Saturday, 5 January 2008

"Strike all my enemies on the jaw"

I guess that I'm not the only Christian who sometimes finds it difficult to read the Psalms.

Yesterday I was reading Psalm 3 (written by King David when in flight from his son, Absalom), which includes the line, "Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked." It's a difficult line to read because, whilst we admit that David is very much under pressure, it just doesn't seem to be a very 'Christian' thing to say. 'What's happened to the idea of loving your enemies?' we ask.

I've given some thought to this since when I read the passage. What is David actually saying when he calls for God to 'strike his enemies on the jaw'? Surely it's this: he is trusting God to work out his justice in his circumstances, and declaring that he will not want to seek vengeance in his own time. This is something that David himself did on several occasions, when he had the opportunity to kill his enemy Saul, but didn't. He preferred instead to leave God to do the working out of justice. Which is very similar to the principle of Romans 12:19.

I guess the other thing is that we now have more of an understanding than David in how God will work his justice out. As readers of the New Testament, we can grasp a deeper understanding of the eschatology that David and the other psalmists only saw shadows of. We are able to love our enemies knowing that God will work out his justice eternally, something that was demonstrated at the cross. We are able to cry out to the Lord for justice and yet to wish the very best for our enemies - even if it means coming to know the Lord for themselves. God will still ensure that justice is done - even if it means taken their punishment upon himself.


Chris said...

hey mate. Discovered today that Pete J. Williams (the Tyndale House one) has a good section dealing with OT violence in Dan Strange's & Phil Duce's RTSF book, 'Encountering God's Word'. I didnt have time to read it properly but thought I'd mention it, especially as it's an increasingly big apologetic issue (things are moving from "God doesnt exist" to "God's bad" undermining any moral authority Jesus/bible might have had - mainly due to atheistic failure & apologetic success on the first question, I hasten to add)
anyway, see you soon.

Chris said...

For that matter, PJ's also got a fascinating and nuanced article that might be linked, in an apollos book by Carl Trueman & Paul Helm called 'The Truthfulness of God'. It's looking at Micaiah's prophecy, concerning a lying spirit explicitly sent from God (1 Kings 22, cf Eze 14:9). The article examines how to uphold God's good sovereignty (ie the gospel) throughout. Could be a crucial text, so again, might be worth a look.

peterdray said...

Cheers Chris. As I turns out, I was able to chat to the man himself at staff conference this week - all very helpful. He says we are defending two charges when thinking about OT violence:

1. That God is immoral
2. That it sets a precedent for violent action today

Brilliant stuff to engage with - I'll perhaps try to write more in the future.

He also recommended reading an article on Saul that he's evidently written, which I think he's planning to send me.

Cheers for the heads up :)