I think if we’re honest we all have to admit that certain portions of the Old Testament are hard to swallow. Ever since it dawned upon me that God is good, and that Jesus Christ is the full and perfect expression of the Father, I have had to take a new look at the Old Testament writings. To go into everything that entails could easily span a whole volume’s worth of blogging material, but for this post let it suffice to say that I read and pray the scripture with a different mindset than I once did.
For instance, today I was reading Psalm 139. This psalm is beautiful in every respect, one might say, until you come to the final few verses. Here the writer begins to call down curses upon his enemies-“men of blood” who speak against God “with malicious intent” and take His name in vain. David is no holds barred here. “Kill them” is his prayer to God. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I just don’t see how such a mindset could ever hope to square with the words of Jesus, who said, “You have heard it said to hate your enemies, but I say that you should love them.” I trust you get my point!
But today I realized a new way to read and pray scriptures like this. I’m coming off a particulary difficult week, personally. Among other things, I’ve had a very heightened awareness of my sinfulness. And if you’re like me, the reason you hate your sin so much is because you like it! It seems so much to be a part of you, even one with you, just like Paul describes in Romans 7 (read it for yourself). So I’ve been very humbled this week, even to the point of giving up. But I realize that these things in my flesh are common to all men. However it manifests in each person-whether your partiucular weakness is anger, lying, lust, or whatever-it’s a burden we all bear. And these things are enemies to God and His purpose. “The flesh and Spirit are at war with each other,” as Paul would say, for their desires are conflicting.
So when I came to the end of Psalm 139 today I suddenly had an instinct to direct it toward the Lord as a prayer against myself, or, I should say, the enemy within my own self. “Oh Lord, from this wickedness in my flesh, this man of blood who is hostile toward You and toward all men-deliver me! Slay this vile beast! This old man who masquerades as me, whom the enemy would have me identify with so as to come under his power and condemnation-away with him! I hate that part of me that stands in opposition to you, O Lord, and I side with you against myself!”
Approaching the scriptures in this way allows me to take those otherwise difficult passages of holy Writ and touch the Lord through them. While I may not be able to say amen to David’s wish that certain people would die a horrible death (except on a bad day maybe ;)), I certainly can and do identify with every man’s longing to be free from the control of sin which indwells our bodies. In the words of Paul-“O wretched man that I am! Thank God that through Jesus Christ our Lord He has delivered me from this body of death!”