They lay crafty plans against your people; they consult together against your treasured ones. - Psalm 83:3
Today I’m writing from my living room. Pictures of our family cover the long wall to my right. There they are—our children, their spouses and our grandchildren. An interior decorator might say these family pictures belong in other rooms but not in here. Those folks are entitled to their opinion. But I’m keeping my family wall. These people are my treasured ones.
Did you see it in the verse I quoted at the beginning of this column? I love the description of God’s people in this prayer: “your treasured ones.” The more I thought about it the more I liked this as a focal point for this meditation.
Psalm 83 describes a circumstance that matches the situation in 2 Chronicles 20. You probably know that chapter because it contains Jehoshaphat’s famous prayer, “O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
It seems to be the same coalition of enemy forces in both texts who joined forces to rid the world of Israelites. A descendant of the Asaph from David’s time is the one who delivered the message to Jehoshaphat, promising that Judah would win, without even fighting the battle to win the victory. When Judah went out to face the federation, a group of singers in holy attire led the way, singing praises to God. When the army came and looked down on the battlefield, they found their threatening enemies. But the enemy forces were all dead! God caused the enemies to fight among themselves. All Israel had to do was three days’ work to remove the valuables from the fallen enemies, with no arrows shot or swords drawn.
The psalmist appealed to God, identifying the threatening enemies and asking God to overthrow them. The situation was desperate and his plea was earnest. But his ultimate concern was for God’s glory to shine brightly out of the events. The request comes down to us as a psalm of vibrant praise and strong confidence in God, wrapped in a fervent prayer for help.
The psalmist did not pray for Israel’s warriors to be strong and brave, nor did he ask that Israel’s leaders might be bold and courageous. The threat was so overwhelming that he simply asked God to handle it himself. His God was unlike the pagans’ gods. Israel’s God would not keep silence; he was not mute and deaf like the pagan statue gods. He would not hold his peace or be still; he would hear and act in response to his treasured ones’ prayer for deliverance.
So the enemies that wanted Israel out of existence and even out of history were themselves erased from the world. Just like Haman in the days of Esther and other examples from history, the rulers who wanted to destroy God’s people would themselves be destroyed and forgotten. The foes in this federation had long backstories of animosity against Israel. Their hatred was old, strong and bitter. The terrified Israelites trusted God and asked him to terrify and destroy their foes, and he graciously answered his treasured ones’ prayer.
It would have been good if the enemy had been humbled and would have sought the Lord. But they were hardened and determined to war against God and his people, and they perished as a consequence of that.
Let’s take away two ideas from this psalm. First, Judah’s great victory came from fervent prayer and grace, not from their own effort and strength. And, as I said at the beginning, let’s savor the idea (more true for God’s people today in Christ than ever) that we are his treasured ones. He values his people highly, does not take threats against them lightly and will answer their prayers of faith mightily.