Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve learned quite a bit about God’s omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, and all of His goodness. We’ve basked in the glory of who He is and all of its implications for our lives, both in the present and in the future. I don’t know about you, but it’s been an incredibly relieving, refreshing, encouraging, and comforting study for me as we’ve delved into understanding Psalm 139 and correctly applying it to our lives. My perspective has been removed from myself and re-centered on Christ (with many lapses, of course). I’ve noticed a significant decrease in my fear of the future and of the unknown, and a significant increase in my trust in the Father and a peace that flows out of that trust. I truly pray that’s been the case for you too, because as far as we know, we’ve got a lot of life left, and we are certainly not the Captain, nor are we the focus.
But this week’s chunk of Scripture has a bit of a different feel than what we’ve been reading thus far. It’s a little more convicting (for me at least), nudging us toward some serious self-evaluation, maybe some serious repenting, too.
“Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.” Psalm 119:21-22
The context of this Psalm is unknown, but what is known is that David is basically expressing his utter and complete hatred for the God’s enemies. Now, who would God’s enemies be? Ultimately, we know that without God’s mercy and grace, and without the Savior Jesus, we would all be counted His enemies. But there are two important things to keep in mind while thinking about this passage:
- David was referring to people who are willfully unrepentant and against God.
- This was written in a time when the Messiah had not yet come.
It’s important to note that David wasn’t just talking about people who’d never heard of God. He wasn’t referring to people who lived in faraway lands and were simply ignorant of the God of Israel, or even indifferent to Him. No, these were “men of blood” (v. 19), men who spoke against God with “malicious intent” and who took His “name in vain” (v. 20), men who hated God and rose up against Him (v. 21). They had surely heard of Yahweh, and they despised His name. They weren’t unaware of Him, nor were they indifferent to Him. They hated Him.
It’s also crucial to remember this: the Messiah hadn’t arrived. The Savior had not yet come into the world to bear the burden of our sin on His back, and die a brutal and shameful death as the final and only sufficient sacrifice for our transgressions. The ultimate Lamb was not yet provided. So there was no mission given to go to every nation and tell of the God he served and belonged to. There was no command to go proclaim any good news from God, because the good news hadn’t yet come. In fact, there are many accounts of the Lord God commanding His people not to mix with those from pagan nations who worshipped false, pagan gods, for the sake of avoiding further temptation to enter into sin and abandon their Lord. So for many reasons and in many ways, David’s words make perfect sense and were perfectly fitting for the time.
But reality check: we live in a day when the Savior who was long prophesied has indeed already come, and He has done all that the Father intended for Him to do. He has already come into the world in the humble form of a man, lived a sin-free, stainless life, died on the cross as the final sacrificial Lamb for our sins, risen from the dead and conquered all death, and ascended into heaven at the right hand of the Father. What does all of this have to do with what David’s saying in these verses?
Now that Jesus has made a way for our salvation and right standing with God, we must join unbelievers, but we must not join them in their sin.
We know that Jesus dined with sinners (Luke 5:27-32). He spent time with them. We know that Jesus eats with even hypocrites, those who claim the name brother but are indeed not brothers in Christ (Luke 11:37-52). We know that Jesus protected sinners and outcasts (John 8:3-11). He came to their defense.
But NEVER did He partake in their sin, or even allow them to think that their sin was okay.
When Jesus came to Levi the tax collector, He required Levi to follow Him, meaning that Levi had to leave all of his deceitfully-earned money and job (Luke 5:27-28). When Jesus dined at Levi’s house with many other tax collectors and others, He reveals that His purpose in spending time with sinners is to save them from their sin by calling them to repentance (Luke 5:30-31). When Jesus had dinner at a Pharisee’s house, He by no means refrained from calling this Pharisee and the Lawyers that were eating with them out on their sin, rebuking them for their hypocrisy for 13 more verses (Luke 11:39-52). When Jesus came to the defense of the woman who had been caught in adultery from being stoned by the Pharisees and scribes who surrounded her, He didn’t let her leave without commanding her to “go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:7-11).
Jesus undeniably and even recklessly associated himself with sinners, and even with those who opposed the will of God. But the purpose of His time with them was so that they would turn from their sins, believe in Him, and be saved through grace by faith. That was the purpose, and that is the purpose now for us. So, we MUST have friends who are both outright unbelievers, and those who claim to be but truly are not, but we must NOT conform to their ways, becoming more like them, instead of them becoming more like Christ. Of course, if we’re not yet at a place in our faith where we’re strong enough to say no to certain sin, as a new believer might be, then there are certain people with whom we should not spend time with. If it may cause us to stumble, by all means, we are to avoid hanging out with certain people, at least when they’re engaging in certain activities (Mark 9:43-47).
For how are you, sister, going to share the Gospel and be a light for Christ to your unsaved girlfriends if you’re getting drunk with them, too (Matthew 5:13)? Or how can you, brother, share the Gospel and be a light for Christ to any unsaved soul if you steer clear of them entirely (Matthew 5:14-16), never venturing outside of your Christian bubble?
Remember: God is omniscient and omnipresent. That means that He sees and knows all of our failures in this area, just as much as He knows the plans He has laid out for us.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” Psalm 139:23-24
My prayer for you (and for myself), is that you would repeat this prayer in your heart to our God in private. That you would take the time to ask the Lord to search you and convict you of any sin in you in this area (and in any area, of course). And that you would repent, and go on praising God, because there’s mercy and forgiveness and grace for all who believe, and our salvation is irrevocable. Let’s go to the Lord in prayer, and then go be a light as He’d commanded us to.