The enemies of God are always in action against His people.
He who is born again in Christ immediately confronts his old sinful nature, which tempts him in an immaterial, intellectual or affective way, by means of sinful desires, of ungodly attractions of the world, and of harmful teachings inspired by the devil. These enemies act to lead him to sin, to damage his witness and to weaken him in the faith.
Other enemies constantly appear, and these come from outside: they are enemies of the Gospel, therefore of Christ and of God, because the light of the Gospel disturbs them: “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed" (John 3:20).
When the singer-poet-preacher-prophet Asaph wrote Psalm 83, inspired and driven by the Holy Spirit, the enemies of the people of God conspired together against Israel. The enemies were numerous people who surrounded them, idolaters and given to every kind of abomination. These enemies wanted to destroy the people of Israel as a nation, “That the name of Israel may be remembered no more” (v. 4). The Psalm was written three thousand years ago and the nation of Israel was relatively small among the others. It was humanly impossible for it to survive among so many powerful and united enemies.
In this nation of Israel we find countless figures and concepts applicable to the church of Christ, for both came about by the work and grace of the true God creator of all things, and for this reason they have both suffered rejection and persecution by the unbelieving world which is the enemy of God.
The Lord Jesus said that the world would hate His own, because they are not of this world, but His. As the world persecuted Him, so it would persecute His people because of His name, because the world does not know God who sent Him (John 15:18-23). Throughout its existence the church of Christ has had to face the enmity and persecution, often cruel, violent and bloodthirsty of the world enemy of Christ and of God, just as it hated (and still hates) Israel.
The enemies of Christ were powerful and implacable from the beginning of His church, just as the enemies of Israel. From the following we shall see some parallels between the enemies of Israel and those of the church, found in Psalm 83.
The Psalm begins with a clamour to God because of His apparent silence and inaction in the face of the threats of the enemies against His people. No doubt God takes this attitude for good reasons, among which we can suggest:
To prove the faith of His people. For example, the Lord Jesus proved the faith of His disciples when he slept in a boat during a storm and they were afraid of succumbing (Mathew 8:24-26). When they awoke Him, He reprimanded them, saying “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?”
To select His people. For example, experience tells us that, when to be called a “Christian” is acceptable and respectable, and there is no opposition, churches grow with unbelieving opportunists who avail themselves of the social advantages for their own benefit. A multitude followed the Lord Jesus until one day, when He tested their faith with “words of spirit and life”: many of His disciples turned back and stopped following Him (John 6:63-66).
The enemies of Israel, named in verses 6 to 8, can be classified into four categories:
Those more closely connected to Israel by kinship: The descendants of Esau and Ishmael. The Edomites were the descendants of Esau, brother of Israel (Jacob), and were their most implacable enemies; their hatred was evident in all their encounters. They may typify those who, having known the Gospel, reject it and become inflexible enemies of believers. The Ishmaelites were descendants of the slave Hagar, symbol of the slavery of the law, and may represent the Jews who, rejecting Christ, turn against the Christians: in Israel today Christians suffer much hatred and persecution from the religious Jews, just as happened in the beginning.
The two branches of the descendants of Lot assisted by Arabs: Moab with the Hagrites and Ammon with Gebal and Amalek. Remembering the environment from which Lot was taken through the intercession of Abraham, we can see these descendants of his daughters, result of incest, as a symbol of the depraved and imoral who are enemies of the purity and holiness preached by the Gospel, and submit Christians to jeers and persecution because they do not take part in their activities.
Philistia and the inhabitants of Tyre had united in the hope of acquiring Israelite captives to sell them as slaves: sometimes they were disposed to collaborate with Israel when they saw an opportunity to profit for themselves, but because of their greed they didn’t hesitate to join their enemies. They weren’t moved by hatred, but were opportunists hoping to enrich themselves at the cost of Israel. They typify those who make themselves friends of the Gospel only seeking some material profit to be obtained from it, but will unite with its enemies if there is any advantage to be gained.
The Assyrians, rich and powerful, who sought to submit the world to their control. We can easily identify in them those who strive to extend and consolidate their dominion over the bodies and souls of the people, the Caesars, the dictators, the popes, unscrupulous in the use of any means to attain their objectives. They represent the worst manifestation of selfishness, the materialisation of enmity between the world and God.
We see iniquity, intellectual pride and worldly ambition, which are the characteristics of those who threaten the church of Christ, represented in these categories.
It is remarkable and comforting for us today to know that, although it suffered many invasions and exile for centuries, the nation of Israel survived and since the middle of the last century is partially back, sovereign in the land which was theirs at that time. All their enemies mentioned in the Psalm, on the other hand, have lost their identity as nations: Edom and the Ishmaelites, Moab and the Hagrites, Gebal, Ammon and Amalek, Philistia, Tyre and Assyria.
Recently, in June 1967, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Algeria, Sudan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Morocco in a powerful confederation attacked the new country of Israel with the purpose of “destroying Israel”. In six days the war ended: Israel vanquished them all and conquered a huge territory. History had repeated itself and, against all the human expectations, Israel had triumphed.
World history also tells us that the church was first persecuted by the Jews, who rejected Christ, then by the Romans, sometimes incited by the Jews. Paganism penetrated the church and led the majority to apostasy, which, in its turn, martyred the saints who remained faithful and submissive to the true God during centuries. But, with the grace of God, the faithful were enabled to get away from the apostates and to take the Gospel to the world.
The Gospel now has as its major enemies evolutionism and Islam.
The false theories of evolutionism are dedicated to destroy the report of Genesis, putting into doubt the authenticity itself of the Bible as a book inspired by God. The evolutionists get rid of scientists who protest against the many falsehoods in their growing area of influence, expelling them from their laboratories and universities, thus assuring the ignorance of the general public and the spreading of atheism.
Islam is enemy of Jews and Christians, for it refuses to admit the Bible as the inspired Word of God, and denies the divinity of Christ. The Moslems use military power to eliminate Christians in countries of Africa, and to silence them in other countries where they have influence. They are very powerful enemies, besides others who militate against the Gospel.
But let us see the conclusion of this Psalm: “Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek Your name, O LORD. Let them be confounded and dismayed forever; yes, let them be put to shame and perish, that they may know that You, whose name alone is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth” (vs. 16 to 18).
God acts in His own time. Just like the enemies of Israel three millennia ago were eliminated, so Israel and the church of Christ will be preserved for ever and their enemies will perish, being confounded and dismayed forever.