My thoughts (Bradley Compton):
If you are like me, when you encounter certain passages from the Old Testament (like those in verses 6, 7, 9, and 11), you get the feeling that it speaks of an antiquated God — or, more likely, an antiquated conception of God. Taken out of context, the inclusion of such verses in Holy Scripture seems to imply that God favors a delight in our enemies’ suffering. How can we reconcile the notion of delighting in our enemies’ suffering when Jesus says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, [and] pray for those who abuse you?” (Luke 6:27-28).
I suspect that if it were not natural to have it in for our enemies, there would be little need to highlight the above quoted passage as frequently as we do. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Bible’s earliest recorded conceptions of our understanding of God, the Old Testament, praises God for the downfall of the faithful’s enemies. However, one cannot simply dismiss the matter of vindictive discourse in the Bible as an instance of “how those primitive people way back when used to think” for a number of reasons. One of these reasons is the fact that many, if not most of us, have vindictiveness in our hearts. So this is not merely a primitive characteristic of a forgotten age, but rather an innate tendency of our sinful nature. Moreover, even though Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection brought about a new covenant with God, Christ and the early church also spoke of the imminent and unpleasant end for God’s enemies — albeit perhaps with less mirth than that expressed in Psalm 92. With this in mind, again, how can we reconcile Biblical verses seemingly expressing delight in our enemies suffering when Jesus explicitly tells us not to? One possible solution might be to ignore vindictive or other possibly offensive passages and to focus on the uplifting ones (e.g., verses 1-5, 8, 10, and 12-15). Another solution might be to reinterpret otherwise offensive passages through the lens of God’s living Word in our hearts that with increasing understanding discloses more of the truth and with greater clarity so that we may apply these ancient revelations to our contemporary lives. Let’s try it!
When Jesus speaks of loving our enemies, it seems clear that he is talking about human beings. However, my greatest enemies aren’t people, but rather are ideas, feelings, impulses, and behaviors misaligned with God’s will, i.e., sin. Furthermore, I personally suffer more as the result of my own sin than from others’ sin. Within my finite understanding, if I could defeat these intangible enemies without God, I doubt I would reach out to God for grace. So I will praise and rejoice in the faith that, by God’s gentle yet mighty hand, my sin “shall perish,” “be scattered,” and is “doomed to destruction forever.” When that time comes, I will no longer need to reach out, but will be fully immersed in God’s presence in paradise. Amen.
Thought for the day: My greatest enemy is my own sin, but I can rejoice in the fact that God promises the defeat of this diabolical adversary.
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.