I pose a very pragmatic question today, one I have asked myself many times over the years as I have attempted to live a godly life in a godless time: How should a growing, maturing believer in Jesus respond to vile, vicious verbal attacks? From Christ’s teaching in the New Testament, we, at first blush, know the answer:
44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, (Matt. 5).
When they curse us for believing that Jesus is the only way to God, that we oppose the vacuous view that tolerance means we accept any and all positions no matter what, we are to bless them with positive, uplifting words. When they do us dirty at work because we represent God’s thinking and ways, we are to do good to them when given the chance. And when they are downright spiteful because they are mean-spirited, we are to turn and pray for them.
Is this, however, the end of God’s instruction to us? I do not think so for even in the life of Christ a noted tension existed between this above-board, holy behavior and tackling outright mean-spirited people head-on. Consider His seven jaw-dropping, highly pointed and prickly seven divine woes leveled against the religious men who constantly dogged and badgered Him during His entire earthly ministry. From the first woe in Matthew 23:13 to the last in Matthew 23:29, Jesus gave these Satanically inspired and sinfully driven “spiritual” leaders no quarter whatsoever.
This tension in dealing with highly problematic, pernicious, and pugnacious people is not just reflected in Christ’s life, but it is seen in other saints’ lives. Jeremiah, who is classified as God’s weeping prophet for he wept over the sins of the nation bound for captivity, pauses in Jeremiah 11, verses 18-23 to pour out his heart to God when God informed him that the people plotted his demise because he spoke God’s truth, which they did not want to hear:
18 Now the LORD gave me knowledge of it, and I know it; for You showed me their doings. 19 But I was like a docile lamb brought to the slaughter; and I did not know
that they had devised schemes against me, saying, "Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be remembered no more." 20 But, O LORD of hosts, You who judge righteously, Testing the mind and the heart, Let me see Your vengeance on them, For to You I have revealed my cause. 21 "Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the men of Anathoth who seek your life, saying, ‘Do not prophesy in the name of the LORD, lest you die by our hand'-- 22 "therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Behold, I will punish them. The young men shall die by the sword, their sons and their daughters shall die by famine; 23 `and there shall be no remnant of them, for I will bring catastrophe on the men of Anathoth, even the year of their punishment' (Jer. 11).
Later, when the people opposed him again, and the political leaders were instrumental in getting King’s Zedekiah’s blessing in tossing the prophet into a dark, dank dungeon (for speaking the truth of God to a truth-hating people), Zedekiah came to him privately. During this frank, tense encounter, Jeremiah lovingly spoke words of truth to the mis-guided, weak-kneed politician (Jer. 38:20-23). Do you see the tension? How can you not? At one point, the prophet prayed for God to take vengeance on those who plotted his untimely death, while in another problematic persecutory scene the beleaguered prophet comforted the king with the prophetic word that, while the city would be lost, he would not die (Jer. 38:23). And he said this to the man who had been instrumental in getting him thrown in a deep, dismal, muddy cistern for speaking up and out for God.
These observations, of course, naturally lead to a pivotal life question for saints of God, saints who live in a godless time where the godless oppose them in an ever-increasing fashion.
How Should You Respond To Verbal Volleys Designed To Vaporize Your Voice (Psalm 7:1-17)?
The answer to this important question is tucked away in the teaching of Psalm 7. Here we encounter a personal lament where David pours his heart out to God as a vile, vicious man named Cush, a Benjamite, opposed him. This historical information is embedded in the English superscription, which is verse one in the Hebrew Bible. Exactly who Cush was we do not know. The fact he was a Benjamite easily aligns his political and ideological loyalties with King Saul, another Benjamite. Having said this, we are probably safe to surmise Cush’s biting, pejorative, and relentless attacks on God’s chosen king, David, occurred during the tumultuous period when King Saul hunted David in order to permanently silence him and keep him from the throne of Israel (1 Sam. 22:8; 24:9; 26:19).
To study David’s dealings with sinister Saul and his military henchmen is to see the tension mentioned above in action. On the one hand, David kindly spared the life of the carnal king when he could have rightly taken it in the cave incident (1 Sam. 24); however, in personal laments like Psalm 7, we see how David also prayed for God to deal with forthrightly with those ruthless men like Cush, a man probably closely associated with King Saul. Can you relate? On the one hand, you pray for God to convict and redeem those who falsely accuse and malign you for your faith, and, then, at other times, when the godless continue to turn up the heat on your life, you feel moved to pray for God, not you, to silence them with His providential power. Concerning the place and purpose of personal laments, like Psalm 7, Dr. Walt Kaiser, a renowned Old Testament/Hebrew scholar notes,
God has placed personal and national laments in Scripture it would appear, as a corrective against euphoric, celebratory notions of faith, which romantically portray life as consisting only of sweetness and light. Such a one-sided, happiness- only view fails to deal with the realities of life. It drives the hurtful and painful side of life into the corners of faith and practice, leaving few guides or comforts from mortals or the Word of God. [And here is the key] On the contrary, God has given us in the laments of Scripture a solace where the full spectrum of our earthly journey can be represented.1
Yes, that is exactly what psalms like this do. They show us how to respond when the spectrum of life leans toward a Cush-type person who simply has it out for us. Yes, we are to work hard at abiding by our Lord’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount; however, this does not mean we cannot, and should not, pray for God to do what He must in order to silence the Cush-types and bring true, lasting justice to the situation.
Just how should we respond, therefore, to the verbal volleys of Cush? Five timeless principles emerge from an exegetical analysis of this particular psalm.
Appeal To God (Psalm 7:1-2)
Do not run to an attorney. Do not run to a number of friends whom you know will defend you. Do not run around to people Cush has talked to in order to set them straight with the facts. Do, on the contrary, run to God who knows all about the sad, sordid situation and stands ready, as the Good Shepherd, to listen and do what is necessary to protect His precious sheep, you. Here is David’s life advice learned on the anvil of adversity:
1 Meditation of David, which he sang to the LORD concerning the words of Cush, a Benjamite (Ps. 7).
Some translations, like the NAS and NIV calls this a “Shiggaion of David.” What is this? It is a highly passionate song with a rapid, ever-changing rhythm designed to reflect the emotion of the moment. Chopin’s Funeral March is designed like this. At first it plods along with a sad, dismal melody, and, then, all of a sudden it breaks into one of the most beautiful and uplifting note structures. Such is the song of life when you are dealing with mean-spirited, anti-god, anti-truth, anti-law and order people. There is the downcast time when the melody matches their opposition, and then there is the melodic turn when joyous insight is given regarding what God can and do to eventually bring truth and justice to the unfortunate affair.
Note carefully how David responded to Cush. He sang to the LORD. How odd. When most of us would take Cush head-on, David devised a song about the situation to worship the God who could, and would, help him. I know many of you are not song writers, nor am I; yet, this does not mean God cannot give you a song in your heart to sing as you deal with the Devil, as it were. Martin Luther’s A Mighty Fortress Is Our God is a go-to hymn for many hurting saints:
And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure
One little word shall fell him.
What is your spiritual song? You probably need one if you are dealing with Cush, for these types of songs are like a medicinal balm for the wounded, weary soul.
David’s psalm, composed in the furnace of personal affliction, is intently focused on two powerful names of God:
O LORD my God, in You I put my trust;
The opening two names for God, “LORD” and “my God,” are emphatic at the head of the sentence. “LORD,” comes from Yahweh ((ְיהָ֣וה the great covenantal God of Israel, while “God” is from Elohim, the first name used of God in the Old Testament (Gen. 1:1). Combined these names ,) ֱא� ִהים( denote, to David, the living God who is equipped to use His unlimited creative power to prove His faithfulness to his embattled servant. Since He is a God of His Word and possesses the power to create the cosmos ex nihilo, He will certainly be there for His people with ample power to deliver them from Cush-types. This is why David puts his trust in God, why He sees God as his refuge in this particular life storm. All through the Psalms, the psalmist will challenge you, too, to run to God as your refuge for as your heavenly Father, He is there to protect and provide (Psalm 16:1; 25:20; 31:20; 34:9, 23; 37:40; 57:2; 64:11; 71:1; 118:8, 9; 141:8; 144:2). If you are dealing with Cush, you might need to read this paragraph meditatively one more time, slowly. God is there for you, but you must be there for Him to be moved to assist. Really, are you running to God in your current situation, or are you selfishly and foolishly thinking you can handle it yourself? He, who is loyal to you and ready to unleash His protective power, awaits your entrance in prayer.
What do you say to God when you step into His throne room? Follow David’s lead: Save me from all those who persecute me; and deliver me, 2 Lest they tear me like a lion, rending me in pieces, while there is none to deliver.
Cush-types always behave like hungry, ravenous, and destructive lions. I have encountered them many times as a pastor of people, and I, like you, cannot forget their names and what they do. They will spread fake news to destroy your good name, to cast you in a negative light, and to cause people to turn against you. They will waste no opportunity to make you look bad, illogical, or militant, when you are not. The metaphor here is so true. Like a lion they will hunt you to silence you because your faith in God bothers and unsettles them, really, it threatens them. If you do not think these Cush-like lions are alive and well, then, perhaps you need to get out in the world more. Even the founder of Twitter, Evan Williams said in a podcast in 2017 that “the internet is broken” because people use it to negatively go after people in the most mean-spirited way.2 Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Words That Hurt, Words That Heal, writes about how we are basically addicted to negative words when referencing others. It is so bad, I highly doubt our politicians of either party could go a day without speaking or tweeting vile, vicious things toward and about each other. Tearing folks apart, especially Christians who stand for absolute spiritual truth, who actually believe the Bible is God’s Word and that laws matter, is a national sport and is recorded in David’s Limbaugh’s eye-opening book Persecution.
If a lion is coming after you what should you do? Run to God, first, and ask Him to save and deliver you. Interestingly, the word “deliver” is from a Hebrew word (nazal, נצל ) which means to extricate someone from a difficult situation.3 This word makes me think of the jaws of life firemen use to extricate a helpless, hurt person from a mangled car. Is this not what you need when a Cush-type lion of a person mangles your life with slander, false accusations, and twisted innuendos. You need a divine extrication. So, go to Him, first.
What should you do next? Good question. Let us follow David’s lead:
Address Your Actions (Psalm 7:3-5)
What do I mean by this? I mean, look at your heart in the current complex verbal battle and ask yourself some pointed, honest questions? Am I guilty? Have I done anything I should not have done? Have I acted in a non-Christian fashion? Have said things I should not have said? Have I reacted in a way unfitting for a saint of Jesus Christ? I offer this advice because this is exactly what we learn from David as he dealt with Cush:
3 O LORD my God, if I have done this: If there is iniquity in my hands, 4 If I have repaid evil to him who was at peace with me, or have plundered my enemy without cause, 5 Let the enemy pursue me and overtake me; Yes, let him trample my life to the earth, And lay my honor in the dust. Selah (Ps. 7).
Note first how David addresses God. He employs the same terms he did before to underscore that he knows God that the faithful, powerful creator God sees all facets of his life. He knows that God knows all of his external actions and internal motivations and is best suited to make a correct appraisal of how his servant has behaved when hunted by Cush.
This is how a spiritually maturing saint functions in tough, trying times. Their first-blush response when attacked by a Cush-type is not to cry foul and then go after the person in question. No. The response of a growing believer is to first stop and take stock of their life. This, of course, involves getting humble and real with God by asking some of those questions I opened this section with. Instead of critically looking at Cush, look critically at your life, first.
From these three verses you can get a sense of what Cush accused David of: “He is a hypocrite for there is inequity on his hands (what inequity, Cush?). David, did me dirty when I was just innocently minding my own business (what exactly did he do, Cush?). He stole from me when he should not have (what did he steal, Cush?). Yeah, that David, he might claim to be God’s chosen godly king, but he sure does not act like it.” Interesting, as a sidelight, how the perpetrator loves to act like the victim in order to earn the sympathy of people, and to keep people from uncovering his truly mean-spirited, vicious behavior. That godless spirit is, unfortunately, alive and well in America.
Were these charges true? David searched his heart, analyzed various life situations where contact with Cush was concerned, and he concluded, “Lord, I am not guilty of any of these claims.” Had he been guilty, David directed, truly invited God, to discipline him as needed for such sinful activity. Yet, David did not think that divine discipline would be warranted for his life was innocent where Cush was concerned. He had never done any of the things this enemy said he did.
As have said it before, but I bear repeating. As a young Bible-believing/teaching pastor in progressive (really read, digressive) California, I had my share of Cush-types during my nineteen- year pastorate. Like Cush with David, they leveled all sorts of charges against me to either gain power (in the church), to cause people to side with them, and/or to sideline or silence me. I quit keeping track of alt the names the Cush-types called me when I hit nineteen. I, also, eventually learned not to be shocked at the opposition a godly person faces when they attempt to live a godly life, speak up and out for God, grow a godly family, build a godly marriage, and forge a godly/biblical church.
With each attack, I learned the value of looking at myself, first. Was I guilty of any of the things the person in question said? If so, then I needed to make confession and move in another direction altogether. If not, I needed to stand my ground and rest on my innocence. God, who is the Judge who will always do right, will ultimately vindicate those who are innocent; however, long before this occurs, His people must learn to do a little soul-searching when Cush attacks. Criticism can be founded or unfounded, true or false, and a wise saint will know this and do some soul-searching to see if any life modifications need to be made, or not.
What about you? If you are facing the harsh claims of Cush, how are you responding? If you have not asked the Spirit of God to search your heart and see if you might be in sin in this given situation, then today is day for you to ask God to do this for you. Believe me, this is one of those prayers He will answer straightaway, so be prepared to face facts He brings to your mind.
Once a Cush-type, we will call him Dave, came to me as a young pastor and said after a Sunday School lesson I taught, “Pastor, can I talk to you in your office?” “Sure,” I replied. He minced no words, “Say, did you realize that your quick humorous response to the response of Steve [not his real name] completely decimated him in front of the class?” “It did?” I responded. I added, “Steve is always making humorous digs at me in class, so I thought it would be fitting to return the favor.” “It did not go over well,” the Cush-type responded. What did I do? I found Steve, a very powerful and outspoken businessman, and asked him if I had embarrassed him in front of the class. He replied, “Yes.” I, then, asked for his forgiveness and promised to never do that again.
Trust me, Dave hammered me for several years like Cush hammered David with untruths designed to attack me; however, God taught me the value, as He taught David, the importance of taking the Cush-criticism to Him and asking Him to show you whether it is true or false If true, then make amends through confession. If false, rest in your innocence.
What else should you do when a slanderous person seeks to continually tear you apart when you are innocent? What should you do when they relentlessly seek to unseat, upset, and undo you? Granted, we are to pray for their soul, we are to pray for God to convict them of their sin, we are to show them love and compassion, and so forth. But, as we all know, there are times when the perpetual attacks of Cush are so destructive, demeaning, and debilitating you emotionally do what David did:
Ask For Justice (Psalm 7:6-10)
The command here is from the lesser, David, to the greater, God. This, by default, makes it a heart- felt suggestion.
6 Arise, O LORD, in Your anger; lift Yourself up because of the rage of my enemies; Rise up for me to the judgment You have commanded! 7 So the congregation of the peoples shall surround You; for their sakes, therefore, return on high.
Why is God angry? Because an innocent man, David, is being unjustly accused. This is something which bothers God to His holy core. He cannot stand when godless people attack godly people, seeking to undermine their lives. The picture in verses 6 and 7 are of David asking God, the Judge, to arise from His throne, gather witnesses here in earth, and openly vindicate his truly righteous, holy servant.
Applied to us during this Age of Grace, we are summoned to ask God to bring justice either in the here and now or in the hereafter. We see martyered saints doing this throughout the tribulation in Revelation 6, verses 10 through 11.
10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" 11 Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed (Rev. 6).
These saints merely mirror the righteous request of King Davin in Psalm 7, verses 8 through 10:
8 The LORD shall judge the peoples; judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to my integrity within me. 9 Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, but establish the just; for the righteous God tests the hearts and minds. 10 My defense is of God, who saves the upright in heart (Ps. 7).
In verse 8, David reminds God that there is coming a future day in which He will be the righteous judge, when He will bring justice where there is injustice, and when He will vindicate those who have been unjustly accused and abused. Many Scriptures support this premise:
28 The destruction of transgressors and of sinners shall be together, And those who forsake the LORD shall be consumed (Isa. 1:28).
12 The wicked plots against the just, And gnashes at him with his teeth. 13 The Lord laughs at him, For He sees that his day is coming (Ps. 37).
30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17).
It is not wrong to ask God to bring a taste of justice in your battle with Cush; however, strength and hope comes to your life when you focus not on the here and now, but on the hereafter. Justice will be the order of the day when the Messiah appears. Keep your eyes focused on this, and in the meantime, do not be afraid to ask the God of all justice to move in your life in a profound fashion to bring some much needed justice in your lifetime.
Many years ago, a Cush-inspired man opposed my preaching because he said it bothered his wife. I am sure it did because it touched upon sins she was not willing to deal with. Anyway, he, like Cush, made my life miserable and, at times, unbearable. I sought vindication from God for several years, but it did not come as this powerful man unleashed his fury against me. Then, one day I received a phone call from his secretary. I’ll never forget her words, and I did not even know her, “Pastor, I am calling to let you that my boss has had me transcribe all your sermons for the last year. In doing this, I have listened to and learned from them. I am just calling you today to say, thank-you. Thank you for preaching the Word so God could use it in my life.” God does not always allow us to see our vindication when we been righteous and innocent, but there are those moments when He does move. We, of course, are left with our jaws on the floor as we see that He has done what we could never do. May He be praised for those times He answers our prayers for vindication.
Moving from ourselves to the Cush-types is the next thing God requires to teach us. What are we called to do in relation to them? What did David do? Verses 11 through 16 teach us:
Alert The Self-Deceived (Psalm 7:11-16)
We are called to warn the godless that one day they will have to give account to the living God for their activity. Many Cush-types in our day have completely forgotten this timeless, divine truth.
11 God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.
God is THE just judge. He cannot be swayed by political pressure. He cannot be bought by a financial payment under the table. He does not care who you are, or what you have accomplished, what your position is, how many people are under your command, or how many letters are after your name. He only cares about the facts of your internal and external life, and He is keeping score. Speaking by way of divine inspiration, Hannah puts this all in perspective:
2 No one is holy like the LORD, for there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God. 3 Talk no more so very proudly; let no arrogance come from your mouth, for the LORD is the God of knowledge; and by Him actions are weighed (1 Sam. 2).
These words dovetail with those of the prophet Jeremiah:
19 You are great in counsel and mighty in work, for Your eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, to give everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings (Jer. 32).
God is just when He judges because He, as I have said, has all the facts on each of us (Hos. 4:3). If your life is covered by the blood of Christ, His judgment is nothing to be fear. But if you have rejected Him, His judgment will be based on all the evidence your life will openly provide for His final verdict. And He has to come in judgment to satisfy His ongoing holy anger against the sin of the sinner, especially if you are Cush-type. Be not deceived. Your verbal volleys may get people out of your way you do not like in this life, but God is not happy with your godless activity and His holiness will move Him to take action.
Judgment will come to those who spurn God. This is David’s point in the ensuing verses, and they are meant to wake up those who are spiritually asleep:
12 If he does not turn back, He will sharpen His sword; He bends His bow and makes it ready. 13 He also prepares for Himself instruments of death; He makes His arrows into fiery shafts. 14 Behold, the wicked brings forth iniquity; Yes, he conceives trouble and brings forth falsehood. 15 He made a pit and dug it out, and has fallen into the ditch which he made. 16 His trouble shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down on his own crown (Ps. 7).
That judgment will come, as I have said, in the hereafter; but, in the here and now the Cush-types, who are typically drunk on their vile ways, should take note how God has structured the moral and spiritual cosmos. Basically, God says in verses 12 through 14 that if you chose to not repent of your wicked ways, the pit you have dug for the innocent will become your pit, the trouble you have devised for the unsuspecting will be your trouble, and the violence (physical or verbal) you intended for the guiltless will become your violence. Ironic, is it not?
Remember the story of Esther? The wicked politician, Haman, did everything in his power to create a sadistic situation where the Jews, starting with Mordecai, would be eliminated from his Gentilic country. Why was he so upset? Because he was jealous of how the king elevated this Jew in the political arena and not him. He was drunk with power and wanted more of it, but the king gave it to a Jews. So, what did he do. In Cush-like fashion he set up a situation where Mordecai would be hung. Interestingly enough, the gallows he had built for godly Mordecai eventually became his gallows when Esther exposed his godless plan to King Ahasuerus (Esther 7).
God is not mocked by Cush. Never has been, Never will be. When you willfully chose to act like Cush, be warned: what goes around comes around, or to put it differently, what you sow you shall reap. As Paul forcefully states in his letter to the Galatians:
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life (Gal. 6).
Let me be frank with you, Cush. The way you are headed is not the way to real life and good, joyful, and meaningful living. No, the way you are going is going to end badly when it does not have to. If you are a wise man you will hear David’s divinely inspired warning about what lies ahead for you, and you will turn to God in repentant, saving, and cleansing faith. Are you ready to step, in faith, to the Lord of life (Rom. 10:9)? It will prove to be the most freeing thing you have ever done.
For saints, I have a separate challenge. As you deal with Cush, will you love him enough to warn him of the divine consequences of his/her actions, so they might have the chance to be saved?
In addition to paying attention to these four steps in dealing with a vicious verbal person bent on your destruction, there is one final thing God desires from us. You will encounter it in the final verse:
Ascribe Praise To God (Psalm 7:17)
Even though David have been through it with Cush, underscore and then emulate his humble, positive spirit:
17 I will praise the LORD according to His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High (Ps. 7).
What a vow. In the midst of a personal life storm, David, who implicitly trusted God’s leadership and provision, told God that despite the sad circumstances he would do what any godly believer should do: Praise God and sing the praise of the LORD who is the Most High God. Wow. What a saint.
Go and do likewise and God’s face will smile on you and Cush’s malicious impact on your life will recede into the shadows.