people).

Scripture is really hard to read when we not only don’t like what we read but when we don’t have the context to help us understand it. Psalm 83 is one of those psalms where we may not fully agree on what the context is but we can agree on the ways of life back then.

Life was hard in Ancient Israel. From the long list of enemies that the psalmist gives we are reminded that it was kill or be killed and fight or be taken over. You either defended, attacked, and killed people or all those things would happen to you – and if you didn’t then there would be no “you” anymore. And not only would there be no you but there would also be no more of your friends and family, relatives, neighbors, and nation as a whole. But the psalmist isn’t only lamenting and seeking God to destroy nations around them – they are doing so from a place of chaos and war. They are not like me who is sitting in his office peacefully watching the snow fall – they are in the midst of war and possible future destruction. MORE destruction.

The reality of this is that just because I don’t “get it” doesn’t mean it didn’t, and doesn’t, happen. There are a lot of wars going on between nations in our world today and I don’t get those either. But simply because I don’t get it doesn’t make it less destructive or real. I’m looking at the headlines and there are airstrikes still happening in Syria as well as a recent possible gas attack too. Attacks still take place in Nigeria, Boko Haram have attacked and killed 18 people, 10 killed in India, ISIS killings yet again, and a war in Yemen as well as numerous other places. All of this going on while I sit in peace in the middle of Iowa. And this is just scratching the surface. People are evil, mean, and horrible. We may like to think that all people are naturally “good” but that’s simply not true. And reading psalms like this, or the few chapters from Lamentations, reminds us of just how bad things were and people are.

Even more so, looking at our world and how hateful it is COUPLED with what things were back in Ancient Israel and later is a good reminder of just how necessary God is.

So what is one to do? Well, if you’re a believer like me then you turn to the only place you can: God. Asaph, as he looks around at all this hate, anger, and animosity, he reaches out to God to speak, act, and respond because he realizes that’s all he can do. God must act and respond. God must defend his goodness and stamp out evil and its wicked works.

This, for me, strikes a lot of really good questions:

  • How often am I praying to God to speak, act, and respond to the hatred, animosity, and killings in this world?
  • Do I turn a blinds eye to the reality of war, famine, and the massive refugee crisis we have? I acknowledge it – but do I daily pray for hope? It’s a daily reality for THEM…why not for me?
  • How often do we feel that the only response is more war?
  • How often do we feel that the only way to deal with anger, hatred, and death is to show our “power” and just how strong WE are?

Maybe I’m finding that I’m going off on a tangent here but I can’t help but wonder if we’re absolutely missing what people really need…and that simply is God.

And part of that reflection, part of that conversation has to THEN mean more love from you and I. And I say that because while we believe that God is full of love and hope and grace and that it is only by him that war, death, famine and destruction will end…he says that you and I are to BE THOSE VERY THINGS OF HOPE unto others. So while we have this reality, like Asaph does in verse 18, that God is the Most High over all the earth and that when Christ comes again he will stomp out all evil, war, hatred, famine, and anger and usher in love, peace, hope, and comfort UNTIL THAT DAY COMES we, you and me, are TO BE bringers of love, peace, hope, and comfort. We are to live into the reality of the realms of heaven and the New Earth TODAY.

So while we may not be able to stop the wars, we may not be able to stop the killings, we may fully understand that those are things that only God can do I think we CAN do a few things. So here’s my short list (and in no particular order):

This list is not the end all list, nor is it a list that will stop wars and make all people happy. Only God can do that, only Christ’s return will do that…but we aren’t supposed to stand still and look to the heavens waiting for that day. Let’s get on it. Let’s BE the people of Christ to a world in pain.

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