PSALM 83 TALK: WE SHALL OVERCOME – VICTORY FOR GOD’S KINGDOM

PSALM 83 TALK: WE SHALL OVERCOME – VICTORY FOR GOD’S KINGDOM

 (A Psalm that explores the horrific spiritual battle waged against God and his Kingdom (all his true followers) and the wonderful message that one -day God and his Kingdom will have total victory of all evil forces)

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INTRODUCTION

 We shall overcome

We shall over come

We shall overcome some day

Oh, deep in my heart

I do believe

We shall overcome some day.

So goes the first verse of the famous civil rights movement anthem of the 1950’s and 60’s in the United States of America. A lady by the name of Wendy Schuman published this song in an organizations Bulletin called “People Songs” that Pete Seeger was director of at the time. Pete Seeger started singing this song in the early 1950’s and by 1959 it had become associated with the then growing civil rights movement.

Interestingly the song is believed to have been originally written as a Christian hymn in the 1930’s called, “If my Jesus Wills” and its lyrics included the words,

I’ll overcome, I’ll overcome

I’ll overcome Someday

If my Jesus Wills, I do believe,

I’ll overcome someday.

This song and the hymn are is appropriate for many Christians today who are facing in many parts of the world horrific persecution just for believing in Jesus. Many are being locked up and some even killed for their faith in Christ. I read only this week of 20 or so Christians who were killed by ISIS in Syria after they burned down their church.

The New Testament makes it clear that before Christ returns to this world their will be persecution and strife in this world (Matthew 24: 9 – 14) and this is a result of the great spiritual battle that we are constantly involved in that is a battle between God and his Kingdom and all the forces of evil that oppose his rule in heaven and on earth, Ephesians 6: 12,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

In the midst of even the worse of this fierce battle we, like the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s can sing,

We shall overcome

We shall over come

We shall overcome some day

Oh, deep in my heart

I do believe

We shall overcome some day.

We can sing this confidently because God’s word promises that there is a day coming when God and his Kingdom will overthrow totally all the evil forces that oppose him and after they are destroyed forever we will have total victory, Revelation 20: 11 – 15,

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire”.

The next chapter of Revelation then speaks of the great hope for all who belong to God’s Kingdom and how in God’s post judgment their will be no more tears, death and mourning for those in God’s great kingdom meaning we shall overcome on that great day.

Psalm 83 is a Psalm of Asaph, the last Asaph Psalm in the book of Psalms, which prays for the destruction of a great and powerful federation of anti – God kingdoms who were seeking to destroy God’s special nation or Kingdom of Israel. He is literally praying that Israel through God’s judgment of their enemies will be able to overcome what seems to be a certain day of destruction.

There is a strong possibility that we know who the actual original composer of this Psalm is and the events that led to his writing of the original Psalm. In the time of king Jehoshaphat who reigned as king of Judah from 873 – 849 we read in 2 Chronicles 20 the story of a combined attack on Judah led by three of the eight nations mentioned in verses 6 – 8 in this Psalm. Even though the other five nations are not mentioned in the Psalm it is possible that they provided support in a smaller way to this combined confederacy that sought to eradicate God’s Kingdom of Judah from the earth forever.

A key person in the story of this great attack upon Judah is a descendant of Asaph named Jahaziel (2 Chronicles 20: 14) and God inspired him to prophecy that God himself would defeat this great army coming down on Judah and Jerusalem.

The three key nations that 2 Chronicles 20 speak of are Edom, Moab and the Ammon seem to be the leaders of this combined attack and the role of Jahaziel, a direct descendant of Asaph could mean that he too was inspired by God to write Psalm 83 around the same time.

We cannot say this for certain and I will discuss in the second part of the first section of this Psalm some other problems to this theory of the authorship of this Psalm.

So I hope we will learn from this Psalm that God has a plan for all Christian that will lead us to total victory over all evil forces.

However I hope we will also learn that it is God and God alone who will bring about this great judgment on all evil forces. Just as in the days of Jehoshaphat,Judah did not fight the battle against the combined evil forces of their day but rather God caused confusion and panic in the enemies armies and they ended up destroying each other.

With this in mind my breakdown for this Psalm is:

  1. 1 – 8  THE PLOT AGAINST GOD’S KINGDOM
  1. Vs. 1    A prayer for God the king to act
  2. 2 – 8  The evil plot to destroy God’s kingdom
  1. 9 – 16 DESTROY THE ENEMIES OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD
  1. 9 – 12 Act God as you did in the past
  2. 13 – 11 Destroy and defeat the enemies of the kingdom
  1. 17 – 18 GOD THE KING REVEALED
  1. vs. 17   Defeat the enemies of the kingdom
  2. vs. 18   Show everyone that our God reigns
  1. 1 – 8  THE PLOT AGAINST GOD’S KINGDOM

The Psalm is set in the form of a prayer, which also is considered to be a national lament, or complaint and this is a typical style of Psalm we have seen already in the Psalms of Asaph, like Psalms 74, 77, 79 and 80.

I have broken the first section of this prayer into two parts:

  1. Vs. 1     A prayer for God the king to act
  2. 2 – 8   The evil plot to destroy God’s kingdom

 So lets look at the first part of this first section of this national prayer:

  1. Vs. 1     A prayer for God the king to act

The Psalm starts with the prayer being offered to God who the writer pictures as silent or inactive at a time when his people are in great danger, he writes,

“O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still”.

 Tremper Longman 111 writes,

“God has not made his presence known, but the psalmist prayer intends to change God’s stance by drawing his attention to the threatening plots of those who want to destroy God’s people”.

 Alan Harman adds,

“The greatest danger does not lie with the enemies but that God will remain a silent onlooker”.

 Psalm 121 verse 4 says,

“Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep”.

 God is not sleeping on the job as Psalm 121 vs. 4 says, no he is watching and indeed listening but at the time the prayer was spoken he was not yet acting.

This is an important practical piece of teaching for all of us on prayer. My mission friend Ted Penney uses a simple but practical illustration on how God answers prayer. He uses the illustration of the traffic lights to answer the question of how does God answer prayer.

The traffic light red, says that sometimes God says no to our prayer requests. God would have a variety of reasons for saying no and the famous one that comes to mind is the prayer Paul would have prayed in Acts 16: 6 – 10, where God says no to Paul’s attempts to preach the Gospel in the Asia minor area and was stopped and God led him and his missionary team to Macedonia.

Gotquestions?org says this about prayer,

“Keep in mind that prayer is not our way of getting God to do what we want. Our prayers should be focused on things that honor and glorify God and reflect what the Bible clearly reveals God’s will to be (Luke 11:2). If we pray for something that dishonors God or is not His will for us, He is unlikely to give what we ask for. God’s wisdom far exceeds our own, and we must trust that His answers to our prayers are the best possible solutions”.

The traffic light green stands for yes. This means God answers our prayers and gives us what we ask for and my experience is that sometimes it is even more than we ask for. We all can site verses in the New Testament that speak of this, like Ephesians 3: 20 – 21,

 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen”.

The third traffic light is yellow which means wait or in Australia be prepared to stop. This is what is happening in Psalm 83 verse 1, wait for my answer, I am not going to answer this just yet but I want you to be patient and wait. Gotquestions?org says this about God’s answer of wait to our prayers,

“Sometimes hearing “wait” is even harder than hearing “no” because it means we have to be patient (Romans 8:25). While waiting is difficult, we can be thankful God is in control and trust that His timing will be perfect (Romans 12:12; Psalm 37:7—9)”.

 I have spoken much more about waiting on God in my Psalm Talk on Psalm 37 if you’re interested. For now all I will just say is that in the context of Psalm 83, waiting meant waiting on a answer to God as a powerful and large combined army sat outside of your country or even had entered your country and yet God seemed inactive and you are simply forced to wait on him to act.

Waiting tests out our faith and helps to prove we are really trusting in God and not just turning to God as a form of vain hope in a difficult situation.

Waiting can include having to endure some form of suffering and Peter says this about this kind of waiting in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 7,

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed”.

  1. 2 – 8   The evil plot to destroy God’s kingdom

So the psalmist prays for God to act on behalf of his people and he now tells God in his prayer why he needs God to act and act quickly if this Psalm or prayer originally set in the time of Jehoshaphat when the combined armies of at least 3 nations, maybe more is bearing down on Judah and Jerusalem.

I see two parts to this explanation of why the psalmist needs God to act and act quickly:

  1. The conspiracy to destroy God’s people (2 – 4)
  2. The plot and the plotters who want to destroy God’s people (5 – 8)

So lets have a look at each of these issues that caused the psalmist to want God to act and act quickly for his people.

  1. The conspiracy to destroy God’s people (3- 4)

All through the Psalms of books one and two I discovered that a major theme was the struggle of God’s anointed King and his followers against the combined attack of those outside and within Israel who chose to oppose the true God of Heaven and earth and his appointed king.

This theme was first stated in Psalm 2: 1 – 2,

“Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain.The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,“Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.”

 This theme has not appeared again in book three so far but makes a big re-appearance here in Psalm 83: 2 – 4,

“See how your enemies growl, how your foes rear their heads.With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish.“Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”

 The anointed king is now “your people” the nation of Israel but this is the same thing as the anointed king and his followers. In New Testament terms “God’s people” or even “The Nation of Israel” is replaced with all those who follow God’s great king Jesus Christ. As Paul declares in Galatians 3: 26 – 29,

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.

Later in Galatians 6: 16 Paul even calls the church the Israel of God,

“Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God”.

Jesus keeps the King and Kingdom idea of Psalm 2 as part of his main message during his earthly ministry. His true followers are part of the Kingdom of God or in other places The Kingdom of Heaven, as we see in Mark 1: 15, in Jesus basic message,

“The time has come, he said. ‘The Kingdom of God is near, Repent and believe the good news”.

Jesus presented much teaching in the form of parables about who really is part of the Kingdom of Heaven or God and he said to the Pharisee Nicodemus in John 3: 3,

“I tell you the truth, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again”.

So the message of Psalm 83 about the enemies of God ganging up on God’s people relates to us if we are followers of the true King of God, Jesus Christ.

Verse 2 of Psalm 83 speaks of how these combined enemies of God and his people are on the prowl in an arrogant and full of self pride sort of way,

“See how your enemies growl, how your foes rear their heads”.

Allan Harman says,

“Rearing their heads a description of pride and boldness”.

 Then in verse 3 we read about there anti – God and his people conspiracy,

“With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish”.

Spurgeon eloquently expresses the truth of this verse making application to us at the same time with these words,

“Whatever we may do, our enemies use their wits and lay their heads together, in united conclave they discourse the demands and plans of the campaign, using much treachery and serpentine cunning in arranging their schemes”.

All opposition to God and his people one way or another comes from one source, Satan the prince of all evil and Peter calls Satan a roaring lion, very dangerous and vicious and gives us good advise in 1 Peter 5: 8 – 9,

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings”.

James adds to this advice with, James 4: 7,

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you”.

Finally the writer of Psalm 83 tells us of this conspiracies combined intent in verse 4,

“Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”

The idea of national genocide is sadly part and parcel of the ancient world and many thriving and seemingly successful cultures were wiped out by the nations and cultures that conquered them. I have always been fascinated with the ancient Nation and culture called Carthage, which almost brought the Roman empire to its knees when it, led by its main general, Hannibal attacked Italy itself in a long and seemingly successful campaign but Hannibal failed to take Rome and in 203BC he had to return to Carthage to help to defend it.

The Romans finally defeated the Carthage Nation in 146BC and completely destroyed it as many Nations had been over the course of human history. So the intent of this confederation of Nations to wipe out Israel, God’s people so that they be,

“Remembered no more”

Was a very real threat, as we no longer have the Nation and culture of Carthage and hundreds of others who suffered the same fate this confederation was plotting to do to Israel at that time.

It is actually a miracle of God that the Jewish culture and nation still exists when you consider how small the nation of Israel and later Judah was in ancient and even modern times.

The Christian church even more so is a miracle of God as it grew from a very small group of men and women into a mighty and powerful faith. Many times throughout history it to has faced powerful forces like the Muslim hordes in the middle ages and even the Roman Catholic attack on the reformed faith in the 15th and 16th centuries who sought to wipe from the face on the earth biblical Christianity.

Jesus made it clear to Peter once he made the famous statement of who Jesus is Jesus said upon this and Peter himself he would build his church and the gates of hell or Hades itself would not prevail against it, Matthew 16: 16 – 17,

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it”.

 Even in my own time of living I witnessed the attack on Christianity by communism that in Russia and China a vicious campaign to eradicate Christianity and the Christian church failed and instead of wiping it out in those countries it has never been stronger.

  1. The plot and the plotters who want to destroy God’s people (5 – 8)

Then in verses 5 – 8 we have an even more specific description of the plot and the plotters to wipe out God and his people or Kingdom from the face of the earth. We read,

“With one mind they plot together; they form an alliance against you—
the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, of Moab and the Hagrites,Byblos, Ammon and Amalek, Philistia, with the people of Tyre. Even Assyria has joined them to reinforce Lot’s descendants”,

First we see in the opening verse of this part of the Psalm the unity of this plot,

“With one mind they plot together; they form an alliance against you’.

Leopold points out,

“Evil as well as good purposes may on occasion bind men together very firmly”.

Here obviously evil is their intent and bound together they will seek to destroy the Nation of Israel represented in King Jehoshaphat time as Judah where God’s anointed King who is of the line of David reigned. Psalm 2 verses 1 – 3 seems to be an echo of this verse,

“Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain.The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,“Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.”

 Note how verse 3 here speaks of the deeper spiritual reason for this conspiring together to bring down God and his people represented in his chosen anointed king, they want to,

“Break their chains and throw off their shackles.”

 These people of Judah represent the so-called one true God of Heaven and earth, the King of Kings so to speak but the opposing nations don’t wont to be under his rule, as they want to rule in his place. This is what lies at the heart of all sin, rebellion and Paul speak about this in Romans 1: 21 – 23,

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles”.

Today people without Christ in their lives don’t make images of mortal men, birds and reptiles to worship but instead they worship themselves or their so called modern and advanced thinking. Others turn their own bodies into the object of their worship or they worship material things instead of the one true God who made heaven and earth.

So this conspiracy of Nations that are now plotting together is named in Psalm 83 : 6 – 8.

“6 The tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, of Moab and the Hagrites,Byblos, Ammon and Amalek, Philistia, with the people of Tyre. Even Assyria has joined them to reinforce Lot’s descendants”,

 Interestingly all of these 9 Nations mentioned in these three verses represent all of the traditional enemies up to the fall of the Northern Kingdom with the final mention of Assyria, which attacked and brought down the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

It does not mention however the Babylonians, which points to this Psalm, being written before the rise of the all-conquering Babylonians.

Also Leopold goes to great pains to point out how each of the nations mentioned here make Judah completely surrounded by hostile deadly enemies.

He points out that Edom is directly south of the red sea, Ishmaelites are East of Jordon River, Moabites east of the dead sea, Hog rites North east of Judah, Gebal north of Edom, Ammon east, Amalek south east, Philistia on the coast to the west of Judah and finally Assyria to the far North. Assyria was probably only a much smaller power when the nations, Moab and Amon, the descendants of Lot (Genesis 19) attacked Judah in the time of Jehoshaphat.

James Coffman offers another solution to the problem of pinpointing a historical time for the writing of this Psalm,

“The enumeration here is not historical, but poetic idealization. The psalm would then be, not the memorial of a fact, but the expression of the standing relation between Israel and the outlying heathendom”.

 However the Nations not mentioned in 2 Chronicles 20 that are listed here as co- conspirators could have offered their support without actually been directly involved in the military operation which was undertaken by the principle nations of Edom, Moab and Ammon.

Also even though the events of 2 Chronicles 20 could have been the actual initial inspiration of the Psalm, later editing of it up to the time of the Assyrian invasion of the Northern Kingdom could have included other nations to turn the Psalm as Coffman suggests into a,

“Expression of the standing relation between Israel and the outlying heathendom”.

 The Psalms I believe always started their lives anchored in a real historic experience of the original writer but they were always developed for general use and application for time immemorial and Leupold says that the general use of this Psalm was,

“A normal prayer of endangered people”

 This ends the first section of the Psalm and we might say that the picture here of the endangered people depicted is one that needed God’s mighty power to be able to say, “We shall overcome”.

  1. 9 – 16   DESTROY THE ENEMIES OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

 We now enter the section of the Psalm that is what is known as an imprecatory prayer or a prayer for God’s judgment to come on the enemies of the nation and God. This is something I have written on extensively in my Psalm talks because these types of prayers come up a lot in the book of Psalms.

As I have already indicated in my comments on verse 3, the ancient world is littered with genocidal destruction of nations and cultures.

This confederation of nations aim was to wipe out Israel and its God centered culture from the face of the earth. So the times that the Psalms were originally written were times when God’s people faced large, ruthless powerful enemies set on destroying them.

I have pointed before to the teaching of Jesus in the New Testament about how he wants us to pray for our enemies and to love them as recorded in Matthew 5: 43 – 44,

“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”.

In this passage in Matthew, Jesus goes on to say why we must do this, Matthew 5: 45 – 47,

That you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”

 Note how Jesus says that when we do this we are following the lead of God in heaven who shows grace and love to this fallen world, which is in rebellion to him. Also he indicates that the way we stand out from the rest of humanity is by the way we love not by the way we hate.

Finally I must also say that our loving our enemies does not change another biblical fact and that is God’s Judgment is coming on those who oppose him as king of everything and who also oppose his kingdom or his followers on earth. Psalm 83 is focusing on God’s coming judgment and I wont you to note that even in Psalm 83’s imprecatory prayer God is the agent of judgment not his people.

There is no place for Christian Jihad or Holy War in the Christian faith based on the teachings of Jesus and the rest of the New Testament. Paul makes this clear in Romans 2: 1 – 4,

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

I have broken this second section into two parts:

  1. 9 – 12   Act God as you did in the past
  2. 13 – 11 Destroy and defeat the enemies of the kingdom

 Lets have a closer look than at each of these two parts of this second section.

  1. 9 – 12   Act God as you did in the past

In verses 9 – 12 Asaph imprecatory prayer or judgment prayer for God’s enemies looks back to the time of judges when God judged other nations who sought then to overwhelm and destroy God’s people, Israel.

He actually sights two examples of God’s judgment on invading enemies in the book of Judges:

  1. God’s judgment in the time of Deborah as judge (vs. 9b and 10)
  2. God’s judgment in the time of Gideon as judge (vs. 9a 11 and 12)

Lets have a closer look at each of these former judgments of God in invading enemies.

  1. God’s judgment in the time of Deborah as judge (vs. 9b and 10)

Asaph looks back to the time of the Judges and in verse 9b he raises the case of God’s judgment in invading enemies in the time of Deborah, which he explains further in verse 10,

As you did with Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon. Who persished at Endor and became like refuse on the ground”.

 This is a reference to the story of God’s judgment on invading enemies recorded in Judges 4 and 5. The story of the utter defeat of Jabin, the Canaanite king who ruled ruthlessly over the people of Israel is in Judges 4 and Jabin suffered defeat near the river known as Kishon which Deborah mentions in her victory song, Judges 5: 21,

“The river Kishon swept them away, the age – old river Kishon. March on, my soul; be strong”.

 Jabin’s general was Sisera who’s army was defeated and all were killed in battle except Sisera who escaped on foot, Judges 4: 16 – 17,

Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim, and all Sisera’s troops fell by the sword; not a man was left. 17 Sisera, meanwhile, fled on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, because there was an alliance between Jabin king of Hazor and the family of Heber the Kenite”.

Barak is Deborah’s general and Sisera suffers a further and final humiliation in his death when another women defeats him when Heber’s wife, Jael drives a tent peg through his scull while he slept in her tent, Judges 4: 21,

“But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died”.

The expression at the end of verse 10,

“And became like refuse on the ground”.

Could be translated dung or human excrement and this awful image is explained well by these words by Tremper Longman 111,

“A stinking pile of refuse that would ultimately fade away”.

 That is the destiny of those who seek to bring down God and his Kingdom as Samuel proclaims in his mother Hannah’s prayer recorded in 1 Samuel 2: 10,

“Those who oppose the Lord will be broken. The Most High will thunder from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth”.

  1. God’s judgment in the time of Gideon as judge (vs. 9a 11 and 12)

Asaph then looks at another judgment of an invading nation in the book of Judges and this time it is in the time of the judge Gideon recorded in Judges 7 and 8 and found in this Psalm in the first part of verse 9 and expanded upon in verses 11 and 12.

“Do to them as you did to Midian”.

 “Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna, who said, “Let us take possession of the pasturelands of God”.

 Barnes explains the significance of verse 11 and 12,

“Make their nobles like Oreb and like Zeeb – These were princes or rulers of the Midianites, slain by Gideon, the one on the rock Oreb, and the other at the wine-press of Zeeb”.

 I found one very interesting verse when reading through the account of Gideon’s defeat of the Midianites in Judges 7 and 8 and it is Judges 7: 22,

“When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords. The army fled to Beth Shittah toward Zererah as far as the border of Abel Meholah near Tabbath”.

The way Gideon victory over the Midianites is described here is very similar to the victory Jehoshaphat has over the federation of three enemies in 2 Chronicles 20: 22 – 23,

“As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 23 The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another”.

So maybe the original prayer here of

“Do to them as you did to Midian”.

Was answered by God just as Asaph first prayed for it to happen?

The image of verse 12,

“ Let us take possession of the pastureland of God”

Is explained well by James Coffman,

“This is difficult to understand because God had only one habitation in Israel, at the location of the tabernacle or the Temple. Perhaps the enemy by this intention were thinking of all the dwellings of the Jews in Israel. The language of this verse should not be understood as the words of Oreb, Zeeb, Zebah and Zalmunna, but as the arrogant boast of the enemies mentioned in Psalm 83: 6 – 8”.

Paul makes it clear that our strength in the great spiritual battle does not come from ourselves but it comes from the strength of the Lord, Ephesians 6: 10,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power”.

We must fight with both his protection and his weapons, which the rest of the Ephesians 6 passage sets out so beautifully, and then Paul concludes this with the importance of prayer in verse 18,

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people”.

  1. 13 – 11 Destroy and defeat the enemies of the kingdom

 Asaph then uses 5 graphic poetic images to describe what he wants God to do to the invading enemies of the Kingdom:

  1. Make them like tumbleweed vs. 13a
  2. Make them like chaff vs. 13b
  3. Make them like fire vs. 14
  4. Make them like a storm vs. 15
  5. Cover their faces with shame vs. 16

Lets look a little closer at each of these graphic poetic images.

  1. Make them like tumbleweed vs. 13a

Verse 13a says,

“Make them like tumbleweed, O God”,

Spurgeon eloquently explains this image with these words,

“Like a rolling thing, which cannot rest, but is made to move with every breath. Let them have no quiet. May their minds eternally revolve and never come to peace”.

 I’ve seen movies and documentaries that show the large North American version of these tumbleweeds and they seem to blow through deserted towns totally controlled by the force of the wind.

This is a picture of both powerlessness and hopelessness and the high and mighty of this world who both now and in the past have willfully tormented God’s faithful people will all one day be caught up in the wind of God’s judgment that will blow them eternally away from God and all that is good that come through him and they will be powerless to stop it.

  1. Make them like chaff vs. 13b

Verse 13b says,

“Like chaff before the wind”

 Psalm 1 describes the wicked, those who oppose God this way in verses 4 and 5,

“They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, sinners in the assembly of the righteous”.

Spurgeon again pins down what the Asaph wants God to do,

“Blow them away like thistle down, as the stubble before the wind. Scatter them, chase them, drive them to destruction”.

 This image of chaff would have been a powerful image for people living in the ancient world of the middle east as every harvest time crops like wheat and barley were threshed and chaff was the part of the crop that was useless and was simply left to be blown away by the wind.

The three nations who combined to attack Judah at the time of King Jehoshaphat were killed or scattered by God’s intervention in judgment on them.

The other way of dealing with chaff was to gather it up and burn it and John the Baptist speaks Jesus work on the day of judgment in these terms in Matthew 3: 12,

“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

  1. Make them like fire vs. 14

Verse 14 reads like this,

“As fire consumes the forest or a flame sets the mountains ablaze”

 In the part of Australia where I live every summer we often fear the coming of what we call a “Bush fire” and they are really scary things. A bush fire with a powerful wind behind it is usually unstoppable and only rain or sometimes careful back burning can bring them to a halt.

So the image of a large forest fire is a powerful image for what Asaph wants God to do to this great combined army that is bearing down on them. The army is like a forest fire approaching but Asaph wants this enemy to become the fire that consumes them and drives them away.

The image of fire is often used to describe the Day of Judgment as the writer to the Hebrews puts it in Hebrews 10: 27,

“A fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God”.

 An image made even more real by the Book of Revelations Lake of fire,

“Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire”.

  1. Make them like a storm vs. 15

Asaph wants God then to, verse 15,

“Pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your storm”.

The image here is of a mighty and powerful storm pursuing them and at the same time terrifying them. Spurgeon writes,

“The Lord will follow up his enemies, alarm them, and chase them till they are put to a hopeless rout”.

This is what actually happened to the armies of the three nations in the time of King Jehoshaphat. Not that a physical storm came on them but God caused some kind of confusion and panic on them as the army of Jehoshaphat approached singing praises to the Lord, 2 Chronicles 20: 22 – 24,

“As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 23 The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.

 24 When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped”.

The storm of God’s judgment blew against them and they were powerless to stop it and they all perished. In Psalm 29 God’s voice is pictured as a great and powerful thunderstorm and verses 3 – 9, describe God’s voice this way,

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.He makes Lebanon leap like a calf, Sirion like a young wild ox.The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning. The voice of the Lord shakes the desert; the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare. And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

 For an in depth understanding of this Psalm please look up my Psalm 29 talk on my Psalm Talks web site (www.jimwenman.wordpress.com), this site.

God’s judgment will come one day like a sudden and violent thunderstorm and when it will pursue and terrify everyone. Jesus gave warning to this on a number of occasions in his earthly ministry, like Matthew 24: 42 – 44,

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him”.

  1. Cover their faces with shame vs. 16

The final graphic poetic picture of God’s coming judgment is in verse 16, which says,

“Cover their faces with shame so that men will seek your name, O Lord”.

 Asaph now presents a positive outcome of this terrible coming judgment on the enemies he saw amassing against the people of Judah, God’s chosen people and that was the shame of God’s judgment on these enemies and this will cause others to seek the Lord. He actually says will seek the Lords name, which simply is God’s character, as we know from the bible.

Albert Barnes explains what is being prayed here,

“The prayer here is, that their enemies might be so baffled in their designs – that they might be made so to feel how vain and hopeless were all their plans – that there might be such a manifest interposition of God in the case, as that they should be led to see that Yahweh reigned; that it was in vain to contend with him, and that his people were under his protection”.

 God’s acts of Salvation for his people which come from his expressed character of love has always been used as a way of helping non believers to stop and consider him and even for some it has led them to seek out the God of the bible.

Paul taught clearly that God uses all things for good, Romans 8:28,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.

 So when God allows a person to suffer difficulty and pain which is often a result of their sins then maybe that could be used to cause them to seek God’s help and therefore use their shame and pain to seek for God.

Or maybe the way a Christian or a group of Christians, deal with their suffering helps non believers who witness that to seek out the God they believe in. Peter gives us the best advice on how we are to witness for Christ even when we are being persecuted in 1 Peter 3: 15 – 16,

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”.

 We witness then through the way God helps us to over- come even by the problems and difficulties our enemies might cause us.

  1. 17 – 18 GOD THE KING REVEALED

 We come then to the final two verses of this desperate prayer we believe was probably first prayed by a ancestor of Asaph named Jahaziel during the reign of King Jehoshaphat when three nations ganged up on Judah, God’s chosen people to attack them and wipe them off from the face of the earth.

I have made each verse a separate part of this third and last section of the Psalm:

  1. vs. 17   Defeat the enemies of the kingdom
  2. vs. 18   Show everyone that our God reigns

 These two verses are a good summary of what this descendant of Asaph is praying for. He wants the enemies of the Kingdom of God defeated by God (vs. 17) and he wants everyone in the world to know that because of this the God of the bible is the God who reigns as the king of everything and everyone (vs. 18).

Lets have a closer look at these two verses:

  1. vs. 17   Defeat the enemies of the kingdom

We see in verse 17 the first thing Asaph is asking God for,

“May they be ashamed and dismayed; may they perish in disgrace”.

 The choice was simple, either God acted on his people’s behalf and defeated the federation of nations attempting to attack them or the federation of nations went unchecked and wiped Israel or we believe Judah off the face of the earth.

Asaph wants these arrogant and cock sure enemies (as verse 2 describes them) put to shame or brought down and frustrated in their wilful attack of the Kingdom of God.

Today many people treat Christians as fools they say we are weak silly people who believe in myths and legends. Some atheists even say we are dangerous because of our miss- guided beliefs. This means Christians and churches today are under attack by many people in our society. These enemies of the Kingdom of God are often arrogant and nasty people who will use any weapon even lies to bring down the Kingdom of God.

One-day God’s judgment will fall on these arrogant God haters and then they will be put to shame and there self righteous smiles will be turned into what Jesus called the gnashing of teeth, as Jesus declares in Matthew 13: 41 – 42,

“The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.

 Spurgeon writes,

“What a terrible doom it will be to the enemies of God to be confounded, and troubled for ever, to see all their schemes and hopes defeated, and their bodies and souls full of anguish without end: from such a shameful perishing may our souls be delivered”.

 Again Peter’s advice on how we are to handle any kind of Christian opposition I shared in the last section is the best advice we can get, 1 Peter 3: 15 – 16,

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”.

  1. vs. 18   Show everyone that our God reigns

Finally the second thing Asaph is praying for in his desperate prayer concerning the federation of nations who are planning to attack God’s people is in verse 18,

“Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord – that you alone are the Most High over all the earth”.

 This verse follows up on he thought in verse 16 that said,

“So that men will seek your name, O Lord”.

 As I said then the name of God represents the bibles expressed character of God, which is a different expressed character of God than all other religions in our world. The principal difference of the God of the bible is that besides being a God of justice and judgment he is also a God of love.

When God came close to Moses on Mount Sinai we read this in Exodus 33: 18 – 20,

Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

 19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

 Note how God is pictured here, as a God of mercy and compassion and that he is sovereign in how he chooses to show that mercy or love.

God is therefore the sovereign king of all the earth as Asaph puts it in verse 18, he is,

“The most high”

 This term, “The most high” is also in the previous Psalm, Psalm 82 verse 6 and many believe forms a link between these two Psalms. Spurgeon explains,

“Jehovah is essentially the Most High. He who is self existent is infinitivally above all creatures, all the earth is his footstool”

 So Asaph wants the world to know through his God’s victory over the invading federation of Nations on God’s people that the God of the bible reigns. He reigns in heaven and on earth.

Jesus taught us to pray with the words of what we now call The Lords prayer and the opening thoughts of that prayer are, Matthew 6: 9 – 10,

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”.

 Jesus wants us to pray for the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. Once the reign of God does come in the second coming of Jesus, when he judges all people then we can fully sing,

We shall overcome

We shall over come

We shall overcome some day

Oh, deep in my heart

I do believe

We shall overcome some day.

Unto then we can continue to pray and work towards the coming of the Kingdom of God to this earth through the preaching of the Gospel and we can see victories for God and also sing, “We shall overcome”.

I close this Psalm talk as usual with a poem and a prayer,

VICTORY FOR GOD’S KINGDOM (Based on Psalm 83)

 Oh God I pray don’t be silent

Oh God I pray that you will act

To give us victory over evil forces

To turn the tide of evil back.

 

Chorus:

Victory for God’s Kingdom

May Jesus reign supreme

Victory for God’s Kingdom

May more people praise his name.

 

With cunning wicked forces strike

The church of Christ on earth

Satan plots to bring us down

May your Kingdom show its worth.

 

Chorus:

 

Evil forces plot and plan

To wipe God’s people out

Help us now to stand for God

And spread God’s word about.

 

Chorus:

 

Make all evil blow like chaff

May it be burnt up in judgment.

May God pursue the wicked down

And cause some to repent.

 

Chorus:

 

We long to overcome Satan

Who attacks our lives Oh Lord.

So reign on earth Oh God most high

And help us proclaim your word.

 

Chorus:

Victory for God’s Kingdom

May Jesus reign supreme

Victory for God’s Kingdom

May more people praise his name.

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Dear Father in heaven help us in the fight against sin and the forces of evil in this world may you be our strength Oh Lord in this great battle. Help us to see that one day we will overcome when your Son comes again to judge this world and take us home with him. Unto that great day may we spread your word throughout this world and proclaim your Kingdom’s come repent and believe the Gospel. In Jesus name we pray Amen.