Victory Over Violence

Scripture Focus: Psalm 18.47-49
47 He is the God who avenges me, 
who subdues nations under me, 
48    who saves me from my enemies. 
You exalted me above my foes; 
from a violent man you rescued me. 
49 Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; 
I will sing the praises of your name. 

Reflection: Victory Over Violence
By John Tillman

Psalm 18 is a victory song in which the weak, helped by God, have defeated the strong.

Violence is a complex topic in scripture, made more complex for those who have experienced it in their lives.

I experienced much small-scale violence growing up, either fighting back against my own bullies or intervening with violence to stop others from being bullied. Fights were common in school and not always immediately stopped. I think the idea was that if a fight had a clear victor, the disagreement would be “settled” and not pop up again. This unofficial policy may have worked occasionally but was certainly dangerous and unwise. 

In one memorable fight, I defeated my attacker using techniques learned in the elementary wrestling program. While we both awaited punishment outside the principal’s office, the other boy asked me where I learned “those moves.” He later joined the wrestling team. We never became friends, but we became teammates who practiced and competed together.

Violence is not a solution to disputes or conflicts. It normally escalates rather than de-escalates. It rarely turns combatants into teammates. The violence described in the psalm is not a small-scale schoolyard scuffle. It describes war and death.

Federico Villanueva comments on this victory psalm from the perspective of Filipinos, who have often experienced large-scale violence, including defeat and domination by foreign powers. “It is not easy to identify with the triumphant,” Villanueva says. However, “The vision of one who is powerful but at the same time willing to support the weak touches our hearts like no other.”

As someone who experienced and participated in violence, I’m shocked at the glorification of violent words and actions in our culture and among Christians. Those who would welcome a fight or a war rarely have deep experience with either. Those who threaten or enthusiastically support violence in the name of Jesus or “Christian” politics understand neither Jesus nor politics.

Victory psalms are not intended to glorify violence and war. They glorify the God who saves his people from both. Violence is sometimes thrust upon us in this world. In the next few years, we may all be touched by it. Let not violence deter us from being like Jesus. We must never shirk from standing between the wolf and the sheep, between the strong and the weak.

May God grant us victory over violence and from the temptation to glory in it.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. — Matthew 5.6

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Job 34 (Listen 3:26)
Psalm 18 (Listen 5:47)

Read more about Responding to Political Violence
For Christians to fail to condemn, or worse, to directly endorse this type of violence is a great moral and theological failing.

Read more about How Long?
Christ’s rule is not oppressive. Neither should ours be. His burden and yoke are easy and light. So should ours be.

Three Armies of Sin :: Throwback Thursday

Psalm 18.3, 16-17
I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
   and I have been saved from my enemies.

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
   he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
   from my foes, who were too strong for me.

From John:
Using the example of the psalms, including today’s psalm of David, Martin Luther emphasizes that without calling on the name of God in faith, we stand surrounded by the armies of sin, without hope of victory.

We often think of David as a heroic performer of great deeds of good works, but David recognized that he was overmatched when it came to sin and did not rely on his own strength. In our modern, humanistic age, there are messages all around us of the power of our good works. We can do it. We can save. We can learn. We can fly.

As Christians, we confess our feet are earth bound but, through Christ, we know our feet will one day do better than fly. We will tread the City of God.

Reflection: Three Armies of Sin :: Throwback Thursday
By Martin Luther

Sin has hemmed us in with three strong, mighty armies.

The first is our own flesh, the second the world, the third the evil spirit, by which three we are without ceasing oppressed and troubled; whereby God gives us occasion to do good works without ceasing, namely, to fight with these enemies and sins.

The flesh seeks pleasure and peace, the world seeks riches, favor, power and honor, the evil spirit seeks pride, glory, that a man be well thought of, and other men be despised. And these three are all so powerful that each one of them is alone sufficient to fight a man, and yet there is no way we can overcome them, except only by calling upon the holy Name of God in a firm faith.

As Solomon says, in Proverbs 18, “The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is set aloft.” And David, in Psalm 116, “I will drink the cup of salvation, and call upon the Name of the Lord.” Again, in Psalm 18: “I will call upon the Lord with praise: so shall I be saved from all mine enemies.”

These works and the power of God’s Name have become unknown to us, because we are not accustomed to it, and have never seriously fought with sins, and have not needed His Name, because we are trained only in our self devised works, which we were able to do with our own powers.

*From A Treatise on Good Works, 1520

Prayer: The Greeting
Lord, you have been our refuge from one generation to another.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or the land and the earth were born, from age to age you are God. — Psalm 90.1-2

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 15 (Listen – 4:59)
Psalm 18 (Listen – 5:47)

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Read more about Steeped In Sin
Sin is not just some bad things that we sometimes do. Sinful actions are “sins” but sin is more than actions. It is a condition. Sin is pervasive. It seeps into every crack and corner of our souls.

Read more about Taking Sin Seriously
The grace Jesus offers is so costly that the powerful drop their stones and walk away from it. They cannot bear the cost to their pride. The lustful won’t look at it. It is too costly to give up their lusts.