Psalm 3 (NIV)
1 Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
2 Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”
3 But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
4 I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.
5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
6 I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.
7 Arise, Lord!
Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.
8 From the Lord comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.
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It is rare experience in the contemporary church to hear any mention of the enemies of righteousness. Yet, Psalm 3 is the prayer of a believer involved in a real conflict. The psalmist is acutely aware of the foes arrayed against him: “O Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me!” (v. 1). He is aware that the world is convinced that “God will not deliver him” (v. 2). But, despite his circumstances, with ten thousand drawn up against him, the psalmist rests in the sure confidence that the Lord is “a shield around me” (v. 3) and the glory and lifter of his head.
As Christians, we must ask ourselves if we can rightly pray verse 7, which boldly asks God to smite our enemies on the jaw. Aren’t we supposed to pray for our enemies, not against them? Should we quietly skip over verse 7 as a pre-Christian prayer that has been superseded by the coming of Christ? As Christians we recognize that our struggle is “not against flesh and blood” (see Eph. 6:12). The forces arrayed against us should not be confused with the person opposing us or persecuting us. The power of evil is the enemy, even though we recognize that Satan’s diabolical rule is extended through flesh and blood. The New Testament does not ignore our earthly enemies. Today, we are facing enemies such as racism, sexual brokenness and opioid addictions, just to name a few. These are real enemies which must be defeated.
The New Testament also call us to recognize the deeper spiritual conflict that is arrayed against us. We pray this prayer through the lens of that deeper spiritual conflict. We must never forget that we are engaged in a spiritual conflict that is cosmic in scale. Behind every human enemy who embodies opposition to God’s rule, behind every terminal illness or debilitating depression, stands the enemy of our souls. We can earnestly pray that God intervene on our behalf against those forces arrayed against us. To ask God to “strike against the jaw” is a way of asking God to bring to an end all opposition to his rule. We should never forget, after all, that this is a prayer to God, directed to God for his divine action and his final vindication. We pray for our enemies, even as we ask God to put an end to all the schemes of wickedness, which are expressions of that great spiritual conflict. Sometimes praying against our enemies is, in a deeper sense, the greatest expression of praying for our enemies since turning our enemy from opposition to God to submission to his rule is a great gift and an even greater mercy.