Praying the Psalmist’s bold prayer
Unspeakably and abysmally, pitilessly and cruelly is how we Gentiles have dealt with the Jews through thousands of years.
For centuries before the destruction of Jerusalem, Greeks and Romans violently sought to coerce Jews away from their God and their faith.
Over the 2000 years since, Gentile nations wielded against the Jews the Crusades and the Inquisition, the sword and the stake, the forced conversion and the expulsion, the blood libel and the pogrom – all the way to the ghetto, gas chamber and crematoria of the Final Solution.
Britain’s abandonment of the Balfour Declaration and betrayal of its mandate to oversee the establishment of the Jewish national home; its slamming shut of the gates of the Land of Israel to Jews seeking to flee the Nazis; the refusal of most nations to open their doors to Jewish refugees targeted for destruction by Hitler, thereby aiding and abetting the effort that resulted in the murder of one out of every three Jews on the globe; the incessant Arab attacks on Jews on Arab lands and on Jews back in their own land – all the while, through all of this, God was watching.
Likewise, for the last 70 years, the international community’s treatment of the Jewish people – reconstituted in their own land as the nation of Israel – has been and remains shamefully immoral, iniquitous and unjust.
From the frantic effort to immediately rescind UN Partition Resolution 181 of 1947, to the waging of war against Israel’s rebirth, through the flouting of international law that continues to this day to try and rob the Jewish people of their ancestral lands; from the persistent pushing of Israel to solve the plight of the Palestinian Arab refugees (a consequence of Arab, not Jewish, aggression and rejectionism), to the malevolent modern blood libels leveled at Israel of war crimes and land theft and human rights abuse andapartheid, to the accusation that Israel is in breach of international law by building Jewish settlements – yes, the overall demonization of Israel and the painting of the Jewish people in their land as the bad guys in the conflict … it’s all continuing, and it’s all terribly wrong.
God is watching.
My quarter of a century of living in Israel has taught me that – while I might think them well within their rights to be so – this nation is anything but vindictive. Not out for revenge, the Jews neither call for nor seek payback on our nations for the way we have treated them.
Nonetheless – just as in the past their Psalmist Asaph called on the Lord to visit His judgment on the enemies of the Jews for the sake of His great name, I believe that, before the Lord, we His sons and daughters can call on Him to deal with Israel’s enemies today, for the sake of His name which those opposing Israel are treading beneath their feet, and for the sake of His name which the enemies of Israel are laughing to scorn as they try everything to destroy His reputation by thwarting His promises to the Jews.
In Psalm 79 we read how Asaph prays after Israel’s enemies have destroyed their land, city and Temple, and butchered their people.
Can we, I wonder, pray right along these same lines? I believe yes, with the following caveats:
We know that God loves all men and that it is not His wish that any should perish. (2 Peter 3:9)
It is our prayer that even in His wrath He will remember mercy. (Habakkuk 3:2)
He has always withheld His wrath way past patience and longsuffering. To Noah He gave a building plan for a vessel that would take a full one hundred years to build. For no less than a whole century, He extended mercies and opportunities to people to repent, to stop pouring scorn on Noah, and to agree to go with him into the Ark. (1 Peter 3:20)
Just as the psalmist is not malicious, but rather fiercely opposed to the wreaking of pain and destruction on his people, likewise we do not wish evil on evil, but we fiercely oppose the anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism that has led, and threatens to lead, to more pain and destruction on the Jews. We simply want it to stop, so that it will not exist anymore. If that takes destruction, so be it – even though we would wish for it to be another way. We don’t like souls being caught up in the middle.
But we also do not pray sweet blessings on those who hate Zion. (Psalm 129:8)
God is furious, and that fury is being and will be poured out upon nations, including against the people comprising them.
THIS, THEN, IS HOW I CHOOSE TO PRAY THE ESSENCE OF ASAPH’S PRAYER:
1. O God, (I pray), the Gentiles have lined up against Your inheritance; Islam defiles the site of Your holy temple; the world has divided your land and your city Jerusalem, and seeks to divide them once again.
2. The dead bodies of Your Chosen People they have marred and desecrated, dropping them as corpses into the fire pits and sending them as smoke into the heavens.
3. Your people’s blood they have shed like water, all over the nations where they sought refuge, and with barely any to pity them or protect them.
4. Your Jewish people have become a reproach to their neighbours, a scorn and derision to those who are around them.
5. How long, Lord? Will You be angry with the Jews forever? Will Your jealousy burn like fire?
6. Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not know You, and on the kingdoms that do not call on Your name.
7. For they have devoured Your people, and sought to steal from them the dwelling place you gave them.
8. Oh, do not remember Israel’s former iniquities against them! Let Your tender mercies come speedily to meet them, for they have been brought very low.
9. Help the Jewish people, O God of their salvation, for the glory of Your name; and deliver them, and provide atonement for their sins, for Your name’s sake!
10. Why should the Gentiles say, “Where is the God of Israel?” Let there be known among the nations in Israel’s sight the avenging of the blood of Your people which has been shed.
11. Let the anguished cries of the Jewish victims of terrorism, the wounded and the bereaved, come before You; according to the greatness of Your power preserve those who are appointed to die and comfort all those who mourn in Zion;
12. And return to Israel’s enemies among the Gentiles sevenfold into their bosom their reproach with which they have reproached You, O Lord.
13. So the Jews, Your people and sheep of Your pasture, will thank You forever; they will show forth Your praise to all generations. And we, Your people among the Gentiles, will rejoice with them, and be exceedingly glad with them. We will join them in giving You praise.
This article originally appeared on Jerusalem Watchman, March 27, 2016.
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Stan has lived in Israel for half of his life even though he was born to a Gentile couple serving on the mission field in the small kingdom of Swaziland. Following three years volunteering on Israeli collective farms in the 1980s, he worked as a political reporter for the South African newspaper, The Daily Dispatch – where his pen had its training during apartheid’s waning years. He has traveled to various nations, speaking to Christians about developments in Israel. In 2011 he was accredited by the Israel Ministry of Tourism as a tour guide, and takes individuals, small groups, families, busloads and helicopter-loads of Christians around God’s Land.