Psalm 83 tickled my “taste buds” this morning. First time, as near as I can remember or tell from my journal, that I’ve paused to reflect on this psalm.
Not surprised that I’ve never paused here before. It doesn’t really present itself as much of an oasis for morning refreshment. It’s one of those songs calling on God to deal with Israel’s enemies. Asking God to “not keep silence”, to no longer “be still” but to engage in dealing with those who have “raised their heads” against Israel determining to “wipe them out” so that “the name of Israel be remembered no more.” While calling on God to intervene and make these enemies “like whirling dust” and “chaff before the wind”; to consume them like a fire, pursue them like a tempest, or terrify them “with Your hurricane” all speak to God’s almighty power, vengeance and judgment aren’t normally the sort of things you want to start your morning with.
But for some reason (I’m thinking a Spirit led reason) I’m chewing on Psalm 83 this morning. And there’s two things I’m noodling on.
First, God has determined to make Himself inseparable from His people. You mess with God’s people and you’re messing with God Himself.
O God, do not keep silence; do not hold Your peace or be still, O God! For behold, Your enemies make an uproar; those who hate You have raised their heads. They lay crafty plans against Your people; they consult together against Your treasured ones.
(Psalm 83:1-3 ESV)
Asaph, led by the Spirit, says that God’s enemies, those who hate Him, demonstrate that hatred through their scheming and conspiring against His people, His treasured ones. God and His people are inseparable. Love God, you’re gonna love the people of God. Love the people of God, it’s evidence that you love God. Hate God, you’re gonna hate His people. Hate the people of God, you’re hating on God Himself.
So Asaph’s cry for help isn’t just to protect his own skin, it’s a cry for God to protect His own Name. These enemies are not just making a pact to pummel Israel, the God-breathed scriptures say that “against [God] they make a covenant” (83:5). Take on God’s treasured ones and you’re entering into battle with the Holy One who redeemed that treasure for Himself.
A lot to chew on there, but in the midst of Asaph’s call-to-arms of God, there is a blessing and comfort for this child of God as I consider how intricately God has bound Himself to His people. My protection through His power not only is for my good, but more amazingly is also for His glory.
Then, it’s the closing verses of the song that grab me.
Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek Your name, O LORD. Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever; let them perish in disgrace, that they may know that You alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth.
(Psalm 83:16-18 ESV)
Is it just me, or are redemption’s purposes at play even in Jehovah’s vengeance and judgment? Even as God rises up against His enemies, even as God does what God needs to do to protect His treasured people, even as the songwriter cries out that the wrath of heaven would be poured out on earth, it’s that men — even men who were enemies of God — might seek His name, and know that He alone is the Most High over all the earth. That even in the severity of God, the kindness of God is seen when it brings His enemies to know that He is God. Here too, God’s intervention on Israel’s behalf and in defense of His holy inheritance, while resulting in His people’s good, ultimately is to make His glory known so others might benefit as well.
Hmmm. God protects His people because they are His people. Comes to their rescue because they are His treasure. What’s more, God will rise, and not keep silent to deal with sin and rebellion, but always with a heart that desires none should perish but that all should reach repentance (2Pet. 3:9). That men and women would come to their senses and worship the God who created them rather than war with Him.
For our good? Yup. For His glory? Yup again.
All by His grace? I’m thinkin . . .
Too many times I desire vengeance rather than redemption for those who are my (His) enemies. As if He needs my protection. It all leads to my need for asking for forgiveness. As you say, it’s all a matter of His grace.