This morning I read my devotional from The Book of Common Prayer Daily Office, a collection of readings for each day of the year that includes a Psalm, an Old Testament reading, a New Testament reading, and a Gospel reading. There were FIVE Psalms this morning and I was running short on time, so I skimmed through a few of them. I guess I was kind of looking for something I liked or wanted to really focus on this morning. (Don’t judge me…)
Many of the Psalm readings are horrible diatribes against David’s enemies, asking God to kill them, smash them in pieces, and cut out their children’s tongues. At least that’s the basic theme of them. I typically skim through these chapters or sections because as good as it may feel to reign down curses on my enemies (or the person who’s particularly bugging me at that time), Jesus expressly forbids us to do it.
Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (NKJV)
How do I reconcile that with David’s requests that God bash in the heads of his opponents? And so I typically skim through these passages and deal with the nagging question of why these sentiments ever got published to begin with.
Well recently I’ve been having a battle with my mind – trying to correct firmly ingrained ways of thinking that are wrong and detrimental. Although it’s very uncomfortable, I’ve been speaking out loud the truth (yes, talking to myself) and praying for God to remove the lies. I tend to lean more toward figuring things out than seeing demons behind every door – but Jesus does spend a significant amount of time in Scripture casting them out. Reading through the Gospels might actually cause one to think there really were demons behind every door. So just in case there might be any evil spirits plaguing me, keeping me from moving forward and believing the truth, I even went so far as to speak to them and do the whole thing I grew up hearing – binding them, casting them out, and telling them never to return. I figured if it is an evil spirit, rationalizing it away won’t exactly work, so I gave it a shot.
So what in the world does that have to do with David cursing his enemies in the Psalms? I do have a point, I promise! As I was reading through the curses this morning, another Scripture popped into my head.
Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (NKJV)
Hmmmm… David did have human, flesh-and-blood enemies trying to kill him and take the kingdom from him. I don’t. I’m pretty sure no human being has ever tried to kill me. However, Ephesians says that as Christians we have to stand against the wiles of the devil. There is such a thing as “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Creepy! And real. It goes on to say that we can stand against them if we put on the full armor of God:
Ephesians 6:14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.
The war metaphor basically means we are to speak truth, live righteously, be peacemakers, have faith, accept the gift of salvation, read and study Scripture, pray, and be alert.
Remembering that my enemy is actually Satan, I stopped skimming and picked up the Psalm again from the beginning. I read out loud and when I got to the part about David cursing his enemies, I applied those words to principalities, powers, and spiritual wickedness. I let them know that they are not going to bother me any longer. And I smiled, knowing that God has given me authority to curse the devil and command him to leave. It felt pretty good to ask God to totally destroy and banish them forever.
I don’t believe that every single issue we face as Christians has a demon lurking behind it. I’m not even sure the one I’m facing has any evil attached to it at all. But I’m willing to do what Ephesians 6:13 says – all I can do to stand. And from now on when I see a Psalm about cursing our enemies, I’ll remember exactly who my enemy is and pray that Psalm out loud, cursing him with gusto.