When We Suffer From Enemies

Text: Psalm 31:1-24

 In the name of Jesus. Amen.

It is a peculiar phrase if you really think about it, 

“Into your hands, I commit myself.”  

But what exactly does it mean to commit yourself to someone else’s hands?  

To commit yourself to the hands of another is to place your life under someone else's care and protection.  To put yourself in someone else’s hands, you are entrusting your life to them, knowing they won’t drop you or let you down.  

However, doing this often involves a great emotional investment – a willingness to be vulnerable.  For example, people may put their lives into the hands of various individuals, such as a spouse, family member, friend, or a professional, like a doctor, lawyer, or financial advisor. The reasons for doing so may vary, but they often stem from a desire for support, guidance, or expertise in navigating complex or threatening situations.

Putting your life into someone else’s hands can be both liberating and challenging. It can provide a sense of security and comfort but also requires a willingness to accept the other person's decisions.  As they say, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.  

But there is another dimension to all of this.  We have to acknowledge that in life, there are people who set hidden traps to ensnare you.  That is right, there are people who will plot ways to ruin you, and they do this behind locked doors.  Their goal is to take you into their hands – not hands of security and comfort but their hands of ruin.  Take our reading from Psalm 31 as an example. 

In Psalm 31, we read about David’s distress and persecution when the forces of Saul were pursuing him.  That is to say, David describes his enemies as scheming against him and seeking to harm him, causing him to feel overwhelmed and abandoned.  Indeed, these enemies were plotting to hurt him, seeking to take his life and ruin his reputation.  Their hands were full of deceitful scheming and malicious intent.  Their tongues were full of slander and lies.  

Now, it is important to note that there will always be enemies in this life.  They say that death and taxes are the two certainties in life.  In other words, death is inevitable for everyone, and taxes are unavoidable.  However, having an enemy is also a certainty in life.  Seriously, consider this for a moment; when has there been a time in your life that you have not personally had an enemy.  When has there ever been a time when your family, church, political party, and country did not have an enemy?  Consider the United States; we have been in a state of conflict or war for the majority of our existence.  The only time that the United States has not had major conflict or war was from the end of the Cold War in 1991 and the beginning of the War on Terror in 2001.  That is right; we have only had ten years of peace in our 246 years of existence. 

So, what shall we do about the fact that we have enemies?  

Obviously, there is a time and a place where we engage enemies – where we fight enemies. When that happens, we must make sure that our reasons for war are just.   However, more often than not, the fact remains that in life, you and I have absolutely no remedy or recourse against our enemies.  Even though we do not like to hear it, most of the time in this life, we do not have the power or the ability to do away with our enemies or stop their plotting, scheming, and slandering.  

Frankly, even if we did have the power to do away with our enemies, once one enemy is chopped down, another enemy will quickly pop up.  As a friend told me recently, enemies are like the whack-a-mole game.  You know, the game where toy moles randomly pop up from their holes, and you need to hit them with a padded mallet.  Once you hit a mole and force it back down its hole, another one pops up even more quickly.  The same is with your enemies.  If you eliminate an enemy with force, another enemy will quickly take its place.  There is no shortage of enemies in this life because there is no shortage of sin in all of us.  

And so, the point is, you will suffer from enemies perhaps your whole life.  And, like King David, many times, you will be powerless to overcome your enemies.  All this leads to the reality that you and I will suffer in this life at the hands of our enemies.  It is a certainty that we often cannot overcome and cannot remedy.  

So, where do we go from here?  

Perhaps, the overarching theme of these Midweek Lent Sermons on Suffering has not been to give you pointers on how to reduce or overcome the pain of suffering, but instead, the point has been to show you endurance through the suffering of this life.  

Dear friends, as a pastor to you, I would be misleading and deceptive to you if I stood up here claiming that you can be completely free from suffering in this life.  I would be a fake if I claimed to have the secrets to escaping suffering.  Spiritual gurus that claim they have the magic recipe for living a life free of suffering are charlatans, imposters, and frauds.  A life of ease free from suffering is a myth – it belongs with stories about unicorns and leprechauns. 

And so, what does Psalm 31 say to you and me about suffering with enemies?  Simply stated, the Lord is your rock and your strong fortress; whom shall you fear?  In other words, the image of a rock is quite fitting.  In the land of David, there were many elevated rocks in the land.  People would run to these elevated rocks for safety from enemies.  The rocks would prop them high above their enemies while at the same time providing shelter in caves from the harsh elements.  They functioned as the high ground.  And so, David is saying that the Lord is your rock and your fortress among your enemies.  And so, since you have a rock and fortress, you and I can commit ourselves to the hands of the Lord.  

Baptized Saints, consider this a bit more.  Your Jesus is like a rock and fortress for you because, at that cross, Jesus’ nailed-marked hands accomplished victory over sin, death, and the devil – for you.  Furthermore, as Jesus committed His Spirit to the hands of the Father, the Father raised Jesus from the dead (Galatians 1:1).  And so, if your God is a strong fortress and His hands provide security, assurance, and hope, what do you have to fear in your enemies?  Indeed, the Lord is your helper; you shall not fear; what can mere mortals do to you? (Hebrews 13:6)  

Furthermore, if your enemies slander you – who cares?  Right? Who cares what your enemies say, for you do not belong to their hands.  You are not in their nets.  But there is a part of you and me that wants to lash out and fight back – right?  Dear friends, only prey caught in a net fight.  Only people who are overpowered squirm.  You, though, do not belong to the hands of your enemies.  You belong to Christ.  And so, it does not matter what your enemies say about you – how they slander and gossip behind your back, for they do not possess you.   Because you belong to Christ and are sealed with the mark of the cross, none of the empty threats and babbling gossip matter to you.  Your enemy is not your god, and their shame is not the final word.    

And for the times when you are threatened, attacked, or pressed in on every side, know this: do not be bluffed into silence or fear your enemies.  There is nothing they can do to your soul - your core being.  Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life – body and soul – in His hands. (Matthew 10:28)  Indeed, Baptized Saints, never forget, you shall fear no man, for you reserve your fear, love, and trust for the Lord – the One who bled, died, and rose for you.  

And so, even though you may have ongoing suffering from your enemies, you are free in Christ.  You have a strong fortress.  You have been placed in the powerful hand of the Lord amid suffering.  Indeed, you have a rescue.  You have love, assurance, and truth from the Lord despite your enemies' insolent contempt and babbling.  And your enemies? Mark this; the Lord will have vengeance in His time and when He chooses to do so.  

Baptized Saints, trust in the Lord, not yourself, and certainly not your enemies. God will take care of you and deal with the arrogant.  

Be brave, and strong; don’t give up or give in to your enemies’ threats, for you have a firm rock and a mighty fortress.  

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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