Rob Golding

How Do We Apply the Psalms about Killing Enemies?

When we read of the incessant desire of the Psalmist’s adversaries, we should think of our own constant temptation to Sin. We should read these poems of war as our poems of war. We should be encouraged not just to sit through hard times but to fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil with our only weapon—the sword of the Spirit. 

John Calvin called the Psalms the heart of the Bible—not only do they occur toward the middle of our Bibles, but they express the heartbeat of Christianity. Pain, grief, joy, and the desire for victory over enemies are Christian emotions infallibly set down in God’s Word. That last emotion, however, is one that many Christians struggle to apply from the book of Psalms. The enemies (oyiev), foes (tsar), and adversaries (shoreir) of Israel litter the Psalms over a hundred times. What are we, as 21st-century (American) Christians, supposed to do with that? I don’t have any enemies who “trample my life to the ground” (Ps 7:6). I can’t say “my deadly enemies … surround me” (Ps 17:9). Do these Psalms only apply to persecuted Israelites but not Christians?
No, they apply to all Christians. Every believer in Christ is in a struggle more significant than mortal life. We are in the battle of eternal life (Eph 6:12). We must fight against “the schemes of the devil” (Eph 6:11) because he “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8). We have an adversary who is more powerful and who seeks to do more damage than all the nations the Psalmist wrote about. The Amorites, Babylonians, and Egyptians are nothing compared to the schemes of the devil. They can take lives, but the devil wants your soul.
Throughout history, Christians have understood themselves to be in a three-part war. They have seen themselves in a fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil. If we apply the Psalms to that fight, we see that, indeed, they do apply to our battle against worldly powers. That is the context of most of the Psalms. But, we must consider the reason the Israelites were in that earthly fight. It was not for gold or glory or national gain. The fight was always theological. God commanded the Israelites to fight because He knew that if they lost and the nations ruled over them, they would forsake Him. The physical fight was always just the servant to the spiritual battle.
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The Joy Beyond the Pain

This life will steal your joy unless it is rooted in eternity. We grasp and grope for joy like patrons of a brothel, denying that true love waits for us at Home. Joy is not to be found here. We must hope for Home. If we can do this, the eternal Joy of heaven will pierce our wounded hearts with the light of Christ. 

In The Edge of Eternity, Randy Alcorn imagines what it will be like to experience true joy in heaven, as compared to the joys we now experience. The man who enters into the golden gates of glory says, “This is joy itself. Every foretaste of joy in the Shadowlands [Earth] was, but the stab, the pang, the inconsolable longing for this place! How could anyone be satisfied with less than this?” (p. 309). The joys of life before heaven will always be marred with grief.
The sweetest tasting fruit always turns putrid. Streaks of gold and glittering shapes of promise light the sky’s morning moments, yet darkness always follows. Love lights the heart like blazing fire, but death comes to snuff out the purest flame with crushing despair. Grief always follows jubilation.
Highs always convert to lows. Tears follow laughs. Achievements fade. Death.
It is a human constant in this fallen world—a law of nature—that happiness is always followed by despair. No joyful moment or experience shields us from the inevitable entropy of our happiness. The joy of a puppy turns to the tears of an old dead dog. The bliss of marriage ends in the gut-wrenching parting of the grave. Promotion always ends in retirement. The joyful union of love is always broken by lashes of life.
Yet most people live for these happy moments. Are they ignorant of their end? Do they not realize that their lust for happiness determines their bitter fate? Why do we instinctively crave wealth like infant hands piercing the womb with clenched fists of desire? We grasp and grope, yet all our hands will lie with palms open in the grave. “The pursuit of happiness” is the American dream. But perhaps it is a nightmare. Certainly, it’s an unwinnable game—toiling day after day under the beating sun to gain people and things that will perish before we do or after. Happiness is not the inevitable result of life; death is. How do we daily—hourly—pursue this happiness when life guarantees it will be ripped from our hands forever?
“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher.
We think that we can accomplish in our little lives something that thousands or millions of years of billions or trillions of humans have been unable to do—be happy.
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Defending Penal Substitution

Ultimately, every single sin ever committed is against God (Ps 51:4). If God, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, decides to take the punishment for the crimes committed against Him, who can object? 

Penal substitutionary atonement is difficult to understand, in part because we fail to conceive of the parties involved properly. Matters are complicated when the likes of N.T. Wright hyperbolically refer to “justification” in the traditional sense as a mysterious “gas” that passes through the courtroom. Others imagine God is like a judge who condemns his son to prison because another man stole someone else’s car. If Sam steals Bob’s car, it makes little sense to imprison little Joey, the judge’s son. Many see here “cosmic child abuse.”
However, this is not the biblical picture. Rather, it is not Bob who has been sinned against, but it is God. Ultimately, every single sin ever committed is against God (Ps 51:4). If God, in His infinite mercy and wisdom, decides to take the punishment for the crimes committed against Him, who can object? The analogy of Sam, Bob, and Joey then is faulty. Instead, we should imagine the judge’s own car being stolen. In response, the judge serves the jail sentence instead of Sam, the thief. He does this because he wants to forgive the thief, but he also wants to uphold the law. Serving the sentence is the only way to do both.
Surely this would be unconventional, but who could object to the judge’s actions? Some, to be sure, would scoff at him but is he not perfectly within his rights? The car belongs to him and him alone, and no one has more say in terms of the resolution of the matter than he does. Furthermore, he has been given the authority—and solemn responsibility—to arbitrate in matters of theft. Therefore, he not only has the right to make a legal decision as a judge but also to absorb the repercussion as the car owner.
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5 Benefits of the Fall

It seems we would not be able to fully grasp the concept of love without sin. Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, LSB). This verse seems to indicate that to understand the greatest type of love; we must have the sin that makes sacrificial death necessary. This is, of course, tied to the first point, as should be expected—we cannot truly understand grace without truly understanding love.

Why did God allow humans to fall into sin? To answer that question, we need to think of redemption. If our redemption (and glorification) is merely a return to the garden-of-Eden-state, then the fall makes little sense (hardly the felix culpa it’s known to be). On the other hand, if our redemption eventually brings us to a state that is better than our original state in Eden, the fall begins to make sense. In that way, the fall is a tool in the hands of the Redeemer (to borrow Paul David Tripp’s title) to create the maximally blessed creature. In this way, we can conceive of some of the ways in which God’s sovereignty fits with Adam’s fall.
Before we consider some options, a disclaimer is in order. Our consideration of God’s decrees can never be perfect since we look upon eternally considered actions with finite minds. We cannot fully understand God’s decisions any more than a child can understand her parents’ desire to see her eat her vegetables—the growth and planning are too far from our perception. But, like explaining things to a child, God can shade in the corners, so we get a rough idea of the general picture.
What are some of the benefits that the fall produced for humanity? What would we miss out on if Adam and Eve never fell? Below are five things that the fall produced which would not occur in a world without the fall:
1. Grace
The fall allowed Adam and Eve (and their progeny) to experience the grace of God. Their state before the fall was that of the covenant of works. God told them that they would maintain perfect blessedness if they abstained from eating of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. That is, their blessedness was tied to their ability to abstain from the sin of commission (eating of the tree) and omission (failing to be fruitful and multiply). Therefore, their fall enabled them to experience the unmerited grace of God (John Murray, I have been told, would disagree and say their original state was also the covenant of grace since no one can deserve to be created by God, but his is a minority position).
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Christian Maturity and Secular Infancy

We are all beggars, and the sooner we start playing our role, the sooner we understand spiritual maturity and the blessings it brings. It is a children’s game to pretend we do not need our Father, that we are Fathers ourselves. It is a man’s duty to become like a child, not to pretend to be someone he is not but to know he is wholly dependent upon God.

Christianity entails many divine ironies—the dead man lives; the humble woman is exalted; the servant is the King; finding life is losing it; salvation is not by works; the Son of God became man so that men might become sons of God. Another irony less noticed by many Christians is this—increased Christian maturity always brings more child-like dependence. Spiritual growth from infancy to maturity would seem to require more independence. St John of the Cross purportedly had a vision where Jesus showed him various people praying, and those who were most mature were left without the embrace of the Holy Spirit and were, therefore, in the “Dark Night of the Soul.”. Those most immature were wrapped in His loving arms. There may be some truth to this. On the other hand, those who are most spiritually mature look for the arms of the Holy Spirit most frequently.
Martin Luther is purported to say that when he was busiest, he had to delay his work so that he could pray longer. Whether Luther said this or not, there is wisdom to be gleaned. More maturity and more work mean more dependence on God. Christian wisdom does not know how to be self-sufficiently successful because Christian success is drawing near to the heart of God. The Kingdom of God is one born upside down, and the least are the greatest.
An example of this truth is that humble service to God as a deacon is more spiritually significant than being the secular CEO of a billion-dollar international corporation. Why is a deacon’s work more significant than the CEO’s? Because the former is done in abject reliance upon the Spirit of God, and when that is done, the Spirit of God is at work. When the Spirit works through a humble little man, more is done than when a mighty man works outside the power of the Spirit. We may not see the difference with our eyes or in our bank accounts, but the call of Christ is to trust that a massive difference is there, nonetheless. We see reality spiritually and wage war accordingly.
Therefore, it stands to reason that the most successful people—in the truest sense of the word—are really the little old praying ladies with small groups of friends who remain all but unknown to the world.
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