God, Can I Borrow Your Smite Machine?

Message Title: God, Can I Borrow Your Smite Machine?
Theme: Psalms and Songs: songs from 1960’s music with similar feelings to psalms
Season: ORDINARY
Main Text: Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18
Scripture Reading: Matthew 10:24-39
RCL Scripture: Genesis 21:8-21; Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17; Jeremiah 20:7-13; Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18; Romans 6:1b-11; Matthew 10:24-39
Focus: David asks for God’s help to smite his enemies.
Function:  To recognize our emotions don’t dictate God’s actions but God’s character dictates God’s actions.
Other Notes: All Along the Watchtower by Bob Dylan performed by Jimi Hendrix

SCRIPTURE READING: Matthew 10:24-39 24 “Disciples aren’t greater than their teacher, and slaves aren’t greater than their master. 25 It’s enough for disciples to be like their teacher and slaves like their master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, it’s certain that they will call the members of his household by even worse names. 26 “Therefore, don’t be afraid of those people because nothing is hidden that won’t be revealed, and nothing secret that won’t be brought out into the open. 27 What I say to you in the darkness, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, announce from the rooftops. 28 Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but can’t kill the soul. Instead, be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell. 29 Aren’t two sparrows sold for a small coin? But not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father knowing about it already. 30 Even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 Don’t be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows. 32 “Therefore, everyone who acknowledges me before people, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven. 33 But everyone who denies me before people, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. 34 “Don’t think that I’ve come to bring peace to the earth. I haven’t come to bring peace but a sword. 35 I’ve come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 People’s enemies are members of their own households.[c] 37 “Those who love father or mother more than me aren’t worthy of me. Those who love son or daughter more than me aren’t worthy of me. 38 Those who don’t pick up their crosses and follow me aren’t worthy of me. 39 Those who find their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives because of me will find them.
LORD’S PRAYER

60’S SONG: All Along the Watchtower by Bob Dylan performed by Jimi Hendrix

In 1968 Jimi Hendrix released a song that is classic for the Vietnam era. Though Jimi made it famous. Jimi didn’t write it. All Along the Watch Tower was written by Bob Dylan in 1967. Jimi Hendrix received Dylan’s track before it was well known; he said it reminded him of words he had in his own mind and that the HAD to record it. Listen to this iconic Jimi Hendrix song…. A cover from Bob Dylan.

There must be some kind of way outta here
Said the joker to the thief
There’s too much confusion
I can’t get no relief

Business men, they drink my wine
Plowmen dig my earth
None will level on the line
Nobody offered his word
Hey, hey

No reason to get excited
The thief, he kindly spoke
There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke
But, uh, but you and I, we’ve been through that
And this is not our fate
So let us stop talkin’ falsely now
The hour’s getting late, hey

Hey

All along the watchtower
Princes kept the view
While all the women came and went
Barefoot servants, too
Well, uh, outside in the cold distance
A wildcat did growl
Two riders were approaching
And the wind began to howl, hey

All along the watchtower

All along the watchtower

  1. The song is an almost guarantee in any Vietnam era movie soundtrack. I spent so much time associating this song with Vietnam that I honestly hadn’t paid attention to the lyrics and the direct quoting of scripture.
    1. Quotes: Isaiah 21:5-9 Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise ye princes, and prepare the shield./For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth./And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; and he hearkened diligently with much heed./…And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground.
  2. Some musicians have pondered what or who exactly was the focus of this song. I wasn’t able to find clear answers outside of the parallel of the prophet Isaiah. I did, however, hear people recognize this song as a song of struggle and hope. Things were not right and things were gonna change. In time things would be set right.

TRANSITION: In our text for today, we hear a psalm attributed to David as he cries out for change. Join me in reading Psalm 69 as we hear David’s please for justice.

GOD: Psalm 69

Preface: I am going to take four minutes to read us this whole Psalm but we will focus on specific parts. The text will not be on the screen behind me. If you want to read along, I encourage you to pull out your Bible or use a Bible app on your phone. Those listening online can use Biblegateway.com.  

Normally, I read this in the Common English Bible translation, but today I’m going to use the Message, which is a paraphrased translation. As always, when reading scripture, I highly recommend you visit multiple translations of the same text to get a more complete understanding.

God, God, save me!
I’m in over my head,

Quicksand under me, swamp water over me;
I’m going down for the third time.

I’m hoarse from calling for help,
Bleary-eyed from searching the sky for God.

I’ve got more enemies than hairs on my head;
Sneaks and liars are out to knife me in the back.

What I never stole
Must I now give back?

God, you know every sin I’ve committed;
My life’s a wide-open book before you.

Don’t let those who look to you in hope
Be discouraged by what happens to me,
Dear Lord! God of the armies!

Don’t let those out looking for you
Come to a dead end by following me—
Please, dear God of Israel!

Because of you I look like an idiot,
I walk around ashamed to show my face.

My brothers shun me like a bum off the street;
My family treats me like an unwanted guest.

I love you more than I can say.
Because I’m madly in love with you,
They blame me for everything they dislike about you.

10 When I poured myself out in prayer and fasting,
All it got me was more contempt.

11 When I put on a sad face,
They treated me like a clown.

12 Now drunks and gluttons
Make up drinking songs about me.

13 And me? I pray.
God, it’s time for a break!

God, answer in love!
Answer with your sure salvation!

14 Rescue me from the swamp,
Don’t let me go under for good,

Pull me out of the clutch of the enemy;
This whirlpool is sucking me down.

15 Don’t let the swamp be my grave, the Black Hole
Swallow me, its jaws clenched around me.

16 Now answer me, God, because you love me;
Let me see your great mercy full-face.

17 Don’t look the other way; your servant can’t take it.
I’m in trouble. Answer right now!

18 Come close, God; get me out of here.
Rescue me from this deathtrap.

19 You know how they kick me around—
Pin on me the donkey’s ears, the dunce’s cap.

20 I’m broken by their taunts,
Flat on my face, reduced to a nothing.

I looked in vain for one friendly face. Not one.
I couldn’t find one shoulder to cry on.

21 They put poison in my soup,
Vinegar in my drink.

22 Let their supper be bait in a trap that snaps shut;
May their best friends be trappers who’ll skin them alive.

23 Make them become blind as bats,
Give them the shakes from morning to night.

24 Let them know what you think of them,
Blast them with your red-hot anger.

25 Burn down their houses,
Leave them desolate with nobody at home.

26 They gossiped about the one you disciplined,
Made up stories about anyone wounded by God.

27 Pile on the guilt,
Don’t let them off the hook.

28 Strike their names from the list of the living;
No rock-carved honor for them among the righteous.

29 I’m hurt and in pain;
Give me space for healing, and mountain air.

30 Let me shout God’s name with a praising song,
Let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks.

31 For God, this is better than oxen on the altar,
Far better than blue-ribbon bulls.

32 The poor in spirit see and are glad—
Oh, you God-seekers, take heart!

33 For God listens to the poor,
He doesn’t walk out on the wretched.

34 You heavens, praise him; praise him, earth;
Also ocean and all things that swim in it.

35 For God is out to help Zion,
Rebuilding the wrecked towns of Judah.

Guess who will live there—
The proud owners of the land?

36 No, the children of his servants will get it,
The lovers of his name will live in it.

  1. Reflection on the Translation: This Psalm is a good example of how dabbling in other translations can help to illuminate the meaning so we aren’t focusing on specific words too much and miss the bigger message. This translation helped me to hear the struggle of the author and the author’s cries for justice.
    1. Now to be honest, in other versions the language sounds more ‘old timey’ and its easy to get distracted by phrases like ‘make their loins shake’… ugh what David???!!
  2. What’s really going on:
    1. David is struggling
    2. David doesn’t see God move the way he wants him to
    3. David calls out for God to smite his enemies (Hey God, Can I borrow your smite machine?)
  3. Am I David?
    1. I like the message’s paraphrasing because it highlights how being faithful to God leads us to not fitting in with society.
    2. Being faithful to God does not guarantee and easy rode. Some who claim Christianity believe opposition and receiving violent threats is evidence they are on the right track.
      1. Psalm 69 seems to express that God will smite your enemies because God is on your side. God will wage your moral wars for you.
        1. Christians have killed Christians over this. One commentary I read causally referenced how John Calvin (the Father of Calvinism/Reformed) was a religious refugee that had to flee France. He fled because Christians were killing each other because they were certain they were right and everyone else was blasphemous and should be put to death.
    3. How do we get to a place where God’s word validates violence? How do we get to a place where we assume that God is on our side instead of us on God’s side?
  4. Are we the oppressors?
    1. Apparently, today is honesty Sunday. I have to admit that when I read the Bible, I catch myself associating with the oppressed and the outcast. By default, I’m the leper. I’m the Samaritan woman. I’m the crippled man. I never consider any other perspective.
    2. But as I was reflecting on this psalm, a commentary shook me with this question:
      1. Who is praying this prayer because of you? (WP)
      2. It made me think… am I the Pharisee? Am I the Crusaders, ready to murder anyone who won’t ascribe to my way of thought? … well maybe not murder… but I could judge them and cast them out of my circle….
    3. It’s uncomfortable to turn the tables and ask… Am I the oppressor?
  5. Sorry David, Yes: God cares about us. God cares about our emotions. However, our emotions don’t dictate God’s actions. God’s character dictates God’s actions.
    1. I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again: If the Good News isn’t Good News to all people, then its bad news. If interpreting this scripture leads you to believe you can be a jerk to someone you disagree with then you, my friend, are missing the point.
    2. Current people missing the point:
      1. Westboro Baptist Church—it’s easy to pinpoint people today and from history and say, ‘Clearly, I’m not that. Clearly, I’m not as BAD as Westboro.’ And we leave it there.
      2. The Help—though it’s a movie about a white woman attempting to save her self by using the stories of black women; we do see depictions of women like Mrs. Hillie who don’t even recognize they’re racist and it is quite obvious to the viewer.
    3. Experiencing opposition, or what we may perceive as persecution, does not validate our position.
      1. Just because David is asking to borrow God’s Smite Machine, doesn’t mean God will or that God wants the same thing.
  6. SONG: Bob Dylan’s lyrics don’t speak of vengeance but do speak of a hope for change. Dylan’s lyrics don’t stoop to the level of the rest of the world but instead suggest the fate of the “thief” and the “joker” would be different than the rest.
    1. We need humility to recognize that we do not have perfect dreams, desires, or plans. WE are not bad, or evil, but frequently we are selfish. Our need is for God to transform our desires away from selfishness to selflessness. We desire for God to align our hearts with God’s and that this world may be transformed as a result.

CONCLUSION: Our prayers are chances for us to be honest with ourselves and with God and give God the chance to change our desires.

  1. Yes, Faith in God can make us look ridiculous to the rest of the world
  2. Yes, Faith in God does not prevent us from experiencing ridicule
  3. But, Faith in God does not give us a “smite my enemies” card
    1. Our emotions do not determine God’s will

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