Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
Their heart is filled with malice.
Their throat is an open grave;
with their tongues they tell lies.
Remind you of anyone?
There’s nothing like a real-life dictator who’s indifferent to the misery and mayhem he wreaks to bring David’s conflict psalms to life. Indeed, whilst it is deeply unwise to suppose that God is on any particular side in a war, there are times when, despite our own sinfulness and rebellion, the evil of one side is so clear that we can be as sure as any human can that God stands against it. ‘The bloodthirsty and the deceitful you, Lord, detest.’ (Psalm 5:6)
How we then pray for Putin is another question. In the weeks before the war, I prayed that God might raise up an Esther to whisper restraint into his life. I prayed that God might humble him as he humbled Nebuchadnezzar. And I hoped that the Lord in his mercy was not using him like the King of Assyria to discipline us for our rebellion (Isaiah 7:17).
As ever, the psalms help us pray.
First, we must be honest, as David is – calling out the actions and attitudes of his enemies as he sees them. Putin is a self-absorbed, conscience-less, cunning despot and many of us have no doubt felt, as Bonhoeffer did in relation to Hitler, that his death would be the swiftest way to reduce the suffering of literally tens of millions of people. I find no contradiction in praying for his salvation and his removal from power, though I find myself unable to ask for his death.
Second, the psalmists are honest with God about their vengeful, murderous feelings towards their enemies. We may well have similar feelings. And whilst it is right to repent of them swiftly, it is also right to express them to God – he knows anyway. And when we don’t process such feelings about our enemies, it only gets harder to genuinely want God’s best for them.
Third, David reminds us that we are not in control. God is. And justice will indeed one day be done. In the meantime, we pray for a swift resolution to the war, the protection of the innocent, wisdom and courage for our leaders, homes for the refugees, and healing for all from the sulphuric ravages of this diabolic tyranny.
Mission Champion, LICC