Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Facing Persecution (Psalm 17)

"Arise, O LORD, confront him, cast him down; deliver me from the wicked with Your sword" (Psalm 17:13).

Since the Fall, accounts of the righteous unjustly persecuted by the wicked are plentiful. Cain murdered Abel. Darius threw Daniel in the lions’ den. Throughout church history, millions have been tortured and killed for their faith. A time may be coming again when the sword will be drawn against God’s people, and as the saints of old we must be prepared to face it.

Though we may not be confronted with the lions’ den or the flames, God’s people face persecution. This is inevitable as we imitate Christ, who said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Such is the persecution David faced in Psalm 17. He was unjustly treated by his enemies. He appealed to God on the basis of his innocence. When we are persecuted and wish to justify our case before God, we must be sure that we have done nothing wrong to provoke abuse. Too often, we cry “persecution” when we are actually receiving retribution for our sins toward others.

This is not the case with David. He stood before God with a clear conscience. He had the confidence to appeal to God for deliverance because the wicked acted unjustly. As we saw previously, when we have to deal with ungodly people, we may protest our innocence before God. David not only testified to a good conscience, but he went to the Lord in earnest prayer. This is not the response of unbelievers—even though they may boast a good cause, they do not acknowledge that the world is governed by the providence of God. Therefore, they do not beseech Him in prayer.

David prayed with sincerity of heart, knowing that his cause was righteous and God would bless him on that account. Calvin said, “By this form of prayer the Holy Spirit teaches us, that we ought diligently to endeavour to live an upright and innocent life so that if there are any who give us trouble, we may be able to boast that we are blamed and persecuted wrongfully.” If we live righteously before God, we can exhibit the confidence of David in asking the Lord to examine our hearts. When the tide of persecution rises, we can stand against our enemies, face their taunts without retaliation, and seek the Lord’s deliverance in prayer.

Read Acts 6:8–15 and 7:54–60. Why did the Sanhedrin persecute Stephen? Did Stephen have a clear conscience before God? How do you know this? What comfort did God give him during his persecution? What was his attitude toward his enemies? Try to follow this biblical model when you face persecution for your faith.