All temptation starts with a natural appetite and a desire/lust to fill it. The word ‘lust’ doesn’t necessarily have a negative connotation. It merely means desire. Desire is the focal point in temptation. How we manage the appetite determines whether we end up overcoming or succumbing to sin. Sin means to miss the mark (as in archery,) so when we succumb to a temptation, we’ve missed the mark. Scripture uses the temptress or seductress as a metaphor of all types of temptation because sex is such a primal and powerful drive.
“Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” (2) By the time we meet him, the ‘young fool’ in the Proverbs 7 passage is knee deep in the process of temptation. Whether it is a chance encounter or premeditated, he “finds” himself strategically at the right place (near her house) at the most opportune time (in the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night.)
The temptress takes over from there. Note these 10 characteristics and apply them to the context of your besetting sin, whatever it may be:
She is prepared in advance and looks the part, v. 10.
2. Her heart has already determined this is what she wants. She is committed and not wishy-washy.
3. She has the corner market. She trolls everywhere and physically puts herself out very strategically. Not only is her home on a corner, but she also goes to every corner, v. 12.
4. Once she catches him, she wastes no time further arousing him, v. 13.
5. She may be a religious woman, v. 14.
6. She customizes the lure that he’s already bitten so she can set the hook, v. 15.
7. She appeals to his senses and aesthetics, vs. 16, 17.
8. She promises that fulfillment of the desire won’t be perfunctory, v. 18.
9. She reduces the risk factors and downplays the consequences, bolstering his comfort v. 19, 20. (like Satan saying to Eve, “you will not surely die,” Gen. 3:4.)
The rest of the passage clearly speaks for itself: “Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks, till an arrow struck his liver. As a bird hastens to the snare, he did not know it would cost his life.
Now therefore, listen to me, my children; pay attention to the words of my mouth: do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray into her paths; for she has cast down many wounded, and all who were slain by her were strong men. Her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death,” Pr. 7:22-27.
Here’s a promise for the wise: “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death,” James 1:12-15.
Sin speaks. Anyone can hear it if they listen. It speaks to the sinner and it speaks to the righteous. “The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes,” Ps. 36:1. Spurgeon says, “Men’s sins have a voice to godly ears.” The evil man has no fear of God. That is the underlying characteristic of his life. Paul picks up this truth in Romans 3:18 after he outlines the deeds of sinful man: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Commentator Morgan teaches, “The description of the evil man is graphic. He has by some means persuaded himself that God does not interfere with men. Consequently he has no fear of God, enthrones himself at the centre of his own being, and goes in the way of wickedness in thought and in action.”
Paul instructs us, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith,” Romans 12:3. Yet what does the wicked person do? “For he flatters himself in his own eyes, when he finds out his iniquity and when he hates,” Ps. 36:2.
He is neither surprised nor appalled by iniquity in his heart. That and hatred contribute to his self-elevation. “The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit; he has ceased to be wise and to do good. He devises wickedness on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not abhor evil,” vs. 3, 4. Out of the fullness of his wickedness heart, his mouth gushes further wickedness and deceit. Even when he is at rest, all that swirls in his mind is evil. And when he has rested and is ready to take on the day, he steps onto an evil path. He does not abhor evil – he relishes and harbors it. Every single aspect of it thrills him: the conception, the outworking, and the outcome of it.
Guzik quotes Spurgeon, “He had not God before his eyes in holy awe, therefore he puts himself there in unholy admiration. He who makes little of God makes much of himself. They who forget adoration fall into adulation. The eyes must see something, and if they admire not God they will flatter self.”
David changes topics suddenly as though to say, “But enough of those men already. Let’s dwell on something better.” I picture David in the wilderness coming upon a favorite high rock with a sweeping, majestic view of the sky above and grand, mysterious canyons below. His heart wells up within him and he cries, “Your mercy, O Lord, is like the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the great mountains; your judgments are a great deep; O Lord, you preserve man and beast,” vs. 5, 6. Any and all grandeur he sees, is a selfie of God and his goodness.
“How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!” v. 7a. David not only fears God but greatly esteems and cherishes him. God is of great value in David’s eyes, unlike the wicked who despise him. “Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings,” v. 7b. What a wonderful picture of security and comfort. Yet it is dark there and we must be still. Might dark, immobilized times be God sheltering us in the shadow of his wing? Like little chicks we might tire and desire to poke our heads out and see what’s happening, but we must trust Father hen to lift up when the coast is clear. Not whenever we are ready to resume our play.
“They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures,” v. 8. What decadence! God is not handing out matchbox size blessings. Look at those words: abundance, satisfaction, fullness, river of pleasures! They are drenched, saturated, intoxicated with blessings. Fullness is translated as fatness. Picture a gorgeous juicy steak. Consider the careful animal husbandry that tends to cattle in tranquility and fattens them at the end for slaughter. The word drink has to do with irrigation. How painstakingly the farmer lays out pipe before connecting the irrigation water to reach the whole crop. While God does not tire, he expends himself for us. He is as a host who knocks himself out for the pleasure of his guest, he floods him with pleasure.
We were created for pleasure – God’s pleasure. The elders in heaven throw their crowns at God’s feet and say, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created,” Rev. 4:11. In his lovingkindness, he extends that pleasure to us as we walk in his ways. Rivers of it. With no regrets. I think of our pleasure neurochemicals – oxytocin, dopamine, endorphins, and others. As we learn to love him and is ways, we delight in these glorious chemicals in ways that bless us, unlike addictions that hijack and flood our systems with dangerous levels.
“For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light,” v. 9. Fountains are a wonderful thing. They are a source of quenching, cleansing, and irrigation. They bring out the child in us and evoke playful squeals of glee. God wants that for us and is our all-purpose fountain of pleasure.
David leans back on the warm rock in satisfaction, a smile on his face as a nap creeps in. “Oh, continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You, and Your righteousness to the upright in heart. Let not the foot of pride come against me, and let not the hand of the wicked drive me away. There the workers of iniquity have fallen; they have been cast down and are not able to rise,” vs. 10-12. The righteous man may fall seven times, but he rises up (Prov. 24:16.) Not so the wicked. They will fall, never to rise again. And God’s lovingkindness to those who fear him will flow and flow and flow…
There’s something peculiar about a born leader. Wherever he goes, there the Lord exalts him. Among many or few, among the genteel and among the rough around the edges; among the rich and among the poor. Even when this person is not seeking leadership, it follows him. This is a gifting and an anointing from God. Watch it unfold in David’s life.
“David therefore departed from there [acting like a crazy man in from of Abimelech] and escaped to the cave of Adullam. So when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him. (1Sa 22:1-2).
This is the context of Psalm 34. David, a young man, finds himself alone in these caves. He is amazed that he escaped with his life, yet again. He is physically and mentally exhausted. Suddenly he hears a misplaced noise in the heat of the afternoon. His heart starts racing again and he ducks instinctively. The voice is not alone. David wonders, ‘Will I have no rest?’ The voices are getting louder. Suddenly he recognizes one voice. Then another one. It is his brothers’ voices. From his vantage point, he peers carefully. Sure enough, his family is standing around looking lost. They are dusty, worn out, and look pitiful.
Playfully, he leaps from a high rock right in their midst and scares them to death. A couple of them grab him and wrestle him to the ground. They are thrilled to see him. Soon, more and more people arrive. Many he recognizes and some he does not. He doesn’t understand why they are here. He thought he had carefully escaped and covered all his tracks. But not so from the Lord. Even when he was in plenty of his own trouble, the Lord was strategically placing him as leader over others. Here in the barren wilderness with no resources and no support, the Lord was exalting him as their head. He who had no food and no weapons was to be the sustenance and the protector of this crowd.
They weren’t a group of outstanding citizens either. These are vagabonds and bums, vagrants and rascals. Some have escaped from the law. Others are wanted. These shady characters, all four hundred of them, are “the children” that David is recounting his adventure to. These people love David and he is a rallying point for them. God has raised David up in their hearts and in their midst as the kingpin.
This cave must be like an amphitheater. He is a runaway among runaways. He marvels at his God as he studies the dry, chapped faces that look at him expectantly. His voice carries, crisp and clear and a shaft of sunlight shines on his scratched-up body like a spotlight. ‘What can I offer them?’ his gentle heart wonders to his God.
What would you offer them if it were you? Would you send off a party to hunt down some grub? Would you rally them around you and start a coup? Would you send them away or try to get away from them? After all, you had enough trouble on your own, without taking on those of four hundred others. God gives him water for their thirsty souls.
“Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord,” v.11. Children refers to a group or herd of young people or animals; or members of a specific guild. What do these desperadoes need more than anything? David taps deep down into the Spirit and comes to a strange conclusion: what they need more than anything is the fear of the Lord.
Lack of it may have gotten some of them where they are. A good dose of it will rescue them. “Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good?” v. 12. They only reason they are here is because they desire life. They were drowning in hopelessness, despair, and the threat of sure death where they were. Sometimes life is so hard that it seems you will do unreasonable things just to save your own hide. When all else had failed, they escaped to the wilderness – that’s desperation.
Already there is squabbling in the ranks. With a stern eye, David quells that instantly among this dog-eat-dog pack. He knows how quickly strife spreads in an already riled-up mob. “Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit,” v. 13. Things are going to change. His eyes scan the crowd. “Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.”
Those in this crowd are not famous for peace. In fact, many pride themselves in violence. They are being introduced to a new paradigm. Here’s why they are to fear the Lord. David is teaching them a new identity they can choose – righteousness. A communal, uncomfortable chuckle sweeps across the space. Many shift and avert their gaze.
David doesn’t let up. “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry,” v. 15. They eye of the law has been on them, hunting them down. But there’s a greater law. He presses in on the jugular, “The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth,” v. 16. If you think the government and society is your enemy, you have one to be even more afraid of. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who is able to destroy both the soul and body in hell,” Mt. 10:28.
He is pushing righteousness like an ice-cream van by a park on a lazy summer afternoon. “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles,” v. 17. He locks eyes with Malachi. Then with Benaiah. His eyes bore through their souls in conviction. He shifts his gaze to Abishai and leans in. “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit,” v. 18. A tear rolls down that hard face.
David leaps to his feet before his mesmerized posse and then drops to his knees, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He guards all his bones; not one of them is broken,” vs. 19, 20. He leans back and begs them. This very moment they can go from being evil to being righteous!
“Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous shall be condemned. The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned,” vs. 21, 22. What words of hope to the damned, the doomed. God promises to redeem their parched souls. He will turn around their will, their affections, their minds, their passions, their endeavors, and their desires. Revival ensues in the cave of Adullam.
We had a gate growing up. I didn’t realize what an important symbol that heavy metal port was at the time. It was painted various colors at various times. Mum would holler, “go get the gate,” and one of us kids would jump at it. I ran as fast as my little legs would carry me and ground to a halt once I got to it, my heart pounding from the sprint. I would stand on tip-toe and press my body against the sun-warmed metal, a curious, eager eye-ball peeking through the opening I could barely reach, to see who was there.
There were two gates, but most cars fit through just one. Fumbling with the lock and chain was like trying to release a toy from a playful dog’s mouth when he wants you to throw it but also wants you to work at getting it from him. I would finally wrangle the heavy, clanging chain free, being careful not to pinch my fingers in it. I’d lead the huge contraption slowly with the heavy, chain leash as it swung open, always wary lest it bit you in the ankle. If you let it swing on its own it would bang against its end with such momentum that it bounce back and knock you right to the ground.
Opening the grand gate thus provided this dramatic revealing, as it were, of the guest. First, you’d see them through the tiny peephole in the gate, then you’d glance at them when you first freed the chain and the gate started to swing open. Each step to took disclosed more and more. They would smile and wave from their car and carefully inch their way through the opening. If it was a nice person, they’d step on their squeaking brakes and clear off the clutter from their front seat while you locked the gate and let you hop in for a short a ride to the house, saving you a walk back, and as a thank you token.
Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Psalm 24:7
This puzzling line has been interpreted many ways. Here’s my take. The head of anything or anyone is the top part, the highest. In it are functions of thought as well as perception. This is in keeping with the theme of ascension from earlier in the chapter– we are dealing with matters of primacy – what’s the highest, the best, the most important?
Hebrew views the heart as the center and repository of man of his thoughts. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he,” Pr. 27:3. It is the highest, noblest organ. It is a wellspring so deep it is unfathomable. We could say that the word picture in Psalm 24 paints the heart as our ‘gate.’ Gates speak of security and access. Our hearts are the access points to our lives. We “allow” people into our hearts.
Psalm 24 therefore calls us to lift up the heart for examination. We are also to lift it up to provide entry. We are to ‘lift’ it up because left to itself, it becomes darker and darker, lower and lower. This gate of our lives is the access point for the Creator, Master and Savior. What a thought, that though the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it as we saw earlier in the chapter, this small gate can bar him entry.
It is no peon that desires entrance into your gates. It is nobility. It is none other than the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, hallelujah! He desires you. He desires access into your heart and therefore your life. He wants to come in and dine with you. He wants to spend today with you. He wants to spend eternity with you. Jump for joy. May your heart and mine afford the King of glory a very grand entrance. Put on a party and go get the gate!
Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty— he is the King of glory. Ps 24:8-10
“Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them.” Proverbs 24:17, 18.
I live for the poetic justice that life flings at a jerk. We all know the gladdening of the heart that wells up within us and makes us want to say – you know it, “Ha, ha, ha!” God is calling us to a different reaction. Not only are we to obey Proverbs 24:29, “Do not say, “I’ll do to them as they have done to me; I’ll pay them back for what they did,” if we have the chance; but when God takes care of the business and walks an enemy to the shed, we are not to delight in that.
That just sounds like a bummer deal. It therefore becomes an act of maturity and trust in God that the flesh will likely balk at.
This is the same heart behind Romans 12:20 which quotes Proverbs 25:21, 22, ““If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”
“Do not envy wicked men, do not desire their company; for their hearts plot violence, and their lips talk about making trouble. Do not fret because of evildoers or be envious of the wicked, for the evildoer has no future hope, and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.” Proverbs 24:1, 2, 19, 20.
Who do you consider wicked?
Think of personal relationships or of political figures. Who literally raises your temperature – causing you to burn with hot anger, to be incensed, kindled? That’s the meaning of the word ‘fret’ above.
Beware, beloved. You can end up identifying and so despising a person, that in a perverted twist, you idolize them. You may find yourself constantly thinking of them and talking about them. This is akin to an addiction. Your brain savors and elevates whatever triggers a passionate response in you. It releases adrenalin and even dopamine as you engage in this psychic fight against the enemy. This further makes you more likely to keep thinking about them.
Your life can start to revolve around them. Your reactions can start to cause problems with other people. You can end up in legal trouble on this account. You find you don’t want to think about them but you can’t stop. You spend a ridiculous amount of time reading up on them and your brain becomes increasingly frenzied. Your body starts to have physical reactions to them such as getting sick to your stomach, tense shoulders, or a pounding heart. You may become furious at the mention of their name or feel anxious and despondent.
These, among others, are signs of addiction. Ultimately, the person consumes your energy and your peace. Catch yourself in that foolishness. Don’t cast your pearls before swine. Your fury avails nothing. The Lord has this person under control and doesn’t need too much of your help. He promises to snuff them out – if they are truly wicked.
Detox yourself, beloved. Confess your tendencies to the Lord and ask for his help. Pray for yourself and ask him where you can channel your energies. Pray for your enemy. Reduce your sensory input of them (seeing them, reading about them, listening to them or to reports of them, being in their presence, etc.). Divert your attention and energies elsewhere. Detox yourself, beloved.
I was just a little girl at a bus station in the big city of Nairobi when I heard commotion. A large crowd was hollering and people scampered this way and that. Scared, I asked my older sister what was happening. All of a sudden, as quickly as the commotion had started, there was a hush and she pointed a small group of women in a circle. She explained that a pregnant woman had gone into labor right there in public and started to have her baby. Women came out of the woodwork instantly and surrounded her. There being no such thing as ambulance services except for the rich, this woman was at the crowd’s mercy. You’ve never seen voluptuous African women move so fast.
The women produced jackets, sweaters, and what seemed like a thousand colorful lesos. A leso is a multi-purpose sheet, about 4’ x 8’, commonly worn or carried by women, also known as a kanga. While some made a nest for her to lie down on and saw her through her labor, others held up their lesos, corner to corner, and created a circular barricade around her to guard this private moment. I’ll never forget that scene.
“He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends,” Pr. 17:9. Commentator Guzik says, “There is a time and a place for the exposure of sin (Ephesians 5:11), but often the sins of others should be tactfully and lovingly covered. The exposure of all belongs to God, not man (Luke 12:3). This lovely word picture transports me to that childhood memory.
We all have a leso and sooner or later, we will all come across a helpless, laboring woman. May we instantly jump at the opportunity to cover her naked vulnerability and beset her, indeed guard her, with privacy. Sure you risk getting your leso dirtied, if not bloodied. But they are a dime a dozen. Of course we don’t cover over illegal or unethical or sinful practices, especially if they are habitual. Eph. 5:11 tells us to “Have nothing to do with the fruitless works of darkness, but rather expose them.” This calls for much discernment, much wisdom, much discretion.
Whose offense is the Lord calling you to cover over?
This is an excerpt from my book Napping In Delilah’s Nap – The Pandemic of Pornography in the Pew and the Pulpit, to be released March 2021. Be warned that it connotes graphic, potentially disturbing contents of sexual and other abuse. Reader discretion advised. Post may refer to unfamiliar terms developed elsewhere in the book.
For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.
From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you.
I have become a sign to many; you are my strong refuge.
My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.
In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me
(Psalm 71:5-8, 1).
Why did you survive the adversity you lived through? How did you do it? Psalm 124 peels back the curtain and shows you a classified behind-the-scenes look. Be warned that this is a sensitive chapter that may evoke visceral reactions in the reader by revisiting trauma. I’ll hold your hand through it but it is imperative that you read through this prayerfully. In the scripture below, we will dig through the meaning of words that may astound you. Take a deep breath and come with me.
A song of ascents. Of David.
If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,” Let Israel now say—
“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us,
Then they would have swallowed us alive, when their wrath was kindled against us;
Then the waters would have overwhelmed us, the stream would have gone over our soul;
Then the swollen waters would have gone over our soul.”
Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us as prey to their teeth.
Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers;
The snare is broken, and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth
There are fifteen songs of ascent – Psalms 120-134. They are a collection of short, pithy psalms, fraught with repeated formulaic phrases that make them rhythmic and memorable. They employ a literary technic called anaphora whereby phrases are repeated, as we shall study. They were sung or recited during an ascension and indicate a change in elevation, a journey to a higher place. They may have been used by pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem or may have been chanted by worshippers ascending the fifteen steps to the Temple in Jerusalem. Biblically, the number fifteen is symbolic of healing, rest, and restoration after deliverance. “This number symbolizes acts wrought by the energy of divine grace.”1
The subjects of Psalm 124 had survived a significant assault. They were commiserating about it and marveling at God’s role in their survival. Jehovah was at their side through their experience. In your case, it may be childhood or adulthood trauma. It may be past or ongoing. As he was with them, Jehovah was and is at your side during every moment of your traumatic experience. Moreover, not only was he at their side, he was on their side. He had to choose sides and he sided with them. In the same way, God was not only at your side, be he chose to be on your side. Jehovah was with them and today he is Emmanuel, God with us.
Verse two identifies some entity who “rose up” against you. That term paints a scenario of someone coming on the scene, and making a stand against you. This may have been someone who should have stood up for you and defended you. Yet he or she chose to satisfy his or her selfish desires before considering you and your needs. This person or system gained and maintained power over you in an imposing way. In the previous chapter we studied Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) which include neglect (emotional and physical); abuse (psychological, physical, and sexual); and household dysfunction (children growing up in a home where there is mental illness, violence against the mother, separation/divorce, incarceration, and substance abuse).
We will explore several lies that traumatic experiences can cement in the victim’s mind. One has to do with time. Verse one above says, “Let Israel now say,” whereas verses three, four, and five begin with the word then, a classic example of anaphora. Here, scripture makes a distinction in time. We know that in the spirit realm time and space are immaterial. Nevertheless, adverse experiences occur in real space and in real time. Many victims of trauma get stuck in the place and time of their trauma. No matter how much time has passed, their current speech, demeanor, outlook, and behavior betray that they are still very present in the moment of assault.
Note that as long as one remains ensnared in past trauma, the perpetrator remains successful in his or her goals. Three times, Emmanuel is inviting you to distinguish between then and now, Christian. Ask for his help in moving forward away from that space and time. Hear this: healing entails experiencing a separation between the then and the now. It entails a change in elevation from that miry bog to the solid ground of a sound, restored mind. May your life resonate with the songs of ascension as you ascend to a place that is higher than that valley of death.
A second lie the enemy tells is that the intentions of the offender became our reality. It is imperative that we identify and distinguish between two important factors: the intention of the offender versus what actually happened. Failure to do so results in muddying the waters of our thinking and also results in one remaining stuck in the trauma. See Table iv. below.
Table iv. Intentions vs. Reality
To “swallow you alive.” For the waters to overwhelm you/ For the stream or proud/swollen waters to “go over” our soul
They “rose up” against you. Their “wrath” was “kindled” against you
Let’s break down the intentions of the enemy. To “swallow one alive” (Hebrew bala)2 is to eat up, to devour, to destroy them. It is to spend, to squander, and to use them up. The devil’s intention is that when this offender (whether an individual, an institution, or a way of thinking) was done with you, you would only be good for garbage pickup. The psalm says the “waters” would have “overwhelmed” you. This scene is pumping with adrenaline and rife with real threats.
“Waters” (Hebrew mayim) are symbolic of danger and violence. They refer to a body of water that bursts its banks and causes destruction. Note the tie in with the entity which “rose up” against you – they overflowed their prescribed capacity. They overstepped their bounds. They did not confine themselves to their defined path but instead used their power inappropriately, to your detriment. The “proud” (Hebrew zeydon) waters indicate churning, raging, turbulence, and insolence. They are out of control and wreaking havoc in their wake. To bring it home painfully for some of you, precious readers, biblically, “waters” also refer to the bodily fluids of urine or semen.
To “overwhelm” (Hebrew shataph) means to engulf, overflow, wash off, gush, or inundate. By analogy, they aimed to conquer you, drown you, to wash you away. In order for them to “rise up,” they had to have come from a place lower in elevation. They come up, snatch you, and take you back down to the depths with them. The goal would be to suck you under and cause you to disappear from the face of the earth. The stream would have “gone over” (Hebrew abar) meaning to pass over or through you, engulfing you. The theme of abuse in general, and sexual abuse in particular, continues here as, figuratively in the Hebrew, this term means to cover in copulation, to impregnate.
Your offender came at you with his or her wrath kindled against you to consume you. The word “wrath” (Hebrew aph) is a picture of impassioned, rapid breathing. “Kindled” (Heb. charah) means to be hot, furious, incensed, burning. Figuratively, it entails blazing or flaring up against you. Visualize flames rising and licking the meat on your BBQ. These flames can impregnate the meat with a charred taste and even ruin the cut. You were to be charred, disfigured, ruined, left as a pile of ashes.
My heart goes out in anguish to every single person that has had the body of another smother them sexually in the graphic ways described by these words. Please hear and believe that this horrific act was not your fault. There is absolutely no reason for a human being to impose him or herself on another in this way. This also applies to you being forced to do perform sexual acts against your will, even if the person did not touch you physically. God carefully chose the graphic words used here to describe the atrocities done because that’s how seriously he sees them. He doesn’t downplay what happened to you.
The psalm identifies where the punch is taken – the soul. The impact of these forms of adversity can span the spectrum from, at the very least, slightly charring the soul, as a flame-licked piece of meat; to, at the worst, destroying it. Your soul (Hebrew nephesh) is the core of who you are, your living, breathing self. It is your inner being. I remember it by the acronym A.M.P.E.D with a W thrown in at the beginning – WAMPED. It is the center of, or entails the activity of your: Will, Appetites, Mind, Passions, Emotions, and Desires. Note how closely intertwined it is with the heart, as we studied in the previous chapter. Needless to say, different people emerge from the storm in various stages of damage to these six aspects that comprise the soul – some just wet, and others a moldy, damaged mess.
The Psalm calls us to bless (Hebrew barak) Jehovah. This is an invitation to acknowledge him. We are to thank and praise him because had he not risen up for us, the enemy’s intentions would have become our reality. Many people ask, “Where was God when xyz happened to me?” He was right there. Had he not been on our side, you and I would have been utterly destroyed. Had he not been at your side, we would not be here having this conversation. He has not “given us” (Hebrew Nathan) over to the intentions of the enemy. He didn’t deliver us up or permit the destroyer to have his way with us, despite how far the latter went. The enemy did not have permission to do what he did and his intentions were cut short.
Have you any idea how many snares have been set for your soul that you weren’t even aware of? I attended Catholic school and was taught that in heaven we will review our lives as on a video. I hope that’s true. If so, it’ll blow our minds to see what we were saved from when the fowler (Hebrew yaqosh) lured, set a snare or devised plans against us! As for the traps and plots that we did get caught in, because Jehovah was on our side, we escaped (Hebrew malat). That simple word means that we slipped away and were delivered, saved, released, rescued. We got to leap out and be preserved speedily and surely. Here is the exciting part, this wasn’t a quiet, simple escape.
The psalmist says the snare has been broken (Hebrew shabar). Hear this – anyone coming upon the snare would be gob-smacked and gasp, “What happened here?” That’s because that mangled mess was unidentifiable. This reminds me of an exciting day in our boys’ lives when a microwave we owned finally died and they asked permission to beat it up. To my dismay and their utter surprise, my husband allowed them to. They looked at each other in slow motion with huge eyes and jaws dropping in testosterone-driven anticipation. They were allowed to use whatever they wanted on it. By the time I walked up to its sorry remains at the end of their barrage, all I could say was, “What happened here?” What Shabar actually means is that your God went ballistic on that trap. He rent it violently. He wrecked, crushed, and maimed it. He shattered it in pieces and destroyed it beyond recognition. Hallelujah!
“They have greatly oppressed me from my youth,”
let Israel say;
“they have greatly oppressed me from my youth,
but they have not gained the victory over me”
(Psalm 129:1,2, emphasis added).
Indeed, you are victorious because God is your help (Hebrew ezer). He is your aid and your succor. Remember the word beset which means to enfold? Ezer is synonymous. It means he surrounds you. Earlier, I explained that the number fifteen symbolizes acts wrought by the energy of divine grace. His grace is a SWAT team that hems you in as it comes to rescue you. SWAT stands for Special Weapons and Tactics. This branch of law enforcement is unleashed to combat critical incidents that pose a threat to safety and that supersede the capacity of regular police forces. They are specially trained and equipped to use high-powered armor and other specialized equipment my boys would like to get their hands on and use against a dead microwave.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it
(Psalm 139:5, NKJV).
Because of what God has done, I can sing a song of ascents as I journey to a higher place.
Arise, my soul, and sing his praises!
(Psalm 108:2, TPT)
Take new joy in the words of the hymn Amazing Grace and bless him as you sing,