*Mutsuhiro “The bird” died in 2003 (85).
-For years in two POW camps in Japan he tortured
“Louie” Zamperini who died in 2014 (97)
*Louie was an Olympian, a survivor of the record longest time at sea in a life raft (47 days), but nothing prepared for him the terrors of the “Bird.”
*The Bird knew Louie was famous and he made it his mission to break this man…it was horrible…unspeakable.
*When Louie miraculously was freed from captivity he returned home and suffered with PTSD…horrible nightmares, often involving the bird filled his nights.
*Alcohol and anger filled his days…he dreamed of killing the bird…hatred kept him alive…and hatred was taking his life.
*Five years after the war, with his marriage and his life at the breaking point…he attended a Billy Graham crusade…there he heard and believed the gospel and was saved at the age of 37…the dreams, the alcohol and the hatred ended.
*He spend his life working with youth and sharing the importance and power of forgiveness…he lived to share the gospel.
*In 1950 he visited Sugamo Prison in Japan where many war criminals were being held.
*He embraced guards who recognized him and expressed forgiveness to them…some became followers of Christ.
*In 1988 he returned to Japan and attempted to meet with the Bird, to express forgiveness to him…the Bird refused.
*Louie lived and died free…the bird did not.
*The Bird was Louie’s enemy…Louie lived to curse his name…then Louie, after being forgiven…forgave him.
*Challenging story…what about when your enemy, the one who hates you…who has turned against you was a friend, a family member, a spouse, a parent?
*Listen to David’s lament as he speaks to God of having his heart broken as those who were close to him turned against him.
Psa. 35:1 Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. 2 Take up shield and buckler; arise and come to my aid. 3 Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Say to my soul, “I am your salvation.” 4 May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay. 5 May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them away; 6 may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them. 7 Since they hid their net for me without cause and without cause dug a pit for me, 8 may ruin overtake them by surprise — may the net they hid entangle them, may they fall into the pit, to their ruin. 9 Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation. 10 My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like you, O LORD? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.” 11 Ruthless witnesses come forward; they question me on things I know nothing about. 12 They repay me evil for good and leave my soul forlorn. 13 Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered, 14 I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother. 15 But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee; attackers gathered against me when I was unaware. They slandered me without ceasing. 16 Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked; they gnashed their teeth at me. 17 O Lord, how long will you look on? Rescue my life from their ravages, my precious life from these lions. 18 I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise you. 19 Let not those gloat over me who are my enemies without cause; let not those who hate me without reason maliciously wink the eye. 20 They do not speak peaceably, but devise false accusations against those who live quietly in the land. 21 They gape at me and say, “Aha! Aha! With our own eyes we have seen it.” 22 O LORD, you have seen this; be not silent. Do not be far from me, O Lord. 23 Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. 24 Vindicate me in your righteousness, O LORD my God; do not let them gloat over me. 25 Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!” or say, “We have swallowed him up.” 26 May all who gloat over my distress be put to shame and confusion; may all who exalt themselves over me be clothed with shame and disgrace. 27 May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The LORD be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.” 28 My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long.
*What do you do when you have enemies?
*What do you do when friends, people you loved turn against you?
*Recently someone from out of state sat in our living room and wept over a husband who not only left her…but had decided to hate her, and to express his hate to her.
*Even if she was a hateful person…it would be no excuse…but she is not, she is sweet, loving, was committed to him.
*So much pain…what do you do with it?
*Perhaps your situation is not as harsh…but you have people who make your life hard, or people who have decided to dislike you, to distrust you, they say things about you that are unkind and untrue…what are you do?
*I had a friend with a disability I used to go visit on a regular basis…he began to experience some mental problems…he first became suspicious of me…then one day he cursed me as I entered his room…screamed until I left…I was unable to visit him again.
*I understood his mental issues…but it didn’t mean it wasn’t painful.
*Whatever the reason, the severity, the relationship…we all have or will have people in our lives who become actual or “practical” enemies.
*Let’s walk through this Psalm together:
1-3 is a call to action
David uses both legal and military language in his cry to God to come to his aid.
*A buckler is a larger shield, held by a shield bearer to protect the soldier in battle.
*God is his defense against his enemies.
*Notice his cry for encouragement “Say to my soul, ‘I am your salvation.'”
*Do you ask the Lord to speak to your soul? To encourage your soul?
*He will…through others, his Spirit…but most often his word.
*We can turn inward when we suffer…staring inside can become toxic.
*But asking the Lord to Speak to our soul…is turning out to him to he can turn his truth to the inner parts of our lives.
*Looking away from the subjective, the emotive, the raw feelings…to the objective truth of his Word.
*”I feel this…God, speak to my soul…say to me what I already know but need to hear…tell me “I am your salvation.”
*God is our salvation…our confidence in all that troubles must find its place in him not in us.
*We cannot trust the voices in our own heads…we need God to speak the objective truth of God to our souls.
*He speaks to us most often through his word…with a clarity that transcends our current mood.
4-8 Is a Call for judgment
*David piles on the imprecations (the curses, the judgment)
*We discussed these kinds of Psalms earlier this year…the “imprecatory” or “cursing” Psalms…we will talk more about this shortly.
*Let’s go on
9-10 is a Confession of Praise
*Here again is this powerful King, killed a giant with a stone…combat veteran…yet he puts himself in the class of the “poor, needy.”
*When you watch the powerful politicians, world shakers, NFL, Movie stars…when you look around at any person…you see only “poor and needy”…but many are blind to this reality regarding themselves.
*David assumes the right posture in regards to how we should approach God and others…”I am poor and needy.”
11-16 His Adversaries Treachery
*His anger gives way to sadness…the sense of betrayal is overwhelming.
*He is being falsely accused…by people he cared for and about…people he helped and loved…his friends, his inner circle.
*When they suffered, he wept and suffered with them…while he suffers…they rejoice.
*This situation is both sad and disorientating…its such a reversal of the way God has designed life, relationships…such an upside down…twisted way for humans to behave.
*But sadly in the world at large…it is more common than uncommon.
*The world in its fallen state…is a disorientation place.
17-18 How Long
*This is the cry of the sufferer who knows that God is just and powerful…how long will you allow this to go on?
*It would be one thing God if was weak…he can’t do anything about it.
*Another thing if God was bad…he won’t do anything about it.
*But God is strong and good…so “how long?”
-Is a good question…”I know you can, I know you will…but when?”
*If you are experiencing the stress of an enemy…your cry is probably “God how long?”
*Do not doubt God’s justice, or his concern for you…his timing can be challenging.
*But his timing, like his actions…is on purpose…not random.
*Be assured…he is just and he will bring justice.
*Prov 17:13 If a man pays back evil for good, evil will never leave his house.
*My dad had provided good jobs for several close friends and long-time co-workers…these men committed crimes then implicated my dad in order to protect themselves.
*My dad was not guilty…but their sin cost him and my mom much pain and distress.
*My dad forgave them…but their lives did not go well and did not end well.
*The day will come when all injustice will be dealt with…for now justice does come…just not always on our schedule.
*Prov 26:27 If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it; if a man rolls a stone, it will roll back on him.
*How many times have we seen this happen…its in the news everyday.
*Justice can be slow but it is sure…some escape overt justice in this life (they don’t appear suffer for their crimes)…but that is only what is seen.
*I am confident that the unrepentant wicked live in prisons they make for themselves…whether they ever spend a day behind actual bars or not.
*But when you are watching and experiencing injustice…justice always feels slow in coming.
*The prayer is always “How Long?”
*Remember how long-suffering God was with Israel and the surrounding nations before he brought judgment.
*Gen 15 God was cutting the covenant with Abraham…God was making the promise…Abraham needed only to believe.
*In the context of this covenant of grace was a dire prediction…Abraham’s descendants would be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years…but then God would punish the nation that enslaved them…then give them a land at that time occupied by some bad folks.
*Gen. 15:16…”In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
*Even as God was promising a future rescue…after a long period of injustice…he was also demonstrating his patience…
-Patience in training his people…400 years in Egypt
-Patience in dealing with Egypt…400 years before their injustice would really cost them nationally.
-Patience in dealing with the Amorites (people who occupied Canaan, the promised land).
“Their sin had not yet reached its full measure.”
*God certainly operates on a different calendar than we do…four hundred years before their sin will reach its full measure?
*That’s not encouraging if you are thinking about him being patient with your enemy…
*”Really, 400 years…I can’t last 4 more months dealing with this person.”
*But look at it a different way…think about his patience with you…then 400 years is quite encouraging.
*For now its just important to remember God is just and injustice will not win the day.
19-25 David again calls for the Lord’s vindication in light of his enemy’s deceit.
27-28 David expresses confidence in the Lord’s final justice…his belief that God does and will care for the ultimate well being of his people.
Important Points to Remember as we consider this imprecatory…enemy-cursing Psalm
- David is being honest with God…this is his prayer to God that he wrote down for us to benefit from.
*The Bible accurately describes what happens, but not all of it prescribes what ought to happen.
*This includes words, attitudes as well as actions.
*Think of Ecc…as well as the words of false prophets, the actions of Judas and Satan.
*The Bible is a not a list of rules…does and don’ts…it is a single story…gospel story.
*It does prescribe how we are to live in ways that line up with the character of God…the will and ways of God.
*But it is not all prescription…it is also description.
*We see in the Biblical narrative wisdom, folly…man’s stupid ways contrasted with God’s perfect ways…we see the narrative unfolding…becoming fuller until we get to Jesus.
*He is the interpretive key to whole book.
*So just because David prayed down curses on his enemies…doesn’t mean its a good idea that you should.
*I think what is modeled here is honesty with God…if you feel this kind of angst…no better place to take than to take it God.
*However, the point of taking it God is to leave with him…not to take it back into your own heart and life.
*We can read this and come to the conclusion…”well, I have justification to hate, to curse, to call down God’s wrath.”
*David took this to God, so that God could take it from him…remember that.
- He is not asking God for the opportunity to kill his enemies, he is asking God to exercise justice and to protect him from injustice.
*He is not praying that God would make him the sword of justice…he is confessing his need for God to come to his aid.
*There is nothing here that justifies hatred, bitterness, unforgiveness…there is, however, clear example of believing that justice belongs to God.
*Final justice…will come…God will reveal it…he cannot, not be just.
*Now, God uses civil authorities to bring justice.
Rom. 13:1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong
*”Yea but Paul didn’t have our messed up government.”
*Paul had much, much worse…horrible, oppressive government existed when he wrote this down.
*Yet he knew as long as government did not require allegiance above that owed to God…government was to be obeyed as God’s source of justice.
*God used ungodly nations to bring justice to his own people in the OT.
*But unless you are an elected or appointed judge in a court of law…your role, my role is not to bring justice…but to trust justice to God.
Rom. 12:19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
*If you are in court battle that involves bringing justice to injustice…that is an appropriate application of Romans 13…you are not personally bringing justice…God is using his appointed means to do so.
- David, when given the chance to destroy his enemies with his own hands…didn’t…this occurred multiple times in his life.
*David prayed an imprecatory prayer…but he did not live an imprecatory life.
*This again indicates something very important for us…we take our anger, our sorrow our hurt, our dismay…our disorientation to God…so that we can be reoriented by God back to God.
*We look to the gospel, to Jesus…the promise made to King David of an everlasting King…was a distance promise to him…but a fulfilled promise for us.
*We take the cue of King Jesus in how to respond to enemies…so let’s see what he said and what he did.
- What Jesus said & Did
*What Jesus said:
Matt. 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Matt. 18:21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
*Wow…does this mean if I don’t forgive…God will disown me? I will lose my relationship with him…no…but let’s hold that thought for a moment.
- What Jesus did:
1 Peter 2:20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
- What does forgiveness even mean?
*You relinquish the rights of revenge, retribution, and justice to God.
*Again…this could be through a court of law…but outside of that you do not work to exact revenge.
*We can leave that God.
*It doesn’t mean you should be stupid…if a person is wicked and an enemy…don’t trust them…but leave justice in their regards to God.
* Rom. 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
*The implication is that it is not always possible…it does not always depend on you…some are going to hate you, or dislike you…some do not want to have peace with you.
*Your responsibility is not to have peace when it’s not possible…but even in those situations…you must not hate, or to seek exact justice on your own terms.
- What if I don’t do this? What I am not willing to forgive?…3 angles.
- Disorientation can happen quickly…reorientation can take some time.
*Don’t confuse “feeling like you forgive” with the actual action of choosing to relinquish justice to God…feelings can come along slowly and can come and go…trusting God is a choice independent of feelings.
*Here’s my point by way of a narrative:
- A friend turns into an enemy
- This dismays you…it makes you hurt, sad, angry, vindictive, hateful
- These attitudes and emotions…dismay you as well “If I trusted God I would not feel like this.”
*Now you have dismay squared…dismay over the situation (a friend has become an enemy) and dismay over your dismay….”I should not be struggling like this.”
*Of course you should…its a terrible situation to be in…cut your dismay in half…just the terrible situation.
*If we learn anything from the Psalms it is that we take our dismay over dismaying circumstances to God…in so doing he reorientates us to himself.
*This can take some time.
*A man who was struggling because he was still struggling to trust God and not forgive the man who abused his little girls…I told him…”Its okay to struggle.”
*”How long will it be okay?” He asked.
*”For now, its okay.”
*As long as he is asking that question…he will be moving the right direction.
- If you are not willing to forgive, period…not willing to struggle, get help, ask God to help you…if you are resolved…”I will never forgive them”
*You should be concerned…you should examine whether you have really trusted Christ as your Savior.
*Again…I am not advocating for doubt regarding your relationship with God just because you are struggling to forgive someone.
*However, if your heart is hard, over the long haul….not open to forgiving…this is not evidence of a person who has the Holy Spirit living in them….talk to a friend, search the scriptures, talk to God about this.
- The Good news about the Good news
*We could not, by obedience to the law become Christians…we cannot now by obedience to the law become more like Christ…this is not about self-improvement…this is gospel.
*The only source for power and life in the Christian life (in this case…forgiving those who have wronged us) is the same as it was at the very first…God’s grace in Jesus Christ.
Illustration of a sailboat: (M. Horton)
-Satellite technology, alarms when you veer off course…all you need to sail.
-Relying on the impressive gear you venture out into deep waters under full sail.
-Then the winds die down to a dead calm…no back up motor
-The radio warns that a storm is coming your way…other sailors offer advice on their radios
-The gadgets, the advice…means nothing without the wind.
-Glide out of harbor under full sail, thrilled with delight in knowing our sins are forgiven and we are right with God.
-We are eager to follow the course he has set for us in his Word.
-As we pass into open seas, we encounter spiritual stress…God’s law provides the direction but not the power, and a host of spiritual technologies are available to substitute.
-Read this book, go to that conference, follow that plan
-These things are usually neither law (God’s directives) nor gospel (God’s promises and acts in Christ)…but helpful advice from fellow sailors.
-The advice is often more law than gospel…it imposes extra demands as conditions for success…do this and you will do better.
-Yet, there you are…dead in the water…you decide to give up and never sail again..or you realize that what you really need is wind.
-That wind is always Christ in his saving office…the gospel.
-We need to be told over again (and tell ourselves) who God is and what he has done to save us…about the new world that awaits because of his faithfulness in spite of our unfaithfulness.
-Our whole life is a process of sailing confidently into open seas…dying down in exhaustion, and having our sails filled again with God’s precious promises.
-This what Paul describes in Romans 6-8…What Christ has done, what we should do, back to what Christ has done, back to what we should do…this exhausting struggle with sin leads to the end of Romans 7 and the great hope of chapter 8….promises of the gospel.
*This is what the Psalms also indicate…our lives are….disorientation…reorientation…over and over again.
*So, if you are struggling with forgiving…you sails are dead in the water.
*Pray with David “Oh God, say to my soul, you are my salvation.”
*Hear the gospel again…not only the command “you must forgive”…but the good news “Now, you really can forgive.”
Phil. 1:6…”I pray you will be active in sharing your faith (speaking of the gospel) so you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”
*Every good thing includes…the power and will to obey, to forgive…
*Okay…but look again away from yourself and look again to what God has done for you in Christ…now…”forgive as God in Christ Jesus forgave you.”