The Book of Psalms

Monday: The Encircling Foe


Theme: When God Seems to Do Nothing
From this week’s lessons, we see that when we are wrongly attacked, we are not to seek vengeance, but instead are to entrust ourselves and the situation to God.
Scripture: Psalm 83:1-18
Edmund Burke was an Irishman who was a member of the English House of Commons, where he served from 1766 to 1794. He was known as an outstanding intellect and effective writer, and he was admired among other things for his brilliant essay on the French Revolution (“Reflections on the Revolution in France”) and his passionate speech on behalf of American liberties (“On Conciliation with America’”). It is interesting, Burke being a writer, that the sentence he is best remembered for is one that does not appear in his writings but which he is credited with by several sources. Burke said, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
That is true, of course. We can think of historical examples. One that comes to mind immediately is the lack of resolve and blindness of the democratic nations in the years prior to World War II, which allowed Germany under Hitler to rearm. Winston Churchill described it in The Gathering Storm. In the face of such a threat we rightly deplore “doing nothing.”
But here is an even greater problem. How about when God does nothing? What should we think when he is silent when his people call to him in trouble? This is no small matter. It is a terrible problem, and it is what Psalm 83 is about. It tells God, “Do not keep silent; be not quiet…be not still” when we are surrounded by our enemies.
This is the last of the psalms of Asaph (Psalms 50, 73-83), a writer who consistently seems troubled by the wicked and who regularly calls on God to rise up and defeat their evil plans.
Asaph’s psalms are not all alike, of course. Some are personal, like Psalm 50. Others have a wider scope and deal with evil in general or with the dangers evil people present to the nation. This psalm is in the latter category. It deals with a time when the nations that surrounded Israel had united against her and threatened her survival.
Verses 2-8 describe it. After asking God to speak up and act in verse 1, the psalm continues: “See how your enemies are astir, how your foes rear their heads. With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish. ‘Come,’ they say, ‘let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more.’ With one mind they plot together; they form an alliance against you.”
It does not seem possible to identify this conspiracy. There is an example of what it might have been like in 2 Chronicles 20, when Jehoshaphat was king and Israel was threatened by a coalition of Edom, Moab and Ammon. God saved the people by causing the three nations to fight among themselves. There was great destruction and a great deliverance. Some commentators have suggested that Jahaziel, a descendant of Asaph who is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 20 as having uttered a prophecy of the Jews’ victory, may be the actual author of this psalm. But this is mere conjecture.
Study Questions:

How is this psalm typical of the psalms of Asaph?
Though we do not know the setting of this psalm, how does 2 Chronicles 20 serve as an example of what the setting could have been?

Reflection: How do you tend to react in the face of danger or uncertainty? What does your reaction reveal about your view of God? Is your view of him consistent with what the Bible teaches?
Application: Are you going through a particular difficulty now in which God appears to be silent? What does the Lord want you to do in this?
For Further Study: We also see from the Psalms how to respond when people behave badly towards us. James Boice’s sermons on the entire Psalter provide clear explanation and also relevant application. Order your three-volume set and receive 25% off the regular price.

Study Questions
Tagged under
More Resources from James Montgomery Boice

Subscribe to the Think & Act Biblically Devotional

Alliance of Confessional Evangelicals

About the Alliance

The Alliance is a coalition of believers who hold to the historic creeds and confessions of the Reformed faith and proclaim biblical doctrine in order to foster a Reformed awakening in today’s Church.

Follow Us

Canadian Donors

Canadian Committee of The Bible Study Hour
PO Box 24087, RPO Josephine
North Bay, ON, P1B 0C7