The king was always well briefed on the news of the day. Called the sweet psalmist of Israel, the man after God’s own heart, David’s curriers and scribes were kept busy around the clock. Know your enemy, move quickly and decisively was the by-word of his bright reign. Even as a young boy, when he killed Goliath, he had acted more sensibly than the military commanders. He listened to counselors and was open to advice, but the Psalms bear evidence that he took every threat to God, the God who loved his resolve.
His perception of life, the intrigues of the nations and the regular plotting of factions and schemers prompted much of His supplication with God. David is a choice proto-type of the Christian, living as prophet, priest and king. He shows us how to dwell on the cultural edge, how to implement dominion in prayer and in thought.
Confirmation of this comes from his many references to the enemy.1 The Psalms decry the distant and resident enemies of the kingdom. They call for curse or intervention from God. They protest the apparent successes of those who hate God and despise His law-word. To nurture this same godly passion and involvement we need to know more of the meaning of these references.
We’ve prayed Thy Kingdom come ... on earth and tried to mean it. There has been a measure of concern about the cultural chaos that infests the earth, but it should be disturbing to us that our prayers seldom mentioned the enemy. Managing an occasional imprecation against wicked judges, false prophets in the church and profligate politicians, on a percentage basis, we are mostly silent. There is nothing like what we are given in the books of the Psalms.
Where Are God’s Enemies?
Why do our prayers not mention the enemy? Do we have none? Are those who hate Christ and His people in retreat? Have they made alliances with the godly or are we no longer sensitive enough to perceive the violence or their enmity?
Who are the enemies mentioned in the Scriptures? What is their plan and passion? How do they operate in today’s society? Are we in a different condition than was God’s servant David?
We must once again learn how to pray for the destruction of God’s enemies and the wicked who plague the Church.
David’s Enemies Outside The Camp
First to receive continual pleas for cursing and condemnation from the king was the confederation of pagans, the enemy nations that surrounded ancient Israel. A list of the worst of these is found in Psalm 83:5-8. 2
Specific indictments include their lying words, their unreliability and dishonesty, wicked flattery and deviousness that expressed their rebellion against God. [Psalm 5:8-10] We forget the complete degradation in idolatry and immorality that was common in the pagan nations. The filthy sins of the Canaanites had angered God earlier in history. David’s reign was neighbor to much the same debauchery.
The king expresses the dismay and utter weariness that came from the apparent successes of the wicked with whom he had to deal. Indeed, he says that his adversaries are dragging him down to an early grave. He expresses his only hope to be in God and his strong expectation of relief to come as a result of His protection and judgment.[Psalm 6:1-10] No man could be further from hypochondria, thus he speaks of much more than friction at the office or personality clashes at church. Prayer is oriented to the big picture, the Kingdom of God in the earth, not just the kingdom of Me and My feelings.
Psychiatrists would ignorantly diagnose acute paranoia in the king by reading the seventy Psalms. David begins by pleading with God to save him from all those who pursue me ... He entreats the Lord to vindicate him by rising up and judging all who pursue his soul, trample his life to the ground and lay his glory in the dust.[Psalm 7:1-11] His references to being in a horrible pit and in miry clay, the description of his conviction as a stinking wound and having in his loins a loathsome disease, give insight into the king’s ardor and desire for God and to be rid of those who hate righteousness.
Who Are The Ghoulish Figures In The King’s Prayers?
While it is true that the Psalms, being messianic in their primary meaning, speak of Christ, they surely still reveal that the king had actual reasons for expressing himself in this manner. He was not only the channel of the Holy Spirit, stating revelations of injustice and rage that would be laid to our Savior during His earthly ministry, he was informing us about the pressures and perils in his own life and kingdom. But, what exactly were these men who appear as ghoulish figures in the king’s prayers? In what form are they with us now? How are we missing or excusing their presence and influence? Was this Old Testament king alone in his struggle?
David was, indeed, not alone. He is God’s most articulate spokesman to teach us about the spiritual conflict that rages about all of our heads. The Psalms are templates of prayer for victory and justice as well as the liturgy of worship and praise.
The dark figures upon whom God’s justice is called down are their own worst enemies as well as David’s. Their punishment and defeat is to be brought about by their own works. In the end this kind of evil man and adversary will have fallen into the hole which he has made. His mischief will return upon his own head, and his violence will descend upon his own pate.[Psalm 7:15,16] Judgment is sure. We need to know how to make the plea.
In expressing his great happiness in God the Savior, David asserts that much of his joy is based on the fact that his enemies have turned back, they stumble and perish before the Lord.[Psalm 9:1-3] This is given to demonstrate the holy justice of God, the Scriptures saying that peoples who attempt to war with God and force their idolatry on others are finally struck down to perpetual ruin, the very memory of them having perished.[Psalm 9:4-8] Urging God to make obvious and evident His holy justice is a stirring reason for prayer.
The king provides a longer description of the distant, foreign enemy, portraying him as boasting, greedy, scoffing at the thought of a just God, claiming immortality, cursing and lurking in places from which he can kill or plunder the innocent.[Psalm 10:1-11] These are external foes, those who attack in force from outside the camp, military, political, economic and cultural monsters, made obvious by their hatred.
Today these are the perennial leaders of Communism, evil rulers who persecute missionaries and oppress their own people. They are the opponents of the gospel who wield enough power to block or damage the cause of Christ in its outreach.
The Enemy Within the Camp
A second class of enemy, more detestable and effective in their attack, were the internal factions that plagued the king. At times it becomes difficult to tell if David complains to God about the wickedness of other peoples or if the ungodly nation about which he cries out is Israel. 3
The aristocrats or the Saul party blocked David’s inauguration for years. Though he had been anointed by the Prophet Samuel and crowned in Judah, the remainder of the nation still was dominated by the family and following of Saul. Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, was made king. Abner, Saul’s chief of staff, waged war with the people of Judah. There were many setbacks, but after seven years all Israel was finally united under the new king, the man appointed by God.4 Prayers about deceit and frustration were generated during that difficult season.
Following a period of success. Absalom, David’s son, also joined the ranks of the enemy. A usurper, he became a revolutionary, attempting to capitalize on his father’s political struggles. He was a man with charisma whom many found attractive. It was easy for him to gather a following on the basis of his daring and his promises of gain. His conspiracy eventually drove David from his capital city for a time and brought dishonor to his name.5 The rebellion of his favored son was not without provocation in the poorly disciplined house of the king. It had grown out of the rape of David’s daughter, Tamar, by Amnon, another of his sons. Absalom became the avenger.
Demons within were able to get a toehold in David’s heart after he became established on the throne and was given military success in the field. They were mainly the sins of finding one’s ease in pride and lust. While the enemy outside brought trouble and loss, the overall effect was to drive him closer to God. It was different with the attack of the enemy within his own heart.
The king’s self-satisfaction prompted his decision to take Bathsheba from her rightful husband. The sin of lust was coupled with deceit and murder, when it was ordered that Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband be sacrificed during the campaign against the sons of Ammon. 6
The kings repentance is recorded in the Sinner’s Prayer for Pardon, Psalm Fifty-one. Though the word enemy is never mentioned, David makes his confession and acknowledges the key fact that all sin is primarily against God. Part of his plea for mercy is that God would again build the walls of Jerusalem. The implication is that the enemy in his own heart had attacked the nation.
A second example of the internal enemy known to us was David’s pride in numbering the people when God had not commanded him to do so.7 The book of I Chronicles tells us that this was a personal attack of Satan. David’s baffling and inexplicable decision to prepare for aggression brought a quick and severe punishment. He was given mercy to acknowledge his sin and to make atonement for it by building a special altar to the Lord. David gave Ornan the Jebusite 600 shekels of gold by weight for the property on which the altar was to be built. It all was directed by the prophet Gad.8 After this David was terrified by the sword of the angel of the Lord that had been revealed to him. His prayers were for forgiveness and restoration to God’s favor.
The enemies of David were of three categories, the pagan nations surrounding the kingdom, evil factions and rebels within the kingdom and, worst of all, the adversary within his own heart.
The Enemies of Christ
Our Lord confronted His enemies wherever He went. Very early in His ministry the religious leaders revealed their jealousy and hatred for His teaching. After He spoke they frequently met to talk about what should be done with Him. Their hatred was palpable.
Christ’s worst enemies were not the pagans of Rome, nor were other nations a problem during His earthly ministry. Instead, those who opposed Christ were factions within Israel, the second category. It was the Pharisees, Sadducees, the priests and scribes who disrupted His sermons, disputed Him, plotted and finally, managed to manipulate His arrest and execution. Judas, one of His own disciples, betrayed Him. Familiar crowds watched and gaped upon Him as He hung on the cross.
The twenty-second Psalm records the inner conflict of our Lord’s human nature. Verse one tells of His agony and despair in facing death while carrying the crushing weight of all the sins of His people. His sense of separation from the Father brought Him into the confines of hell itself.
Application to the Modern Enemy
Multiculturalism’s poison, intensified by Western apostasy, exemplifies the enemy out there. Belittling of the Faith of Christ as only one superstition among many, the persecution initiated by pagan cultures attack mostly with local fervor.
False religion, especially Islam, stalks missionaries and the Church on many foreign fields today and now even in the U.S. In some countries American service chaplains are prohibited from wearing their collar device if it is a cross. The faithful are throttled by violence and threat.
The enemy out there makes effective assault as well by the insidious receipt of immorality that now swamps society. Corruption is thrust upon everyone by radical official policies of sensitivity and tolerance. Our prayers should plead for a holy God to multiply His own sensitivity to the flaunting of wicked and immoral practice. Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore ye bloody men. For they speak against thee wickedly, and thy enemies take thy name in vain. Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am I not grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with a perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.[Psalm 139:19-22]
Media: Public Enemy Number One
Among the sworn adversaries of Christ and His Kingdom are the many representatives of the media. The Psalms speak of those who walk in a vain show, the wicked plotting against the righteous. [Psalm 39:6; 37:12] False, malicious witnesses dog the steps of David to lie and misrepresent. [Psalm 35:11] They devise deceitful words against those who are quiet in the land, they opened their mouth wide against me.1:12 PM 3/1/2003 9
Prayer must be made to bring the massive inequities and deliberate omissions of the media before God’s throne. He is the God of truth, loves truth and hates the lie. The goal of the world’s press is largely to distort, hide or ignore the good news of the Kingdom. Prayer is our best weapon against this pernicious and persistent attack.
Civil government, especially in the form of legislative committees, Senate and House committees for judicial approval, for example, too often are dominated by malevolent ghouls and ghosts of a once godly nation. Candidates, up for appointment to the federal bench, are too often rejected because their record shows regard for the law of God while, on the other hand, inferior and apostate men are quickly passed through. These legislators plot to subvert justice. They agree secretly on a path of evil that will promote disobedience. God provides the words with which we are to rightly prosecute these deadly enemies who surround us. 10
Children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is His reward. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, when they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.11 Children are described as an inheritance from God. Parents bear the duties of a steward, responsible to the king.
Children sent into the statist educational system are subjected to a dizzying array of the enemies of Christ. They are brainwashed with the fear-driven dogma of environmentalist idolatry, assaulted with degrading sexual coaching, forced to accept perversion as the norm and subjected to endless and useless sociological experimentation. The schools, having failed in their primary function, academic instruction, have assumed the role as high priests of the gods of Humanism. Imprecatory prayer is required in order to bring down this malignant and monstrous institution whose founders openly declared war on Jesus Christ and His people. God’s Judgment must be enlisted against the legacy of Horace Mann which includes the boast, What the church has been for medieval man the public school must become for democratic and rational man. God will be replaced by the concept of the public good ... The common schools ... shall create a more far-seeing intelligence and a pure morality than has ever existed ... 12
In the same manner the depraved birthright of John Dewey must be destroyed. Dewey, the recognized creator of the modern concept of education and signer of the Humanist Manifesto II, taught that man is not made in the image of God and reflective of Him, but that society and education should be socially planned; in other words, elite man should not shrink from playing God. Dewey said that ... all aims and values which are undesirable in education are themselves moral.13 He knew what many Christians miss, that Humanism is a religion. He vigorously advocated the eradication of Christianity from the schools. He wrote, Faith in the prayer-hearing God is an unproved and outmoded faith. There is no God and there is no soul. Hence, there are no needs for the props of traditional religion. With dogma and creed excluded, the immutable truth is also dead and buried. There is no room for fixed, natural law or moral absolutes.14 The challenge has been thrown in our face. Does the call for earnest prayer need to be further justified? The public schools are the womb of the beast that stalks the Kingdom.
Remember, Lord, the reproach of thy servants ... wherewith thine enemies have reproached, O Lord, wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of thine anointed.15 We have strong precedent here to pray for chastisement to end, for God to restore the broken hedges of His people and to turn His wrath against the adversaries.16 The plunder of the righteous, the rape of the children must move us to supplicate before the throne of grace.
Attack From Within
Closer in, where we expect more sympathy, there is the adversary within the pale of the church. The goats inside the sheepcote, wearing the mitre and other sacerdotal ornaments, assail the truth of the Word as common vandals would wreck their own neighborhoods. The genderless Bible (TNIV) displays the arrogance of such theological hooliganism. Being too weak to control the publication of the Holy Scriptures today, the Church allows lesser minds and publishing companies to purvey its treasures, edited in any format that might sell. The vanities of feminists, youth culture, homosexuals and other cultic favorites are now served with a synthetic version gospel.
Be they dressed as translators, preachers or theologians, or if they be garbed in some other veneer of respectability, these enemies of God should burden the heart of every serious Christian to supplicate Him for holy retribution. Those whose houses are full of deceit deserve the judgment of the Lord. The plea must be made.
Consider our own reaction if friends took no notice of those who attacked us. What if those we know brushed off our grievance, suggesting that our protest was exaggerated, or our enemy a pussycat. We would be incensed.
God has called us to rule with Christ, to express our dominion through prayer and supplication. Making known our protests and pleas to God concerning the blatant offensive of His enemies is an effective course of action.
Inaction: the Enemy by Default
The insidious adversary of obedience habitually infiltrates the flock as ignorance, laziness, procrastination or a strain of idealistic blindness. Those who can see no problem, no reason to be alarmed, may be the enemy. Choruses of peace and safety in a season of terror may be the slacker’s most pious song.
Turn your footsteps toward the perpetual ruins, the enemy has damaged everything within the sanctuary. Your adversaries have roared in the midst of Your meeting place, they have set up their own standards for signs ... They have defiled the dwelling place of Your name.17 This prayer concerns those who had allowed the enemy to take over and to destroy the sanctuary. No one took seriously the threat. Neo-orthodoxy saw no conflict until it was too late. Peace and comfort were too important. Man and his pleasure had center stage. The enemy was counted as harmless and compromise had become basic doctrine. Therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled against His people, insomuch that He abhorred His own inheritance. And He gave them into the hand of the heathen; and they that hated them ruled over them. Their enemies also oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their hand. Many times did He deliver them; but they provoked Him with their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity. Nevertheless He regarded their affliction, when He heard their cry and He remembered for them His covenant ... 18
Anger and humiliation should motivate godly men to set these matters in order. Prayer and confession of sin is the starting point. The enemy of willful blindness and selective ignorance should be routed out with prayer and supplication to God. When this takes place His blessing is promised.
Personal Sin is the Enemy
Most hurtful of all is the internal aggression of our own hearts, the sins of pride, envy, lust, despair and idolatry that drag down the Christian warrior. These matters are already in our prayers as we seek the cleansing of God’s Spirit, but perhaps their nature as the enemies of God and of His Kingdom is not fully grasped.
As David’s personal sins effected the entire nation of Israel, so our particular transgressions may bring evil fruit on family, church and our community. That further dimension of our disobedience should cause us to seek God the more earnestly. Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight, said David when confronted by Nathan the Prophet.19 We need to feel forgiven. We need to learn also that the ramifications of our sins is more far-reaching than we think. Our prayer, therefore, should be more robust. Greater urgency should move our pleas to God because of the part we, ourselves, play in the onslaught of God’s enemies.
The Enemy Is Still Real
If the enemy were perceived accurately, our prayers would be far longer and more intense. Trepidation and pietistic phobia keep most Christians from engaging in the ardent praying given by example in the Psalm book. Men are shy about praying for God’s wrath. Much complaint is heard about oppression of governments, lying and scheming mouths, violence and crime, but none of it stirs men to plead with God for His justice to prevail. May our God move His people to mark the enemies of God, to learn their wicked designs and to pray earnestly for their destruction. In this the Church will more fully take up its proper role of reigning with Christ in the present manifestation of His Kingdom.
The Lamentations of Jeremiah are about the bitterness, pain and sorrow over the capture and destruction of Jerusalem. The message, however, applies fully to the state of the church.
See, O Lord, for I am in distress; My spirit is greatly troubled; My heart is overturned within me, for I have been very rebellious. A realization of guilt has brought about the agony of conviction and wrath. Repentance takes the form of crying and supplication before God. It also means a rebirth of awareness, a restored sense of the holiness of the Lord. The weeping prophet says, Let all their wickedness come before You; and deal with them as You have dealt with me for all my transgressions; For my groans are many and my heart is faint.20 The man of God confesses transgression and also goes on to plead for divine justice. His awareness of personal and national sin brings with it a sharpened sense of offense to God. His prayer is completed with an imprecation against those who presumed to attack and ruin Jerusalem.
A long and dismal lament of major proportion is told by the prophet Jeremiah. His grief concerns a mighty and relentless enemy, that has swallowed up the people, destroyed their strongholds and shattered the Tabernacle.21 The assault has been so sweeping that there remains to the people no law and no vision. 22
Discouragement and depression are described in personal detail. Driven and made to walk in darkness, he is besieged and surrounded with bitterness and hardship. His experience is likened to being imprisoned in a tomb, being forced to wear a heavy chain and having his teeth broken with gravel. All of this misery and much more has been brought down by the rod of His wrath. The living God, Himself, is the one who has caused utter distress. [Lam 3:1ff]
Progressive religion sells a much more comfortable and sophisticated god. We’re all used to hearing the false and foolish delusions that are marketed far and wide in the church world. The pleasures and sensibilities of man have first place, while God’s right of determination and rule bring embarrassment and angry silence.
The false prophets of a bygone day were the cause of God’s anger then and their modern counterparts bring the same judgment now. He said, Your prophets have seen for you false and foolish visions, they have not exposed your iniquity so as to restore you from captivity ... their man-centered oracles have been misleading. [Lam 2:14]
The human enemy that sparked the heat of divine wrath was famous for holding God’s people in derision. Boasting was their triumph in swallowing up the people, shouting insult and hate against them. In our time these vile taunts are voiced by public education, media and entertainment moguls. Apostate religious leaders also prefer blasphemy in their ministrations of tolerance and popular acceptance. Our tears should be coupled with strong pleadings before the throne of grace. Our appeals must be for God’s wrath to be directed against His enemies. It is our responsibility to see to it that His enemies are ours, as well.
Rev. Dale K. Dykema
- The Hebrew word oyeb, enemy, is mentioned in at least seventy of the one hundred fifty Psalms.
- This list includes Edom, the Ishmaelites, Moab, the Hagrites, Gebal and Ammon, Amalek, Philistia, Assyria and the people of Tyre.
- Psalm 43 expresses the king’s mourning, his sense of rejection by God evidenced by the oppression of the enemy. His mention of deceitful and unjust men [vs.1] suggests political wars within the kingdom.
- II Samuel 3-4 record the history of the civil war and the eventual ascendance of David to the throne. It was through much political maneuvering that this was accomplished.
- The conspiracy of Absalom is covered in II Sam.13-15. 15:10 tells of his attempt to take the throne.
- The account in II Sam.11 tells in detail the conspiracy to have Uriah killed by withdrawing during the heat of battle. David reveals the hardness of his heart in making the excuse to his field general, Do not let this displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another ... vs.25.
- Numbering the people meant preparing for aggressive war without God’s call. Two complimentary accounts of this are recorded for us in II Sam.24 and I Chron.21.
- The angel of the Lord commanded Gad to tell David the details of his penance. I Chron.21:18-30.
- Psalm 35:20-21 Here David pleads an imprecation against the lying and deceptive enemy, asking God to not keep silent, but to bring shame and humiliation to those who rejoiced at his distress. vss.22-26.
- Psalm 17:9-13 gives us the indictment and plea for God to cast down these greedy boasters from their high seats.
- Psalm 127:3 & 5. Speaking with their enemies in the gate means dealing with confidence before the bar. God promises legal standing and success to His covenant children in their confrontations with the enemy.
- Rousas J. Rushdoony, The Messianic Character of Education, (Nutley, NJ Craig Press, 1968) p.32.
- John Dewey, Democracy In Education (New York, MacMillan, 1918) p.360.
- Dewey, Soul Searching, (Teacher Mag. Sept. 1933) p.33.
- Psalm 89:50-51 forms part of the conclusion of the doxology of the Third Book. Ethan the Ezrahite writes of the Covenant mercies of God, but must ask why so many of the enemy plague His people and live in their very bosom.
- Psalm 89:40-42 A plea for God to conclude His discipline [vs.31-32] of the Covenant people and remember His promises to maintain and bless them.
- Psalm 74:3-7 This Psalm is a plea to God to destroy those who have reviled the Name of God and cause the people to despair of God’s help. The Psalm begins by asking why God is so silent, why He is angry with His people. The implication is that the chosen people had not been careful, but had wasted their heritage.
- Ps.106:40-45a This history Psalm recalls the sins of omission that allowed the enemies of Israel to live and snare them. Especially the idolatry of the Canaanites with which the people found affinity.
- Psalm 51:4 Here God show us through His servant that our sin constitutes an enemy that subdues us and blocks the furtherance of the gospel and the advance of His Kingdom.
- See Lamentations 1:20ff Poetic supplication before God seeks holy justice as well as restoration and forgiveness.
- Lamentations 2:4-5 The prophet says the Lord has become like an enemy. His wrath is vented on the nation.
- Lam.2:9 The violence of judgment may finally bring the chaos of lawlessness and the failure of imagination, foresight or dream.