By the Rev. Jim Lemler
“Do not be silent, O God of my praise. For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues!”
It was awful, and the Psalmist minces no words. They are out to get me. There is falsehood, enmity, accusation, and deceit all around me. Just read… just pray the words. They are heartfelt and poignant. Now, thanks be to God, our lives generally do not have the intensity of opposition expressed in the 109th Psalm, but we do know what opposition, rejection, and cutting words are and the effect they have on us.
Opposition and intrigue, sometimes open rebellion and war were the daily lot of the ancient kings of Israel. Kings II 10 – 12 tells the story in vivid detail. Jehu continues his murderous action against the descendents of Ahab and those who oppose him. He uses force to slaughter the worshipers of Baal. The destruction continues as Jehu’s sons meet opposition and threat. Sometimes there is victory, and sometimes the kings are faithful. At other times, there is defeat, and the kings fall short. They meet opposition, but they do not rely on God.
Paul takes a different approach, relying consistently on God even in the face of relentless accusation and opposition. His opponents speak all manner of evil against him, asserting that he is an agitator and troublemaker. Falsely, they accuse him of sedition and perverting the truth. Paul defends himself by telling his story and relying on God. “I have a hope in God…”he says. Paul stands before those who have opened their mouths against him, and, in face of this opposition, he enters and gives voice to hope in God.
It is true. All of us can pray the words of the 108th Psalm. We know opposition and challenge, and we have experienced rejection and cutting words. There is a temptation to respond like the kings of ancient Israel attempting to control and bring harsh words and actions against harsh words and actions. Paul seems to beckon us to something different. “I have hope in God,” he says. When we are hurt, when we are opposed, we can enter the hope of God’s love and life.
When have you experienced bitter opposition or cutting words in your life? What are the challenges that face you now? How do you attempt to deal with them… denial, anger, sadness?
Where do you perceive God’s gift of hope for you? How might you embrace and enter that hope more fully?
Blessed God, you know about bitterness and opposition and have walked the way of ridicule and accusation. Be with me, when I face such things and give me the faith to hope in you with heart and soul, I pray. Amen.
Rev. Jim Lemler, rector of Christ Church in Greenwich, Connecticut.