April 29, 2020 by Tim O’Connor
“Deliver me, O LORD, from evil men…” (Psalm 140:1)
Come to think of it, King David of Israel’s journey of faith was really not much like that of a college professor in a small Indiana city. Plucked as a shepherd boy, made an aide to the king, then chased by the now-murderous king while hiding out in caves, David survives to become king himself– only to learn that the life of a king isn’t all that it is cracked up to be.
Endless logistical nightmares, both in directing wars against neighboring rivals and in trying to keep the peace among the many wives who were alien to and doubtless despised each other. Probably not too many long afternoons, book in one hand, tea in the other, pondering deep thoughts.
We might make a more general observation: the journey of faith of a typical American Christian is not much like that of most other Christians who have ever lived, or even of most Christians alive today. We are more blessed than they with peace, comfort, and freedom from those who would try to thwart our effort to live a life of faithfulness to Jesus Christ. That’s only a roughly-true generalization, of course: plenty of our fellow citizens know grinding poverty and insecurity, and some experience religious harassment at the hands of local, wannabe despots. But I assume it applies to those now reading these words, as it does to me. It’s true that our relatively comfortable circumstance is now threatened some by the long-term economic impact of the pandemic, but that is unlikely to utterly overturn life as we’ve known it.
I make these observations because we should be mindful of them when reading and applying psalms like Psalm 140, in which David cries out to God for deliverance “from violent men, who have planned to trip up my feet.” It is fair for us to pray these psalms in response to our less ‘existential’ dealings with difficult people who seem to have it in for us in our workplace – small-e ‘enemies’. Our struggles cause us real distress, and the Lord wants us to look to Him for the grace to respond to them with courage and love, that we might live lives worthy of our calling. But reading these psalms are also excellent occasions for us to look up, and then look around at the global body of Christ, to ponder the many who are undergoing profound attack, and to pray these psalms for them.
Watch this 5-minute video clip of Pastor Wang Yi, pastor of a large Reformed Presbyterian Church in China, speaking (with English subtitles) in 2017 to his congregation while government storm clouds gathered.
The next year, the church was closed and he was arrested, severely mistreated and likely tortured, tried and sentenced to nine years hard labor, unseen by his family or church. Intelligent and articulate, Pastor Wang could have enjoyed a prosperous life simply by toning down the Jesus talk. Instead, he is a Dietrich Bonhoeffer for our times, calling the global church to greater faithfulness. Receive his prophetic words, then pray: “Deliver him, O Lord, from evil men.”