Over the course of this series of sermons we have been looking at the distinctives of our church that drive our vision and energize us. And today I want to look at the importance of using the nuclear weapons of the church: what I have in the past called the war psalms of the Prince of Peace. But you could just as easily call them lawsuits at the bar of heaven. Every war psalm is a petition for justice before God's courtroom for something evil that has been done against the author or against some group of people. For example, look at verse 10. Verse 10 uses characteristically strong language (we are used to that in the War Psalms). But look at how it's worded: Pronounce them guilty, O God! [That is legal language of the courtroom. David is taking his case all the way to the supreme court of the universe, and after presenting evidence to God of why God should throw the books at his enemies, he says, "OK Lord, pronounce them guilty." And David not only wants a declaration of "Guilty!" before that courtroom, but he also wants tangible justice delivered] Let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions, for they have rebelled against You. Etc. And if you look at the imprecatory psalms; in other words, the psalms that ask for God's judgments against the wicked; - if you look at them as being presentations before God's courtroom, it will give you a whole new perspective of not only why they are important, but how they can be consistent with the kind of love that David showed to his enemy Saul whom he was taking to the court of heaven. David did not have personal hatred against Saul. But he was not bashful about telling the facts exactly as he saw them in court. And any court is going to expect that. You don't mix up the language of personal relations with the language of the courtroom. And David should not be faulted for using the language of the courtroom in these war psalms.
There is a tendency in some Christian circles to think that God's justice will only be meted out on the last day of history. And if you believe that, you will be paralyzed in your efforts to win against Satan because I am convinced that God does not arraign Satan or any other demons before His courtroom unless we bring charges. God follows the principles of justice that He laid down in the bible, and one of the first principles of justice is that the victim must appear before the judge to accuse the criminal and prove his case in court. There would be no point in going before the courtroom of heaven if we can't get justice until eternity.
And there are many Scriptures which illustrate this point. But let me just give you one. It is Luke 18. People are familiar with this parable of the persistent widow and the unjust judge. They apply the parable to prayer in general. But Jesus applied it to asking God for justice. It's a specific kind of prayer that Jesus commands us to pray. It is a prayer for vengeance. In other words, we are urged to take Satan (and any other enemies who have hurt us or stolen from us or slandered us) to court. Listen to Christ's application in Luke 18:7: And I prefer the New American Standard translation of this. It says, now shall not God bring about justice for His elect, who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them speedily. Unlike the unjust human judge who could care less about justice, God cares about justice and sits as Judge right now. Unlike the unjust human judge who waited a long time and had to be harassed before he would give justice, God promises to bring justice speedily. Though there will be a final judgment day, we don't have to wait thousands of years to get restitution, if we are willing to ask. God's courtroom executes speedy justice when a case is won in His court because He commands that cases be tried immediately in the law. His law guarantees the right to a speedy trial. Why would He command that on earth if His own justice did not bear that out?
And so the obvious question comes, "Well, if that's true, how come I haven't seen the Lord bringing justice and restitution for me now?" And I think part of the answer is that the church is simply unwilling to follow God's procedures to ask for justice. In fact, Christians don't even believe in justice many times. They feel uncomfortable using the fierce war psalms like Psalm 35, 58, 59, 69 or Psalm 137. I have preached on three of those psalms and pointed out that evangelicals feel that they are sub-Christian because they are seeking justice rather than love. But that is the whole point of going before God's courtroom. It is to seek justice. That's what a court is for.
And before we even get into this psalm, let me give you one small illustration of how this works out in real life. And maybe next week I may give you some other examples. There is a missionary I know who opened my eyes to this kind of praying, and who engages in this kind of praying all the time. He asks for restitution from Satan and from Satan's kingdom. One of the examples he gave was that he was seeking to establish a church next to the temple of Kali, in New Dehli, India. He had already gotten a city permit to build, but when the temple found out, there was non-stop opposition. Khali is a filthy demon with enormous power and influence there. Due to Satanic opposition, the city council immediately revoked the permit. This was protested as being illegal, so the city council backtracked and said that there were time limits. If they didn't get the church built in 30 days the permit would be revoked. The problem was that they didn't have the money to even start, let alone get it finished in 30 days. So they needed to raise $30,000 and get the building finished in that 30 day deadline.
Because they were certain God had led them to this location, they had faith it would be done. They began praying, and a woman in the States was led to send $10,000. She didn't even know there was a building project. She just knew the Lord had led her to give the money. The missionary sent it through the banks since they needed to get going right away. Well, in India there is a lot of corruption in the banks, and the money didn't get there. They called on the bank to investigate and the bank investigated and said that there was no sign of it. The missionary got very angry at Satan's tactics. He said he almost never speaks to Satan, but he was so upset at that point that he said out loud to the demons present that he was going to build that building and there was nothing Satan could do to stop it. He laid down the gauntlet and told Satan, "You know I get my cases settled in heaven. You better return that check immediately if you want it to go easy on you." He laid out the alternatives of God's justice. He turned to Exodus 22:4 which says, If the theft is certainly found alive in his hand, whether it is an ox or donkey or sheep, he shall restore double. And he told Satan that if he returned the check right away, he would only ask God for twofold restitution on top of the stolen check. But if he did not return it, he was going to ask God to strip Satan of all his resources. He appealed to Proverbs 6:30-31 which says, People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he starving. Yet when he is found, he must restore sevenfold; he may have to give up all the substance of his house. Before even going to God's court room he laid down that challenge to Satan. You pick: I'll either claim two-fold or seven-fold restitution.
This missionary then presented his case against Satan, the evidence that he had, and his petition for the money plus 200%. Three days later the clerk who stole the money was caught and the building project started. The missionary took Satan to court in heaven for two-fold restitution. Three days later he received another check for $20,000. They had the $30,000 needed to complete the church. This man has said that where he has had the evidence to present, (and you can't present a case before heaven unless you have evidence) he has never had a court case that he has prosecuted before heaven's throne, where he has not been speedily avenged. This is faith in action in spiritual warfare.
That gives a whole new perspective on why Christ said that we could leap for joy and be exceedingly glad when we are persecuted for great is your reward. And whether we receive the restitution here as the first part of Mark 30 promises, or in heaven (as the second part of the verse also pledges – if you're dead, that's the only place you are going to get your restitution), it will follow the principles of justice laid down in His law.
Let me illustrate in a physical way how compensation can make persecution joyful in the spiritual arena. And this may be a silly illustration. If you had a person who was working with you and who hit your thumb with a hammer you would not be very pleased. And if he did it on purpose, you would be even less pleased. But let's imaging that every time he smashed your fingernail, you got $20,000 compensation. It still hurts, but it might be worth it. You might even say, "Hit me again." Well, you probably wouldn't go that far. But Luke 18 promises that if we ask in faith, we will be avenged speedily, and all the saints who cry out around the world day and night, have the same ability to be avenged speedily. But we won't get one bit of restitution if we do not pray, and we will not get one bit of restitution if we do not pray in faith before God's courtroom, and if we do not follow His courtroom procedure. And most Christians are utterly uninterested in studying Old Testament law as it relates to what kinds of compensation we can expect, how court justice is sought, etc., and so it is no wonder that they don't even get into the court room. And so this week and next week I want to go phrase by phrases through this psalm and give you the specifics of what it means to arraign your enemies before God's court room. Next week we will get into some of the nitty gritty of spiritual prosecution. But today I want to encourage you to make the effort to go to the courtroom in the first place. It's just going to be Roman numeral number I of the outline.
Make the Effort to Go to the Heavenly Court and to Follow Biblical Law (vv. 1-3)
The victim (the one personally "groaning" - v. 1) must be present in court (vv. 1ff). If the victim is not there, the charges are thrown out.
The first thing that we see here is that David brings his own complaint to God. Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my meditation. If you look in the margin, you will see the literal rendering is, "consider my groaning." He was the person who had been wronged by the enemy, and therefore he was the one who had to bring the complaint. There is a place for witnesses and intercession on behalf of another person, but in Biblical justice, if the victim was not present, ordinarily there was not a case. Murder was the exception. Because the victim couldn't come, those who lost their loved ones would prosecute. And I guess they were victims themselves. But there is good reason for this principle in the Old Testament. God did not want a police state where government is trying to discover crime and then prosecute the criminal. He didn't want agents snooping into bedrooms, out roaming the streets looking for trouble. God wanted the citizens to be self-disciplined enough to show initiative. There must be self-government. Until citizens brought charges, criminals ordinarily were not prosecuted. God believed in a very limited state government.
And yet somehow Christians expect God to operate by entirely different principles. They want to be lazy in prayer and expect that God's eyes will be roaming the earth, and when an injustice is done, God is supposed to do something. And when God fails to do something, they get discouraged and think that God does not care. And God will respond, "But court was open. Why didn't you petition me?" And the person might say, "But I asked the pastor to pray for me, or my mother to pray for me." And God responds, but my law calls for the victim to bring the charges. And the person might respond, but doesn't Deuteronomy 10:18 say that You administer justice for the fatherless and the widow…? And God will respond, "yes, I have always given justice in my courtroom, but when did you pray to me? When did you actually present your case? If you read the context you will see that the fatherless and widow must ask for vindication, and when they do, I give it." For example, Exodus 22:22-23: You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry. That verse indicates that even the widow and fatherless child must cry out to God for justice.
James says, "You have not because you ask not." You would think that I wouldn't even need to include point A. But I know human nature because I know myself. We tend to want George to do it, in this case, for God to do it without our asking. But God assures us that if the victim does not present His case, the case will be thrown out of court. No justice can be expected. We can be witnesses for the Sudanese, but they must pray the war psalms, and they must prosecute in heaven.
The case must be orally presented (v. 2; cf. Deut. 19:15)
The second principle that we see here is that the case must be orally presented. Verse 2 says, Give ear to the voice of my cry… When I pray these prayers to God, I don't pray silently in my head. I pray out loud so that demons can hear if they are in the room. I want to resist them so that they will flee, and they can't read my mind. But more to the point of what we are talking about here, if Satan or his demons are being prosecuted, they have the legal right to hear the charges being made. This is simply the Biblical principle stated throughout the law that the charges and the witnesses must be made orally.
For example, Deuteronomy 19:15 says, by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established You believe with your heart, but confession is made with the mouth (Romans 10:10). Matthew 18 is a great example of this. Matthew 18:18-19 gives this incredible promise with regard to spiritual warfare: Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.
Those are very encouraging verses. Jesus is our Advocate, or our Lawyer. And when court principles are followed, our lawyer is always in our midst arguing our case, and He always gets his cases heard. So if you aren't getting results, ask yourself if you have been violating Old Testament court principle. That passage gives some of the principles that we are looking at this morning, like witnesses and oral charges. For example, He says in verse 16, by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. We'll get to the witnesses part. But notice again, Jesus says that it is by the mouth. You can pray for personal things silently in your head any time you want to – wisdom, patience, whatever. But if you are asking for vengeance, it involves another person, or perhaps a demon, and since it is official court business, it should be prayed out loud. Actually, it's the only way witnesses can hear what you are saying and agree with you. We are talking about prayer together with other saints.
The victim must himself be loyal (v. 2,4-6). In biblical justice, if a person was guilty of the same crime, he could not bring charges (Deut. 19:18-19).
The third principle is that the victim himself must be loyal. In biblical justice, if a person was guilty of the same crime as the criminal he is accusing, he could not bring charges. A criminal could not charge another criminal for the same criminal act. That would be ludicrous. He has no right to charge. He needs to be prosecuted himself. But let's think about that in terms of our prayer life. That means that if we have been acting unjustly towards others and then we complain about their injustice towards us, God will not hear. And that is why David not only affirms that God is his King and his God in verse 2, but goes on to side with God's hatred for various types of wickedness no matter where that wickedness is found. And that's in verses 4-6. Too frequently, Christians pray with hypocrisy. They don't want done to them what they are doing to others.
In Isaiah 30:9 God questions why He should bother to protect Israel with His laws of justice when they cast His laws behind their backs. Psalm 66:18 says, If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear. Isaiah 1:15 says that God will not hear the cries of Israel who are suffering at the hands of murders because murder is in their own hands. And there are numerous Scriptures that testify to the same truth.
But let me clarify something lest you get discouraged. God is asking for loyalty, not perfection. No one is perfect. We all sin. But God is asking us to forsake and to hate our sins. He is asking us to confess our sins and to side with God. When we do so, He is quite content to defend us with justice. David said, a broken and a contrite heart, these O God you will not despise. But it is a simple matter of law that criminals may not get justice from other criminals for the same acts that they are engaging in.
The case must be prosecuted in public (vv. 7,11; Deut. 16:18; 17:5; cf. Deut. 21:19; 22:15; 25:7; Amos 5:12,15; Zech. 8:16)
The fourth principle in this psalm is that the case must be prosecuted in public. And I have given many Scriptures which insist on this point of justice in human courts. The state may do some private things, but vengeance must always be a matter that the public is allowed to come to and view. The same is true of church court trials. Because of the threat of lawsuits, some denominations have recommended having secret closed door trials and not announcing even the results. But that violates a fundamental principle of justice – that everything must operate under the sunshine principle. Allowing for secret trials is a sure way of ending up with tyranny, and people won't even know what tyranny is going on. Now I'm not in favor of having unbelievers come, but church members should be able to come to see what is going on. The only exception to this rule would be where both parties asked for private arbitration.
I think most of us are quite aware of this principle of justice, and we wouldn't have it any other way in American court rooms. We didn't like Britain's Star Chamber trials. But why do we think that we can seek redress in God's courtroom for finances lost, or for anything else, but only do it in our private closet? The private closet is perfect for ordinary prayers relating to needs, fears, desires for fellowship, a greater measure of God's Spirit, etc. But if you are seeking redress or vengeance, then seek it at a prayer meeting with other saints. There is a reason why some prayers won't be answered except through public prayer. In fact, during our Monday morning prayer meetings I would like to take on the issues that you bring up in this formal way, where we have a typed-up list of charges, evidence and where the rest of us act as witnesses. In verses 7 and 11 David presents his case before other believers. In fact, that is one of the reasons why this prayer was made public — he was seeking a court judgment.
There must be a formal accusation with specific details (vv. 4-6,9-10)
Point E says that there must be a formal accusation with specific details. And next week we will look at the specifics of how to bring those accusations. And so I won't deal with them here except to say that we can't be general in court. We must know the facts and present them to God's throne room. And when asking for redress we need to ask for specific remuneration or restitution that lines up with God's laws. Preferably quote God's laws. And if some of you need help in crafting something like this, I can help you.
There needed to be witnesses (vv. 7-8,11; cf. Deut. 19:15
Point G says, "There needed to be witnesses." When Matthew 18 talks about this spiritual warfare and binding Satan and seeking redress it says that every word has to be established by two or three witnesses. That's Matthew 18:16. Every word. That's why two or three people need to gather together in prayer, right? Sometime read that passage with these principles in mind, and I think the passage will really open up to you. The prayer in Acts 4 offered up against Herod and Pontius Pilate will really open up to you. The prayers of Revelation will open up. Study the prayers for vindication that you find in the New Testament and you will see that they all conform to this Psalm's principles.
Another example: In 2 Corinthians 13 Paul warns that if the church has not corrected their errors and their abuse of him, when he comes he will seek justice from God and will not spare them the rod. But he brings up that same principle saying that every word will be established by two or three witnesses. That is another argument for public prayers for discipline to do its good work, or for vengeance in the world. And there is nothing wrong with two or three people bringing up the same issues in prayer. That's not vain repetition. You are establishing things with two or three witnesses.
Since the accused has the right to face his accusers in court (Job 40:2; Psalm 50:21; Is. 50:8), verse 3 may be a reference to advance notice (v. 3?).
We tend to think of Satan as someone who has no rights of justice. But God gives everyone justice. It's of his very nature to give justice. And that's why we are going through these procedures. Do we absolutely need to bring advance warning to demons like that missionary did? I don't know on that one. I doubt it. I have a question mark beside this one because we are simply not told why David gives advance warning that the next morning he will bring this psalm. So maybe we ought to leave it with a question mark. But I certainly wouldn't want to be critical of the missionary for what he did. It at least seems consistent with Biblical justice, though I'm not sure it is needed. God can hear our side of the story and give Satan interrogation later before He extracts His penalty out of Satan's hide.
Make sure that you don't bring frivolous or untrue charges against Satan (cf. Jude 8-10). Since a false witness could be charged with the same penalty being exacted from the enemy (v. 6; cf. Deut. 19:16-19).
But point H is mentioned in Jude. We ought not to bring frivolous or false charges against Satan. Just because demons are evil does not mean we can accuse them of things they didn't do. Some people see a demon under every bush, and they blame Satan for virtually everything bad that happens to them. Satan is not omnipresent, and we need to have good evidence that what has happened was indeed demonic before we start going after him. Deuteronomy 19:16-19 lays down this interesting bit of legal policy that God has. If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother… This means, when you bring imprecations against rulers in Sudan, or other wicked men, make sure that you have your facts straight. Don't be bringing imprecations frivolously or you may find the curse falling upon your own head. Jude 8-10 indicates that this is even true with regard to accusations against Satan. He rebuked people who were speaking against Satan, saying, they speak evil of whatever they do not know.
Show humility and respect before God, and never be arrogant with God (vv. 1-2,4-6,7-8,11-12)
The tenth principle is that we should show humility and respect before God, and never be arrogant with God. I have had fellowship with some pastors that make me shrink because of how they yell at God. I can handle passion and urgency. But I cannot handle screaming at God or being demanding of God. All through this Psalm you see expressions of the utmost humility and respect for God. He doesn't want his case thrown out of the courtroom because of disrespect. He knows in verse 5 that the boastful shall not stand in Your sight. He knows in verse 7 that he himself is in need of mercy. He makes clear that He wants to follow God rather than to dictate to God in verse 8. Etc. And so, come to God with humility.
Wrestle With Fervency (vs. 1-2; Eph. 6:12; Col. 4:12; 1:29-2:1; Luke 22:44; Heb. 5:7)
But that does not mean we cannot wrestle with fervency before His courtroom. And I want to end this morning by dealing with the issue of zeal and fervency in prayers.
Verses 1-2 show urgency. They show wrestling. I think most of the wrestling that we do in prayer is needed because of the resistance of our flesh or the resistance of Satan who does not want us to pray. David may not have felt like getting up in the morning; he may not have had the energy to engage fervently in prayer; he may have been too busy to pray, but he said, I will pray. My voice you will hear in the morning, O LORD; In the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up. I'm not going to give in to my flesh. Nothing would hinder David from warfare prayer because he knew that without prayer all was lost. We must become convinced like David that resistance in prayer is not an option. A. J. Gordon once said, "You can do more than pray, after you have prayed, but you can never do more than pray until you have prayed." Well I think that is especially true of seeking justice in prayer.
Groanings (1b - Hebrew)
But verses 1-2 also show groanings and cries. The literal Hebrew is, Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my groaning. Give ear to the voice of my cry. There is nothing wrong with weeping in God's throne room. Emotions are perfectly acceptable. Spurgeon once said, "You can draw near to God even though you cannot say a word. A prayer may be crystallized in a tear. A tear is enough water to float a desire to God." In fact, tears are sometimes the most eloquent testimonies in the courtroom.
And I dare say that the greater our sense of total dependence upon God, the greater will be our fervency when we come to prayer. If you have never known what it means to groan and cry in prayer, it may be that you have not know what it means to pray in the Spirit, because the Spirit does groan. There is much for God to groan about in this world. Genesis 6:6 says, And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. Romans 8:26 says, the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings too deep for words.
What does it mean to have groanings and cries in our prayers? Is that foreign to you? It should not be. But only the Spirit can usher you into warfare prayer that gives you such concerns for God's Kingdom that selfishness is left behind and tears flow down your face because of a longing for God's honor, glory and vindication.
Jude 20 commands us to pray in the Holy Spirit. Praying in the Spirit means that the Spirit Himself moves us to pray and then takes our prayers and pleads them on our behalf; He enables us to pray; He teaches us to pray; He empowers our prayers. And it is as we pray in the Spirit that our selfishness is shunted aside and we begin to pray kingdom prayers like this one. Until we settle point one, all the rest is so much hot air. Where are the groanings and cries of prayer that are spoken of so frequently in the Scriptures?
Ask God to pour out a spirit of prayer and supplication upon us. We have loved ones who are in bondage and need your aggressive warfare prayers to free them. There are many all around us who are in bondage to Satan, and this psalm is a psalm that asks God to tear down strongholds in our nation. But before we can do that, we must settle in our hearts that we will not be satisfied until God pours out His Spirit upon us and gives us heartfelt prayers. Ask God to burden your hearts so that you come with groanings and cries. I like the way Spurgeon phrased God's help in our prayers. He said, "God the Holy Ghost writes our prayers, God the Son presents our prayers, and God the Father accepts our prayers. And with the whole Trinity to help us in it, what cannot prayer perform?"
We will finish off this sermon next week by giving the specifics of how to pray for vengeance. But for this week, let's just commit ourselves to making the effort to even go before God's throne room. And let's commit to following Biblical law on how to seek justice. And thirdly, let's believe that God delights in giving justice against your enemies. And I thought I would end the service today simply by reading Luke 18:1-8. And I want to read it from the New American Standard Bible.
Luke 18:1 Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,
Luke 18:2 saying, "There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God, and did not respect man.
Luke 18:3 "And there was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.'
Luke 18:4 "And for a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, Even though I do not fear God nor respect man,
Luke 18:5 yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, lest by continually coming she wear me out."
Luke 18:6 And the Lord said, "Hear what the unrighteous judge said;
Luke 18:7 now shall not God bring about justice for His elect, who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them?
Luke 18:8 "I tell you that He will bring about justice for them speedily. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?"
Christ says that delays in justice are not due to God as judge. He denies that He will delay. He insists that He will bring justice speedily. The delays are due to our lack of prayer and our lack of faith. I hope this psalm will stir up our hearts to realize that God delights to avenge His people. And He has given many psalms to show us the way. May His kingdom be powerfully extended as we seek His face on this issue of justice. Amen.
Children of God, my charge comes from Isaiah 1:17 which simply says, "seek justice." But seek justice in God's ways and using God's means. Familiarize yourselves with the War Psalms of the Prince of peace, and you can start by laying those before God's throne. Amen.