Arthur Pink, 1951
"Why is there so much about enemies in the Psalms?" is a question sometimes raised. One responds, "Because in the covenant, God put enmity between the wicked and the righteous." Undoubtedly that is the basic, true, and satisfying explanation of why the saint is assailed and menaced by so many foes, though it scarcely accounts for the numerous references thereto in the Psalter itself. From the beginning (Gen 3:15), the Lord Himself placed an inveterate enmity between the serpent and the Savior, and those belonging to the one or the other; and in proportion as the disciples of Christ follow His example, walk as He walked, reflect His image — will they be opposed by Satan and his seed. "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:18, 20). God has predestined His children "to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Rom 8:29) — first in holiness, then in suffering, afterward in glory.
Scripture reveals the solemn fact that the Christian is menaced by deadly foes, who will show him no quarter, nor relax in their efforts to destroy him. It may surprise the reader to hear that the Hebrew and Greek words for "enemies" (occasionally rendered "foes" and "adversaries") occur over four hundred times in the Bible! Subtracting the allusions to the natural enemies of the Jews in the historical books, a large proportion of them are found in the Psalms. Nor is that difficult to account for, for that portion of God's Word describes in more detail, the various experiences of His children, especially their inward conflicts, than any other part of it. And a considerable percentage of those references occur in Psalms of Davidic authorship, for none was more suited to write thereon.
Here too we see how the divine Potter molded the vessel for the particular service it was to render Him and His people. Who so well fitted to say so much upon the oppositions and persecutions encountered by God's people — than he who was assaulted by a lion and a bear in his shepherd days (1 Samuel 17:34), whose life was so persistently sought by Saul, who fought so many battles against the enemies of Israel, whose friendship was betrayed by Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15:31), and from whose hands his own son sought to wrest the kingdom. (2 Samuel 15) Thus was the instrument trained for his task and equipped to become the principal mouthpiece in voicing the complaints of God's people against those who hate them.
It is very needful for those just starting out on the Christian course to know that they will be hotly opposed and sorely oppressed both from within and from without, that there will be many ill-wishers (often posing as friends) tempting them to return unto the world. Nevertheless, full armor is provided, and they are required to use the same (Eph 6:11), to resist the devil (Jam 4:7), and fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12). As another has said, "You will never pluck the Rose of Sharon — if you are afraid to be pricked by the thorns which surround it. You will never reach the crown — if you flinch from the cross in the way to it."
the Christian's business is to "please him who has chosen him to be a soldier" (2 Timothy 2:4). This world is our battlefield, and instead of lying down and waiting to be carried to Heaven on flowery beds of ease — our orders are "Watch, stand fast in the faith, be strong like men, be strong" (1 Corinthians 16:13).
Ever keep in mind these two things:
1. that Christ regards your enemies as His, and therefore will not allow you to perish at their hands;
2. that He has given express assurance, "My grace is sufficient for you" (2 Corinthians 12:9) — then appropriate that promise.
It is also necessary to remember that your foes were all conquered by Christ upon the cross. That there He "spoiled principalities and powers. He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it" (Col 2:14). Christ overcame him the "strong man," when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils, (Luke 11:22), destroying or annulling "him who had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb 2:14). At His resurrection, His foes were dispersed. As it was foretold, "Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him" (Psalm 68:1). As that same Psalm goes on to say, "You have ascended on high, you have led captivity captive" (verse 18) — a figure taken from the ancient custom of conquerors having chained to their chariots prisoners caught in battle, thereby making an open display of their victory. While Psalm 110:2 goes on to inform us that the Lord now rules "in the midst of his enemies," and Psalm 2:9 assures us that in due course He will "dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." Because all of this has been, is being, and shall be done for us, "we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Rom 8:37).
But since all this be so, why are there so many and such powerful enemies still active against the believer? For good and sufficient reasons.
Not only that the members of Christ's body may be experientially conformed to their Head, but also that their graces may be called into exercise. All that was pointed out in the above paragraph is addressed unto faith, and can only now be apprehended and enjoyed by the same. Not yet have Christ's foes been made His footstool, but they certainly shall be (Psalm 110:1), and for that foreordained moment, He sits at God's right hand in full expectation (Heb 10:13). Not yet has God trodden Satan beneath the feet of His people, but He has given them the unfailing promise that shortly He will do so (Rom 16:20), and therefore are they to live and fight in confident anticipation of the same.
God allows us to be assailed by our adversaries for our spiritual profit, to test and prove us, to develop our graces. He would keep us wide awake, and if He permits us to be sorely wounded at times, it is to humble us. Nevertheless, we have the divine guarantee that nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ (Rom 8:35).
God would hereby demonstrate the miracle and marvel of His preserving grace. Adam in paradise had no corrupt lusts within him to entice and no evil world under the curse to seduce him from his allegiance to God — yet, at the first assault of Satan, he fell. Whereas not only are saints surrounded by external foes, but they are indwelt by sin, which is part and parcel of their very beings, claiming the use of all the faculties of their souls and bodies. The "flesh" is an innate enemy which there is no getting rid of in this life, and when they would gladly shake it off and do good, evil is ever present with them (Rom 7:21). Its power is so great, that no effort of theirs can subdue it. It is called a law in their members (Rom 7:23), commanding and demanding, a remorseless tyrant which often causes them to cry, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Yet not only does it not destroy them — it is unable completely to prevent them returning the triumphant answer to their own query, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom 7:25).
Our FOES are . . .
many (Psalm 25:19),
lively and strong (38:19),
wrathful (138:7), and
often found in our own household (Mat 10:36).
In view of which, how well suited are these PRAYERS:
"See how my enemies have increased and how fiercely they hate me!" (Psalm 25:19) — "Weigh them, check them, defeat them" (C. H. Spurgeon).
"Deliver me from my enemies, O my God" (Psalm 59:1) — in Your covenant faithfulness.
"Preserve my life from fear of the enemy" (64:1) — that dread of him may not mar my rest in You.
"Hide me under the shadow of your wings, from the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about" (17:8-9), which probably alludes to the wings of the cherubim shadowing the mercy seat. "Let me be taken under the protection of that glorious grace which is peculiar to God's Israel" (Matthew Henry, 1662-1714).
"O my God, I trust in you: let me not be ashamed, let not my enemies triumph over me" (Psalm 25:2). "Suffer no wicked mouth to make blasphemous mirth over my distress by asking, Where is your God?" (Spurgeon).
"Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before my face" (Psalm 5:8). Preserve me from straying, and grant a clear apprehension of Your providential will (compare 27:11).
Blessed is it to mark the Psalmist's ASSURANCES. Oh, that writer and reader may be enabled to make them his own. "You have known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonor: my adversaries are all before you" (69:19), and therefore You know their designs and my danger. Blessed is it for the believer to realize that.
"By this I know that you favor me, because my enemy does not triumph over me" (41:11). Note, he did not say because he has not harassed me, nor that I triumphed over him. "Through you, will we push down our enemies: through your name, will we tread them under that rise up against us" (44:5). That is the confident language of faith. "In his unfailing love, my God will stand with me. He will let me look down in triumph on all my enemies!" (59:10) — in measure here, fully so hereafter. "With God's help we will do mighty things, for He will trample down our foes." (60:12). Success should be expected, and every measure thereof ascribed wholly unto Him.
Observe too David's ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. "I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to my enemies, but have set me in a safe place." (31:7-8), though he may often have gained a temporary advantage over us. "You have been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy" (61:3). What abundant cause have all of us thankfully to own that; then let us not be remiss in doing so.