Fighting My Enemies
I have been listening to the bible during my drive home from work, starting from Genesis. I remember discussing the bible with a Friend from my meeting and he told me he really didn't get anything out of it, especially not the Hebrew bible (i.e. the "Old Testament"). His characterization of it was based on the many battles and accounts of whole towns and villages being destroyed. I have to admit that I find those passages very difficult as well, even though I don't think of them as God telling us we should do the same.
The Bhagavad Gita takes place in the middle of a battlefield where the opposing armies (I think they were all from the same family) are about to do battle. There are some interpreters (including Gandhi) who take the whole war as an allegory - that it is about the battle that takes place in the soul. I had that same feeling of an allegory when listening to a passage from 2 Samuel 22.
The passage is a song of David praising God for giving him victory over his enemies. There was a section that reminded me very much of some of the experiences of strengthening I read in the journals of early Friends:
God is my strong fortress,
and he makes my way perfect.
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
enabling me to stand on mountain heights.
He trains my hands for battle;
he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.
You have given me your shield of victory;
your help has made me great.
You have made a wide path for my feet
to keep them from slipping. (2 Samuel 22:33-37 NLTse)
This passage struck me as one of giving me inward strength, and I felt that spring of joy and hope that I feel whenever I read George Fox's account of recovering from a beating where he says "the power of the Lord sprang through me, and the eternal refreshings revived me; so that I stood up again in the strengthening power of the eternal God and stretching out my arms amongst them, I said, with a loud voice, 'Strike again; here are my arms, my head, and my cheeks.'"
With that echoing in my mind, the passage continued into David's thanks for being able to defeat his enemies. Normally, this would have been one of those difficult passages that I would be glad to get through, but today, it spoke to me in the context of those things I do wrong, especially those that I know I shouldn't do - those being the enemies:
I chased my enemies and destroyed them;
I did not stop until they were conquered.
I consumed them;
I struck them down so they did not get up;
they fell beneath my feet.
You have armed me with strength for the battle;
you have subdued my enemies under my feet.
You placed my foot on their necks.
I have destroyed all who hated me.
They looked for help, but no one came to their rescue.
They even cried to the LORD, but he refused to answer.
I ground them as fine as the dust of the earth;
I trampled them in the gutter like dirt. (2 Samuel 22:38-43 NLTse)
I was surprise to find this such an inspiring passage, because today it spoke to me of the hope of the transforming power of the Holy Spirit - ever so gradually working on my soul, changing the way I live. Those aspects of myself that are jealous, conceited, angry, uncaring, lazy - those things can be trampled in the gutter like dirt.