In our family devotional time, I’ve been noticing a trend in many of the psalms and canticles . . . there is a lot of talk about enemies. It’s in the songs . . . it’s in the prophecies . . . it’s in the praises. The writers of both Old and New Testaments talk a lot about being delivered from enemies. Being set free from enemies. Escaping enemies.

Then there’s our modern world, where we’re pretty much taught never to label anyone as an enemy, on the one hand . . . but where practically, anyone who disagrees with you can be branded as such.

Have we really given much thought, though, to what an enemy is? And why it’s such a basic part of the human condition?

The word is as ancient as the concept and has pretty much always meant what it means today–an adversary, a foe, someone with hateful or harmful intent. And certainly in the Bible we see plenty of literal examples of this. Many of the Davidic psalms that speak of enemies are speaking of literally running for one’s life.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that kind of enemy.

But part of the canticle of Zechariah, as he’s prophesying about his son John, he says this:

This was the oath He swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
free to worship Him without fear,
holy and righteous in His sight
all the days of our life.

That made me sit up and look at “enemies” in a new way. Who or what are our true enemies? Those things and people who would keep us from worshiping God.

It could mean an oppressive government and its agents. It could mean a family member. It could mean those things we let take over our time. It could be a bully at school or the office. It could be a boss. It could be a spouse. It could be ourselves.

I don’t have anyone seeking my life . . . but do I have people in my life seeking to keep me from God?

Worse still, do I ever act as my own enemy in that sense? Do I let things or people or my own ideas get in the way of worshiping God freely and without fear? Or do we let the fear of what people will say, what they will do, how they will respond to us intimidate us into silence?

As a writer, I know that “enemies,” antagonists, can be anyone. Not necessarily always bad people, just people opposed to our hero. I’ve spent some time pondering whether we are in fact the antagonists in other people’s stories–and that comes into play here too. Are we being the enemy of another? Are we hindering someone else’s worship of God? Are we judging them for what we don’t understand? Are we getting in the way of their true worship with our logic and longing for things that are normal and safe? I mean, imagine your child feels a call like John the Baptist, to live in the wilderness, dress strangely, and eat bugs. Are you going to be praising God for that, or are you going to be mumbling, “Can’t you just get a real job and stop embarrassing me?” What would have happened had Zechariah taken that approach instead of proclaiming his son’s destiny with praise? He would have been an enemy, of John and of God.

Instead, we need to be like this doubting father who latched hold of what God was doing. We need to make certain we’re the allies of God and His followers, not the enemy.

And we also need to keep our eyes peeled for who in our own lives are acting out that part, however well-intentioned they think they are. Anything and anyone who comes between us and God is not our friend, not in that. And perhaps if we can see them as such, we can relegate them to their proper place.

The Way of the straight and narrow isn’t easy, and we’re going to be beset on every side. That doesn’t mean we go looking for persecution in every stray word . . . but it does mean that we remain always vigilant, knowing that our ultimate goal must always remain to worship Him. And that if there’s something coming between us and that goal, that’s something we need to give to Him in prayer and supplication. Because that is the battle He will fight for us.

And He is always the victor.

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