Every morning I post a short “Proverbs Devotional” on my FaceBook feed. I recommend that we all read the “Proverb of the Day” each morning – by which I mean that on whatever day of the month it is, read that chapter in the Book of Proverbs. It’s a shame to let the wisdom in that book go to waste.
So, this morning I posted the following verses and the thoughts I sensed the Lord would have me share on them:
"Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the LORD see it, and it displease Him, and He turn away His wrath from him." (Proverb 24:17-18)
As I sat there looking at what I had posted, one word jumped out at me: “enemy”.
I’ve learned that when the Lord does that I am to consider whatever it seems He is highlighting to me. So, I meditated and prayed on the word “enemy”. Then I did a word search in the entire Bible for any occurrences of the words “enemy” or “enemies”.
One of those two words shows up 380 times in 368 different verses; 350 of those times (in 338 verses) are in the Old Testament alone.
I decided to count this out and found that over 81% of the time these words show up in the Old Testament in English they are translated from a single Hebrew word that means to actively hate and be openly hostile toward someone else.
This can apply to me deciding to be that way toward another or to recognizing that someone is behaving toward me as an enemy.
Either way, it seems to be a terrible waste of the short time we get to spend on the earth. We don’t really get that long to live, when you think about it and the older I am the faster the time seems to go.
If reading this causes you to realize that you DO hate another, why not release that desire to be hostile regarding that person? Why not ask the Lord to take that hostility out of you. Most likely, the person has either done something to you…or you THINK he has.
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and FORGIVING ONE ANOTHER, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” (Colossians 3:12-13)
The Bible is clear that we are to forgive such a one, GIVING that offense to the Lord.
Let HIM sort it out.
If reading this causes you to recognize that someone else hates you, there are two things you can do about that.
The first is that you can go to the Lord about that. When we obsess that someone else hates us we can find ourselves constantly meditating on that person, trying to figure out what we did to make him hate us, trying to appease him somehow, and so on. In a strange way, this can become a form of idolatry – worshiping a person.
Going to the Lord about such a person shifts our focus to God, who CAN do something about the matter. Doing so brings our focus to the Lord, Who deserves our trust and our worship.
The second thing we can do is pray to God asking Him to bless those who choose to be our enemies and who hate us. Beyond that, we can ask Him to show us ways to love those who hate us. Jesus speaking:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, LOVE YOUR ENEMIES, BLESS THOSE WHO CURSE YOU, DO GOOD TO THOSE WHO HATE YOU, and PRAY FOR THOSE WHO SPITEFULLY USE YOU AND PERSECUTE YOU…” (Matthew 5:43-44)
Why would we do such a thing that so clearly flies in the face of all worldly “wisdom”? Two reasons occur to me. The first is that it rescues us from the trap of letting a hate filled person set the tone for our behavior because when we REACT to someone that person is really in control of how we act.
The second reason is VERY good and spiritually delicious. Jesus continues His thoughts in Matthew 5:
“THAT YOU MAY BE SONS OF YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)
As Christians we ARE sons of our Father in heaven. Living the way Jesus commands us to live in Matthew 5 gives us the opportunity to experience a taste of what it is like to be God Who provides sunshine and rain for people whose thoughts and behaviors do not honor Him.
Our Father never lets people control how He behaves.