search icon search iconSearch A-Z Index Members IconMember Portal Members IconOnline Giving
Members Icon


Welcome to the First Presbyterian Church portal. Please choose an option below to see our events, small groups or to give online.


First Thoughts Blog

← Return to blog

Day 14

Ever-Present Enemies
Imagine standing with Jesus, right next to him, in prayer to his Father. Read this passage of praise aloud. As you do so, consider that you are praying along with Jesus, your two voices becoming one as you bless God.  
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
   and all that is within me,
   bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
   and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity
   who heals all your diseases, 
who redeems your life from the pit,
   who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:1-5)
Psalm 27:1-3, 11-14
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
   whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
   of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers assail me
   to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
   it is they who stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me,
   my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
   yet I will be confident. . . . 
Teach me your way, O LORD,
   and lead me on a level path 
   because of my enemies.
Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
   for false witnesses have risen against me,
   and they breathe out violence.
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD
   in the land of the living!
Wait for the LORD;
   be strong, and let your heart take courage;
   wait for the LORD!
What Is This Psalm About? 
We looked at part of Psalm 27 on Day 2. We noted how David, pressed on all sides by vigorous enemies, sought refuge in the LORD’s strength. The conflicts he faced drove him to focus on what matters most—to seek the deepest source of peace, the LORD’s steadfast presence. Giving voice to the reality of fierce opposition and the fear it creates led David to the strength of trust in God’s ultimate plan and control. Today we will look more closely at how David’s prayer as he faces his adversaries might have been a vital encouragement to Jesus.
What Might This Psalm Have Meant to Jesus?
Jesus brings splendid light into our human darkness. Sadly, as we saw yesterday, many prefer to stay in the dark. As Jesus continues in his ministry, he encounters even stiffer resistance. People become downright hostile. Undoubtedly Jesus finds comfort in David’s prayers concerning enemies and feels companionship with one who endured false accusations and threats of violence as he faces similar antagonism.
Mark situates the hostility early in Jesus’ ministry and presents a series of several contentious encounters beginning in Mark 2 when Jesus heals the paralytic man who is dropped by his friends through a hole in the ceiling into Jesus’ presence. Before Jesus heals the man, he declares, “Your sins are forgiven.” This provokes the Scripture scribes to exclaim, “He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:5-7).  
Similar confrontations follow in quick succession. The Pharisees question his eating with Levi and his fellow sinners (Mark 2:16). They accuse him of breaking the fourth commandment when the disciples pluck and eat grain on the Sabbath (Mark 2:24). Later, they watch him carefully as he enters the synagogue to see if he restores a man’s withered hand. After merciful Jesus does indeed heal the afflicted man, Mark recounts, “The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him” (Mark 3:6). From that moment, they continually seek to trap Jesus with questions that have no clear answers. They look for ways to disgrace him before the people. They gather “evidence” to seize him. 
Even Jesus’ family, in love and concern, sets up against him. When he returns home after calling his disciples and great crowds gather, we read, “And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind’” (Mark 3:21). 
Throughout his three years of ministry, antagonism assails Jesus. His path runs along a knife edge. If he receives the acclaim of the people too openly, they will thrust him into a political role. If he relies on their praise, which is always fickle, he can fall into the trap of egoism. If he withdraws too often, he fails in his mission to bring the Father’s love to the lost sheep. He must also manage his anger against the religious leaders’ failure to see what God is doing. Mark writes, “He looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart” (Mark 3:5). With just a few more sharp words or a slight display of power, Jesus could easily move from countering his opposers to destroying them.
Jesus knows that these people are not the real enemy. In the wilderness, Jesus has already faced down the one he calls “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30). He knows what Paul would one day express, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Yet the evil one works through real people to do real harm, and increasingly people are taking take up the Great Accuser’s cause of opposing Jesus.
In the face of all this antagonism and pressure, Psalm 27 offers Jesus steady compassion and empathy because David puts into words the feeling of distress that comes from knowing that others want to consume you with malice. For even though Jesus is sure of his mission and its outcome, he still feels the hurt and burden of knowing that every minute someone plots his demise. 
The psalm also gives voice to Jesus’ concern that he doesn’t step to the left or the right as he forges through the days of ministry. Jesus prays with David, “Lead me on a level path because of my enemies.” We hear how this psalm resonates in the words Jesus teaches all his disciples to pray continually, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  
Yet, Jesus finds the courage to wait upon his Father, trusting that he will be able to continue his ministry until the dire hour planned from the beginning. As he prepares to face the fury of his final week, how comforting would be the hope David penned, “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”
Praying with Jesus
I have offered such little resistance to temptation,
I have turned such a blind eye to the strategies of evil,
I have floated in such a bubble of just going along,
That I scarcely realize what you went through, Jesus.
I don’t like even one person to be mad at me.
You faced virulent opposition 
From those with God’s authority,
Who wielded Scripture against you
And called your mercy a menace.
How did you take it? 
What courage and trust and endurance!
Oh Jesus, my champion,
My savior who blazed a path of faithfulness
Through the tangle of temptations
And thorny, tripping branches of evil,
I pray this psalm with you now.
Only with you, sheltering in you,
Can I be confident when war rises against me
In any of its many forms of conflict.
Only with you, can I keep from falling,
To walk in faith and hope and love
Through this world to the land of the living.


Posted in: Lent