The Benefit of Hostility
During the difficult period of the Babylonian oppression, God had a recorder and intercessor pouring out his heart before Him, which He preserved for our benefit. Asaph often penned his heart and this morning something he wrote found its mark it my own spirit. In Psalm 80:6 he wrote, "Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbors, and our enemies laugh among themselves." This hurts, especially when our enemies are laughing at us; yet, it is God's mercy at work to show us the true picture of ourselves from their point of view.
Israel was promised better things from their enemies when they were living under God's blessings. Deuteronomy 28:1 contains the promise "If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth ." Verses 9-10 say, "The Lord will establish you as His holy people, as He promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you ." His blessings bring better things than the laughter of our enemies; when His blessing is upon us, His fear is upon them. So how is their laughter a mercy, and how is their hostility a benefit? They are the means which He chooses to show us the reality of our spiritual poverty when we have deceived ourselves into thinking more highly of ourselves than is merited by our conduct.
Those who merely listen to the word, but do not do what it says deceive themselves and just as physical pain alerts us to a problem with our body, spiritual pain alerts us to a problem with our soul. Laughter hurts, and hostility is hard to deal with God intended for it to be so. Why should we complain when our inconsistencies are clearly observed and reported by those who disagree with us? What if they themselves have problems, does that negate the fact that they can clearly see our hypocrisy? Does the fact that they themselves might be deceived prevent them from accurately exposing our own sins? Take for example Shimei who cursed David, was he a righteous man? hardly. But despite his bitterness toward David and his lack of mercy and compassion, God used him to heap upon David the shame and guilt his actions had brought upon himself. At least David recognized it for what it was; after all, even his own son was trying to kill him, a clear consequence of his own evil deeds.
Who are we to quarrel with God's hand picked instruments of discipline? So what if they are Babylonian, heathen, proud, arrogant, evil men; are they rewarding us for what our actions deserve? Whoever they are, our enemies serve a purpose when God allows them to harass us and laugh at us in order to show us that we have fallen away from living in His favor. "When a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even His enemies live at peace with him." However, there is no peace for the wicked, and when our actions are wicked in His eyes, He will make sure we do not have peace either. Self deception involves thinking that deep down insider we are really righteous, even though are actions are wrong. Somehow we even think we can understand our inconsistencies; "I see" said the blind man - yea right! God in is His mercy reminds us through our enemies' laughter and hostility, that "even a child is known by his doings." In His loving kindness, He uses our enemies to bring us to grip with reality we are what we do "Little children let no man deceive you, he who does what is righteous is righteous, just as He is righteous; he who does what is sinful is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. And we know that He appeared that He might destroy the works of the devil ." So when we have deceived ourselves into thinking we are something we are not, God uses the hostility of our enemies and their laughter to painfully bring us to our senses.
In the early days after Pentecost, the church was " praising God and having favor with all the people." During the days when they were meeting in Solomon's Porch they enjoyed God's favor as witnessed by the fact that " Through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people
they were all in one accord
Yet none of the rest dared join them, but the people esteemed them highly." If we are growing in wisdom and stature, will we not also have favor with God and man even as our Lord? It is only glory for us if we suffer unjustly; it is no honor to be laughed at because our adversaries can clearly see our unrighteous actions which we often justify fooling only ourselves. If our enemies' hostility is bearing upon us and if their laughter is painfully provoking us then may it move us to humble ourselves and cry out like Asaph " Turn us again O God of hosts, and cause Thy face to shine, and we shall be saved."
Alan and Dina Martin