Psalm 86 reminds us (if we need reminding) what its like for someone to hate us. And it shows us how one man, David, finds comfort and help under animosity. We don’t get a lot of information from David about why he was hated. All we know is that the hate of his enemies had escalated to the level that his life was threatened.
Ernest Gordon served with a Scottish regiment in Southeast Asia during World War II and became a prisoner of war in Burma. Under cruel brutality, the POW’s were forced to build a railroad across Burma to India. Yet in Gordon’s camp were men who knew and loved Jesus Christ. Gordon records the remarkable kindness and calm that held him and his fellow prisoners together under Japanese atrocities. When their Japanese captors refused to care for wounded and defeated Japanese from another camp, these allied prisoners, tended their wounds. The reality of Christ had become greater than the reality of hate.
Even so today, when hostility, malice or hatred come to us, we can still play Psalm 86 in our hearts and it can lead us into the way of grace.
Jesus tells us in John 15:18-21 that if the world hates us, we are to remember that it hated Him first. And Paul reminds us through Timothy that everyone who desires to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted ( 2Timothy 3:12) We will be hated.
So, is there grace for us under the suffering of hate?
By the end of Psalm 86 David can point to God’s help and comfort when he was hated (:17). How?
The Comfort came from God
The dread of the one who hates you can be overcome by a greater and better fear — the fear of God.
When someone hates you, turn in repentance toward God and not toward the person who hates you. Being rejected by someone should not be allowed to overshadow being accepted by God in Christ. Being hated by another person, should not so overwhelm us that God’s love for us in Christ is forgotten.
David’s repentance and faith showed him that God is beyond comparison (:8), the one and only God (:10). He is the One worthy to capture all the allegiances of our hearts. So in the face of hatred David prays “unite my heart to fear Your name” -:11)
The person and work of God come to dominate David’s mind and heart, so that David’s comfort is God Himself
David’s help comes from God
David’s repentance and faith not only rescue him from the dread of those who hate him, but also helps him see those who hate him in a new way. He recognizes that God has one ultimate purpose (:9)
–“all nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and they shall glorify Your name.”
These “nations” are decidedly not the “godly men”, nor are they on God’s side. At present, they are, in fact, God’s enemies. So David asks that his response to those who hate him be guided by God’s purpose toward those who hate Him.
God’s purpose to make worshippers of His enemies applies to us first: We once were God’s enemies. (Romans 5:10, Colossians 1:21-22, Titus 3:3-4) So, David prays:
“Teach me Your way, O Lord. I will walk in Your truth.”
God’s purpose guides David’s response. The one who hates — the enemy — now becomes a candidate of God’s gracious mercy. David can no longer act as if his biggest concern is his own safety. God has made the highest goal bringing all nations and peoples everywhere to worship him. It is this goal that guides David’s response to those who hate him.
God’s practical help for David is first to free him from the dread of those who hate him and second to transform David’s designation for those who hate him – from a designation of enemy to a designation of needy sinner – just like me.
Hate will dominate our minds and emotions and guide our actions, until our hearts are captured by the wonders of God and guided by His love in Christ toward those who hate Him.