DOES GOD CRUSH OUR ENEMIES?

God crushes our enemies but we are called to love them.  How can this be?

Loving our enemies is a deep spiritual exercise in our steadfast belief in God’s sovereignty.   When God Unleashes the Giants describes the omnipotence of God as He configures the tribulations, suffering, and even the enemies that will oppress and test us.  When we walk in the shadow of our Master, there are no arbitrary storms neither are there unforeseen enemies.  The Lord orders our steps and measures each trial, limiting the power of any foe over our lives.  Our enemies, even those that would cause martyrdom, are at the Lord’s disposal.   Luke chapter 6 and Matthew 5 expound the familiar yet difficult call of Christ to “love your enemies”.  Yet, within the whole counsel of God there are two separate intertwining powerful truths:

We are commanded to love our enemies and God promises to avenge them:

 “ Do not avenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written,   “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.  Rather, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head.”  (Romans 12:19,20)

Firstly, we must resolve never to take what belongs to God, repenting from even vengeful thoughts and plans of revenge. Such are hatched from the flesh and demonically inspired.  Entertaining retribution is a normal and natural great temptation that will separate us from the purposes of God in that very situation.

Secondly, the mandate to love our enemies is impossible to fulfill – necessarily drawing us to the bosom of our Lord.  This is not a fleshly exercise of fluffy love, it is representing the mercy of God to those who have offended us and Him.  God’s love is never arbitrary or random, it is full of wisdom and light.  His guidance must overshadow all our overtures toward the offender so His purposes, not Satan’s, will come to fruition, “…heaping burning coals upon his head.”

Within the fiery trial, in the heat of the battle, our confidence must totally lie in the faithfulness of God’s revealed power and character.  We often think, because it so appears, that the Lord has softened His stand on betrayal and backstabbing, seemingly excusing deep wounds – even martyrdom.  No.

He is rolling up His sleeves.  The burning coals are His merciful warning call.

Our greatest challenge - getting the fire started

                                                        Our greatest challenge – getting the fire started

Heads aflame.  What are these burning coals?

When we show love to our enemies, we are standing between them and God’s vengeance as His call to shame, His appeal to repent with godly sorrow.  Burning coals of guilt, shame, and remorse – inflamed by the Holy Spirit – can be painful and relentless.  If the Lord ‘grants them repentance’ they will enter into a full knowledge of their guilt and sin’s depravity.  Only Living Waters  extinguish burning coals.

Following his powerful sermon to religious leaders, powers of darkness answered violently upon Stephen, condemning him to death.  This imitator of Christ, so wrapped in the Holy Spirit, pleaded for his killers as the stones crushed his flesh.

Then he fell to his knees and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!”  When he said this, he died.  (Acts 7:60)

Was Stephen pleading, “Lord, pretend you didn’t see this!”  or “Lord, let them get away with murder!”?  Out of mercy he cried out for their reconciliation, for the Lord to grant repentance and, in doing so, absolve their guilt.  The very next verse, “And Saul was there…” bears witness to the answer of Stephen’s powerful prayer, later piercing the heart of at least one offender, heaping many burning coals upon his head.  The shame and conviction from desecrating Christ’s Body underpinned Paul’s salvation and launched him into abandonment to the Lord’s service.

Forgiving our enemies does not erase the consequences of their act, “God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.” Forgiving criminal and other acts does not preclude punishment but releases offenders from the personal debt to victims.  Many of the forgiven are ‘free’ behind bars, entering into the presence of God and His purposes.

Of His believers Jesus declares, “You are the light of the world”, in a world increasingly wicked and dark.  We have a personal Savior so intimate that He calls us His Body.  Our enemies are His enemies and, when we relinquish our will and determine to walk blameless before Him, the Lord gains glory in the battle – His Kingdom advances. 

“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  A “consuming fire” is our God.  He is able to burn in the hearts of our offenders now, push them back or eliminate them.  Can we meditate upon the Lord’s power to recompense, even eternal judgment, and not pity the unrepentant?

“Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies, the hairy crown of those who go on in their sins.”  (Psalm 68:21)

Syrian Christians slain. "I will repay" declares God.

Syrian Christians slain. “I will repay” declares God.

“He takes personally every act of dishonor as well as every act of kindness done to His disciples.” (Safely Home, Randy Alcorn, excerpt)

Great – But Left Alone to Die

Old prison windowHis was no ordinary conception, born to parents past child bearing age.  John the Baptist was the fulfillment of great prophecy – bridging the Old Testament with the New – in the ‘spirit of Elijah’.  Endowed with the Holy Spirit in the womb, he consecrated his life to one mission:  ushering into the world the incarnation of God on earth.  John’s calling exceeded the realm of priesthood.  He would not sit before the scribes or teachers of the Torah.  He became John the Baptist through years of sequestered fellowship with God.   When he “grew and became strong in the spirit” he was drawn to the desert in preparation for his high calling.  This meant total separation from the world, from all that would distract, all that would influence and indeed – even that which would bring natural comfort – home, family and friends.

Prevailing culture and social protocols had no power to restrain John’s convicting preaching.  This great herald emerged with divine anointing, baptizing an estimated 300,000 in Judea.  His anointed ministry was fulfilled at the sight of Christ, “Behold!  The Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world!.”  With words endowed by the Holy Spirit, this was the peak of John’s life and perhaps the beginning of the end to his profound ministry.  He would not serve alongside Christ in His mission, nor would he continue his preaching and baptizing.  “He must increase, I must decrease” was his prophetic declaration. This powerful, godly man was arrested by Herod the tetrarch.  Imprisoned in the remote fortress of Macherus, John was again separated from all and – at the whim of a dancing girl – was beheaded. Disciples went and claimed the headless body of this beloved prophet of God and buried him.

In Luke 7, Jesus declared John to be a prophet, even “more than a prophet…among those born to women, there is no one greater than John”.  The Lord’s ministry was well founded as John languished in a cold stone cell. ‘No one greater’, Jesus proclaimed of his anointed cousin, but did nothing to rescue John.  All knowing and all powerful, Jesus Christ knew of the darkness that overshadowed John and the debauchery that would lead to executing this holy man.  It was well within the Lord’s power to dispatch powerful angels, to release John and even strike Herod dead.  What was Jesus doing as John – held in highest esteem by Jesus – was led to his gruesome death?

In Isaiah 53, an infamous prophecy of the coming Christ, Jesus is called “a man of sorrows”.  Is there not great  sorrow in knowing that your beloved kin, acclaimed even in heavenly places, is suffering and will die at the hands of reprobates – and you could but don’t intercede and rescue? 

In God’s sovereignty, evil men do not prevail.

John had a singular high calling, yet it was far second, an underpinning, to the mission and passion of Christ on earth.  Leaving the grandeur and majesty of heaven, Jesus came to be despised, rejected, oppressed.  While He displayed supernatural power in compassion – healing the sick, feeding the hungry, raising the dead – the Son of God came not to extend His power to intercept or overthrow worldly kings and kingdoms.  The Son of God refrained from rising up against Herod, an act which would change the course of His mission,  the pathway of the cross.   Rather than establish Himself as ‘hero’, saving a man from wicked men in this world, Jesus maintained His singular focus – saving mankind from damnation for all eternity.  As Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness with places of power and position in this world – regardless of outward appearance  here –  again the Lord prevails.   He would allow no temporal victory in a condemned world to undermine His victory over death for all eternity.

This “Man of sorrows” had the anguish of foreknowledge here and would deeply grieve the death of His beloved prophet, servant, and cousin who would be left alone to die.   More than foreknowledge however, Christ divinely knows – even if we don’t – that for those surrendered to Him,  suffering and death are servants to the purposes of God.

Great – and none greater – was John the Baptist.   His divine mission complete, the sword could not rob him.  “Alone” was John’s place of communion and strength in God.  In the desert or a prison cell, John knew intimate heavenly fellowship that would strengthen and encourage, buffering all torment and fear.  The one who prepared the way for  God into the world would himself be ushered from this world to great reception and reward in the presence of almighty God.

 

Crushed By God

“Why? Why, why, why!!?” cried my anguished heart toward God, “What kind of God are you??!!” “How could you let this happen!!!!”

After a personal acceptance of God, trauma and suffering can be the most fiery trial of faith. At this cross road, many become embittered and cold toward their Maker. Their faith, once alive – now dries up like a dead leaf.
Be assured of two things at this juncture – God can handle our anger, our accusation and disbelief. He will not take on our challenge – the powerless clay rising up against the potter. As He Himself entered into every realm of suffering and temptation, He does not judge our anguish before Him. But He waits.
You may be at this juncture, have crossed this point, or perhaps will face a time of crisis in life and in your faith. When in the fire, we cannot see clearly nor can we think or meditate when the flames rise up around us. But no fire burns forever. When we step forth from it, still smoldering and weak, will we turn our back against God or will we ask – with heartfelt quest, “What kind of a God are you?”
He is waiting for this because He is ready to answer. He holds the powerful salve for our heart which alone can reach the inner recesses of sorrow and bitterness. Only God can prepare us to hear from Him. The Lord does not waste any of our afflictions, our pain, our loss – through the fire comes a powerful presence and revelation of God. We must go from the faith that God exists to the faith that He is sovereign.
For the Christian, surrender brings victory. Affliction and grief are not random nor has calamity occurred outside of God’s providence. These are challenging milestones of faith – battles with great reward. Only in the sovereignty of God can we begin to accept and see divine purpose. And only in deliberate seeking can we glimpse beyond the natural, towards eternity, where glory comes from being crushed by God.