As we end our study of the beautiful Psalm 139, we seem to come upon a bump in the road. Life is like that, right? We’re moving and grooving and praising God that He is always with us, He knows our thoughts, He formed us in His own image and knew our choices before we made them, loves us anyway, and thinks about us continually. What an amazing and loving Lord we have!
Then the psalmist looks at his own problems here on earth and asks the Lord to wipe away his enemies, which he sees as the answer to his problem. “O that You would slay the wicked, O God; Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed….I count them my enemies.” (v 19-22) Ray Steadman says: “When we are aware of being near to God, being dear to Him, we tend to ask God for things, but those things are not always in keeping with God’s best for us. That is what this psalmist is doing. He asks God to take care of the problem of the wicked. His suggested manner of handling it is rather naive… as though such a simple remedy for human ills had never occurred to the Almighty.”
The psalmist makes a case that he believes the Lord will agree with: “For they speak against You wickedly, and Your enemies take Your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with the utmost hatred; They have become my enemies.” (vv 20-22) But in making his case, he forgot God’s Word: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” (Lev. 19:18)
Ray Steadman says: “But this man has not yet learned this. In his honesty, he says ‘Lord, it seems to me the easiest way for You to handle this problem of evil would be to slay the wicked. Why don’t you do that?’ The psalmist felt God’s hatred against sin but not yet God’s love for the sinner.”
Isn’t it true that we see problems in our lives and in the world through our finite vision, not understanding all of the Lord’s plans? Do we see evil (either in the world or against us personally) and believe that God should blight it from the earth for our comfort? Do we see sinners from God’s perspective? For we are all sinners (Rom. 3:23).
Instead of asking for God to take away our problems, perhaps we should consider that everything is as it should be for God’s glory. We don’t know God’s plans, so any attempt to usurp what He is doing behind the scenes is not “trust[ing] in the Lord with all your heart and lean[ing] not on your own understanding” (Prov. 3:5). He gives us His plan in the next verse: “in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight” (v 6). We are to submit to Him, to what He is doing, and then He will make our paths straight as we trust in Him with all our hearts.
God formed each of us, He is with us always, He knows our thoughts, He searches our hearts, and we are always in His thoughts. Instead of asking Him to take care of a problem with a finite remedy we see, wouldn’t it be better to ask: Lord, I know that I don’t think very clearly, and I don’t often have the right answer. So Lord, in case I don’t have the right remedy for this problem, let me add this prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Ps. 139:23-24)
How much of our prayer time is occupied with petitions formed by our finite understanding? Is there a better way to pray? Have we yet felt God’s love for sinners? Jesus said, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). In loving and praying for our enemies, we humble ourselves before the Lord knowing He is the Sovereign Lord, with higher thoughts than ours. And we trust Him. “Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.” (Ps. 119:73)
Father, how desperately I need to be led through the complexities of my life. Help me not to settle for simple yet wrong solutions but to be willing to let You work out Your own purposes knowing that You have taken all the factors into consideration. Amen.