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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Monday, September 29, 2014

Psalm 139, Part 5

How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.
If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.

Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

God is the ultimate creator, giving us a wild and seemingly infinite variety of plants, animals, and microorganisms (consider that 95% of organisms are now extinct), plus he created the vast array of landscapes across the universe. God’s thoughts clearly outnumber the grains of sand. How many grains of sand are there on the earth? Estimates run from 2.5 to 10 sextillion. To write sextillion, add 21 zeros after the 10. Scientists estimate there are more stars in the galaxy than there are grains of sand upon the earth. That’s pretty mind boggling.

David seems to have an abrupt change in his musings when he says “If only you, God, would slay the wicked!” Perhaps the transition is not quite as abrupt as it seems. Perhaps David is saying “How perfect the world would be if it wasn’t for all these pesky people you have made.” Most of us have had similar thoughts. Why did God make the wicked? Why does he continue to allow them to torment and torture those around them? A good example of this is in the news as I write this. ISIS has beheaded journalists, Christians, and even children. (ISIS Killing Children) Why is God allowing this? What should we as Christians do?

And what of the next verses:

Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.

The thing is, we can hate ISIS, hate passionately what they stand for, and despise their attacks on innocent people. Let me give an example. If someone saw a thug attack a young child, would the Christian stand idly by or would he/she stop the attack?

This actually happened when I taught in Columbus, Georgia. On that day, a fire drill disrupted our normal routine. As we were filing out, one of those children, one who was destined to be bullied, a skinny, short boy whom everyone disliked, whom everyone picked on, tripped and fell. Like a pack of wild dogs, several seventh and eighth-grade students began kicking and beating this small boy. I was the nearest teacher and searched frantically for another teacher for a split second, but no one was in sight. By the time I turned back around, about thirty or forty students, mainly boys, had joined in the fray.

There were several actions I could have taken. I could have realized that many of the students were taller and bigger than me, and that I was vastly outnumbered. I could have waited for help or gone for help myself. Or, I could have tried to reason with those who were frantically trying to reach the boy. I did none of those.

Instead, I jumped into the fray, grabbing students by the backs of their shirts, their belt loops, wherever I could find a hold, and flung them away as I made my way to the boy. Did I have warm, fuzzy feeling for this mob? Did I even care if I hurt them as I flung them aside? Of course not. I was shocked and appalled at their behavior and knew I had to react as quickly as possible to save the young boy from serious injury. The mob gave way slowly, and I reached my target and shielded him from further blows. I protected him as I waited for help that eventually came.

During that time, as this bullied child was being beaten, his enemies became my enemies. I fought off his attackers with all the strength I possessed, with a fierce anger. And I’m glad I did.

Here’s the interesting thing. Most of that mob of thirty or forty students consisted of young men (a few girls may have been involved) whom I taught. A lot of them got off scot-free. Since so many were involved, it was difficult to identify all of them. A few were punished for their behavior. They all returned to my class. And, yes, I forgave them and treated them the same as the students who had not joined in the mob mentality.

I’ll never forget watching the very first Survivor season and Susan Hawk’s speech. This is part of what she had to say: But if I would ever pass you along in life and you are laying (sic) there dying of thirst, I would not give you a drink of water. I would let the vultures take you and do whatever they want with you with no ill regrets.

During the fray, my anger was turned on the attackers. Later, I forgave and treated them with love, helped them with their work, and gave them encouraging words. I would have given them a drink of water and protected them from the vultures—something Susan Hawk claimed she would not do to the person she considered an enemy.

And David ends with this:

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

To enter into a fight with a thirst for vengeance or with an attitude of what’s in it for me is wrong. But to fight for the underdog or to help those in need is admirable. And after we have won the battle, then we provide the drink of water, the binding of the wounds, the love. Let God search our hearts and find what our true intentions are. Let us rid ourselves of wrong motives and stand up and fight for God.

He will lead us “in the way everlasting.”