How To Respond To Evildoers

I’m sure if I asked for a show of hands, everyone of you would put up a hand (or maybe even two!) to the question, “Has someone done something bad to you?” 

The real issue is not if we’ve been the victim of evildoers doing evil things; the real issue is how to respond to evildoers that do evil things. 

In Psalm 52, David tells us that he wrote this prayer after a vile man named Doeg had done atrociously evil things to a whole town of innocent people. Worse yet: these people were simply trying to help David!

David was fleeing for his life from King Saul, forcing him to leave home with just the clothes on his back. He stopped at the village of Nob and asked Ahimelech the priest for food and a weapon. That act, in King Saul’s mind, was worthy of death. None of Saul’s soldiers would carry out his command to execute the priest, but Doeg quickly responded. Doeg not only killed Ahimelech, but he killed the 85 priests with him, and then he proceeded to annihilate everything and everyone left in the village of Nob. Only one man escaped to tell David what happened. 

When David begins this psalm, he uses the words you or your 14 times in just the first five verses. David is addressing Doeg, almost holding up a mirror to his evil deeds. By contrast, the word I is used five times in just the last two verses of this prayer. 

That tells me that we have to work on this problem of evil from two different directions. We need to see evildoers in their evil, and we need to see a godly response to evildoers. As with many Hebrew poems, the most important principle is in the middle—Surely God will bring evildoers down to destruction, but He will protect the righteous (v. 5). 

In the opening words, David asks Doeg, “Why do you boast of evil?” The word for boast in Hebrew is halal—this is usually the word we translate Hallelujah! In other words, Doeg has put his evil on the throne of his life and is saying “Hallelujah!” to it. A downward slide of all sorts of evil words and evil deeds spiral out from this until the climax: Surely God will bring judgment. 

Notice David says “God” (not you) “will” (not might) take care of this. 

Now let’s look at it from a righteous perspective. Working backwards from verse 9 to verse 5, we see whereas Doeg was praising his evil deeds, David is praising God. David recognizes that it’s only in God’s presence that he can be free, and it’s only God that can ultimately balance the scales of justice. 

▶️ My friend, you cannot make things right. Only God can do this. Please, please, take your eyes off the evildoer that did evil things to you, and put your eyes on the Perfect Judge. He alone can balance the scales of justice. ◀️

So here are four lessons for all of us to learn—

  1. When evildoers do evil things to you, talk to God about them; don’t talk to your enemies and don’t even talk to your friends.
  2. Continue to redirect your heart and thoughts to God’s unfailing love, and away from thoughts of retribution—even if you have to do this a hundred times a day.
  3. When evildoers afflict you, look in the mirror of God’s Word to see if there is anything for which you need to repent and then ask forgiveness.
  4. When judgment comes, don’t gloat. John Bradford, when he saw a cartful of men going off to be hanged said, “There goes John Bradford but for the grace of God.”

In this video I reference our series on the Selahs in the book of Psalms. If you missed any of these, please click here to find a list of the other topics we covered.

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 29

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Jeremiah 29

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 29.] 

     The great message of the prophets is that evil and tyranny are there by the permissive will of God, there is never any room for thinking that these things happen by chance (cf. Isaiah 45:7). Never tie God up in His own laws; He is never guided by precedence. If a prophet is more concerned with logic than with loyalty to God, he will always mislead. … 

     We have no control whatever over external history; God has, and as saints we have to wait in patience wherever we are placed in the providential order of tyranny. …  

     Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage…. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper (Jeremiah 29:5-7). Jeremiah commands the people to obey God’s order in the dust and dirt of captivity. When we become rightly related to God we are loosened from everything around us, and the danger is to imagine we have to get out of the world. Our Lord did not pray that His disciples should be taken out of the world, but that they should be kept from the evil. It is nothing but unmitigated cowardice to get out of the world; we have to remain unspotted in the midst of it. “Do you mean to tell me I can live a holy life there?” If you cannot, the grace of God is a fiction. External surroundings make no difference to our inner life, but our inner life makes a telling difference on our surroundings (see Philippians 2:15). … 

     Our problem is not one of proportion: how much worldliness can I live in? but of spiritual insight which will enable me to live a holy life in the midst of worldliness, looking for the fulfillment of God’s promises. 

From Notes On Jeremiah

Christians living here on earth are truly “temporary residents” or “aliens and strangers,” as Peter calls us. As such, we sometimes feel a bit perplexed about the evil all around us and how we’re supposed to respond to it and to the Earthlings who question us about it. 

Chambers reminds us that God is not surprised by the evil, nor is He surprised where we are. All of these things are under His sovereign control. 

We are not to give in to evil, compromise with evil, or even try to pretend that evil doesn’t really exist. We are to live with our eyes fixed on Jesus regardless of our evil surroundings. This is the only way we will shine like stars in our evil world, and point the way for Earthlings to have a relationship with Christ for themselves. 

Shine on! 

10 Quotes From “Yours, Jack”

Reading the collection of letters in Yours, Jack was a real treat, helping me to get to know the personality of the man behind so many of my favorite books. To read my full book review on these letters from C.S. Lewis, please click here. 

“Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God’s myth where the others are men’s myths: i.e., the Pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the minds of poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call ‘real things.’” 

“God not only understands but shares the desire which is at the root of all my evil—the desire for complete and ecstatic happiness. He made me for no other purpose than to enjoy it. But He knows, and I do not, how it can be really and permanently attained. He knows that most of my personal attempts to reach it are actually putting it further and further out of my reach. With these therefore He cannot sympathize or ‘agree’: His sympathy with my real will makes that impossible.” 

“The truth is that evil is not a real thing at all, like God. It is simply good spoiled. That is why I say there can be good without evil, but no evil without good. … Evil is a parasite. It is there only because good is there for it to spoil and confuse.” 

“So few of us will really rest all on Him if He leaves us any other support.” 

“The practical problem about charity (in our prayers) is very hard work, isn’t it? When you pray for Hitler and Stalin, how do you actually teach yourself to make the prayer real? The two things that help me are (A) A continual grasp of the idea that one is only joining one’s feeble little voice to the perpetual intercession of Christ, who died for those very men (B) A recollection, as firm as one can make it, of all one’s own cruelty which might have blossomed, under different conditions, into something terrible. You and I are not, at bottom, so different from these ghastly creatures.” 

“No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes are in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up. It is when we noticed the dirt that God is most present to us: it is the very sign of His presence.” 

“I think we are meant to enjoy our Lord and, in Him, our friends, our food, our sleep, our jokes, and the bird’s song and the frosty sunrise.” 

“Keep clear of psychiatrists unless you know that they are also Christians. Otherwise they start with the assumption that your religion is an illusion and try to ‘cure’ it: and this assumption they make not as professional psychologists but as amateur philosophers. Often they have never given the question any serious thought.” 

Away with tears and fears and troubles! United in wedlock with the eternal Godhead Itself, our nature ascends into the Heaven of Heavens. So it would be impious to call ourselves ‘miserable.’ On the contrary, Man is a creature whom the Angels—were they capable of envy—would envy.” 

“Notice how we are perpetually surprised at Time. (‘How time flies! Fancy John being grown-up and married? I can hardly believe it!’) In heaven’s name, why? Unless, indeed, there is something in us which is not temporal.” 

More C.S. Lewis quotes coming soon. And you can also check out some of the quotes I’m sharing on Tumblr and Facebook. 

Thursdays With Oswald—Jeremiah 2-3

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Jeremiah 2-3

[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 2-3.]

     God is the “adornment” of His people; but God says, “My people have forgotten Me days without number”; the dead set of their life has been away from God (Jeremiah 2:32). Forgetting as an infirmity of mere consciousness is one thing; but forgetting by steadfastly refusing to recognize is another thing. These people had deliberately turned out of God’s way. They were wantoning after some other god than the God Who was holy (2:33). …  

     The thing that shocks us most is not the thing that shocked Jesus most. Social immorality shocks us till we don’t know where we are; but what struck the heart of Jesus Christ with horror was immorality against God, pride against Himself (see Luke 16:15). …  

     The innocence arising from evil is always like this—“I’ve done nothing.” It is the innocence we are all born with; sooner or later it takes its stand with evil and only knows good by contrast; whereas the innocence arising from the presence of the Spirit of God takes its stand with good and knows evil only by contrast. If we hand our hearts over to God we need never know in experience what Jesus Christ says of the human heart is true (see Mark 7:20-23). 

From Notes On Jeremiah

This is a tough concept that takes some quiet introspection in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Christians should ask themselves: Do I know the difference between good and evil because I’m doing evil and the opposite of what I’m doing is good, or because I’m doing good and the opposite of what I’m doing is evil? 

Originally, Eve knew evil only as the opposite of how she was living. But when satan tempted her to take the forbidden fruit, Eve now knew evil as something she was doing. Jesus said evil is what would naturally come out of our heart, unless “we hand our hearts over to God” and allow His Spirit to supernaturally bring out of us the Christlike fruit He produces. Is this happening in your life? 

Saturday In The Psalms—Do The “Dos”

…because of evildoer… (Psalm 37)

Not one person on earth can escape from having an evildoer cross their path. The question is not IF we’ll have to deal with them, but HOW we should deal with them. For the one who follows God, here is what David writes to us.

Don’t

  • Fret over evildoers
  • Be envious of them
  • Get angry because of them
  • Do evil things back to them

Do

  • Trust God to handle them
  • Do good to them
  • Find your delight in God’s goodness
  • Commit your lifestyle to God
  • Rest in God’s grace
  • Be patient with evildoers
  • Be content with where God has you
  • Extend mercy to evildoers
  • Keep on following God’s way of doing things

The bottom line for those doing the “Dos”—And the Lord shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in Him.

When evildoers cross your path, don’t just avoid the “Don’ts” … do the “Dos”!

Poetry Saturday—Presumption

Whenever I am prone to doubt or wonder—
   I check myself, and say, “That mighty One
Who made to the solar system cannot blunder—
   And for the best all things are being done.”
Who sent the stars on their eternal courses
   Has fashioned this strange earth by some sure plan.
Bow low, bow low to those majestic forces,
   Nor dare to doubt their wisdom, puny man.

You cannot put one little star in motion,
   You cannot shape one single forest leaf,
Nor fling a mountain up, nor sink an ocean,
   Presumptuous pigmy, large with unbelief.
You cannot bring one dawn of regal splendor,
   Nor bid the day to shadowy twilight fall,
Nor send the pale moon fourth with radiance tender—
   And dare you doubt the One who has done it all?

“So much is wrong, there is such pain—such sinning.”
   Yet look again—behold how much is right!
And He who formed the world from its beginning
   Knows how to guide it upward to the light.
Your task, O man, is not to carp and cavil
   At God’s achievements, but with purpose strong
To cling to good, and turn away from evil.
   That is the way to help the world along. —Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Thursdays With Oswald—Knowing Evil By Living Good

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Knowing Evil By Living Good

     There are some things of which we must be ignorant, because knowledge of them comes in no other way than by disobedience to God. In the life originally designed for Adam it was not intended that he should be ignorant of evil, but that he should know evil through understanding good. Instead, he ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and thereby knew evil positively and good negatively. … 

     The only way to find out things in the moral universe is by obedience. … 

     The philosophy of life is based on the topsy-turvy reasoning of going into things in order to find out about them, which is like saying you have to go into the mud before you can know what clean water is. “I must know the world”—if you do, you will only know good by contrast with evil. … Jesus Christ knew good and evil by the life which was in Him, and God intended that man’s knowledge of evil should come in the same way as to our Lord. … 

     The marvel of the Redemption is that Jesus Christ can put into any man His own hereditary disposition of holiness. … 

     Jesus Christ carried out all that Adam failed to do, and He did it in the simple way of obedience to His Father. … Are we humble and obedient, learning as Jesus learned, or are we hurrying into experiences we have no right to? … We grow spiritually by obeying God through the words of Jesus being made spirit and life to us. … 

     “I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple unto that which is evil” [Romans 16:19]. … When we are born again we have to obey the Spirit of God, and as we draw on the life of Jesus and learn to assimilate and carry out what He speaks to us, we shall grow in ignorance of certain things and be alive and alert only to what is God’s will for us.

From The Soul Of A Christian

I love the fact that Jesus Christ can put into any man His own hereditary disposition of holiness. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, what you’ve thought or said, or what you’ve seen, Jesus Christ can put His innocence into you.

Ask yourself Chambers’ question: “Are we humble and obedient, learning as Jesus learned, or are we hurrying into experiences we have no right to?”

After asking that question, do you need to make some changes?

%d bloggers like this: