“Oppose my opponents, Lord; fight those who fight me. Take your shields–large and small–and come to my aid. Draw the spear and the javelin against my pursuers, and assure me: ‘I am your deliverance.'”
– Psalm 35:1-3
That David. He sure could write a poem – raw, intense, and gritty. From the verses that I share above, David goes on to further invoke God’s protection, judgment, and wrath against those who oppose him. Take a moment to read Psalm thirty-five. You’ll be glad you did. If you are familiar with scripture, the verses may evoke the painful difficulties of David’s life: from the wrath of King Saul to serving as a double agent with the Philistines, from the contempt of his wife Michal to the betrayal of his son Absalom. David needed a God who would be his shield.
I like the notion of God fighting for me, weighing into the fray and using a big shield to guard me while getting some powerful licks in against the “enemy.” The most poignant part of the psalm comes in verse twelve when it becomes clear that David wasn’t writing about adversaries on the battlefield. He was coping with everyday enemies, people for whom he had prayed, fasted, and cared deeply through times of hardship, sickness, or trouble. David’s compassion was rewarded with mockery, betrayal, and ridicule. He must have felt terribly alone.
We may not face the same difficulties that David did, but his words stir within us memories of old hurts and betrayals: the colleague who took credit for our hard work, the sibling who drove a wedge in our family harmony, the spouse who walked out the door, the friend who broke our trust and spilled our secrets in harmful, hurtful ways. Those difficulties may not be personal; they may be systemic. The playing field isn’t level for people of color. Women still struggle for equal pay and professional opportunity. Grey hair and crow’s feet may render us invisible in a culture that prizes youth. Of course, “enemies” can be figurative: the silent spread of cancer, the slow creep of age, the pain of past abuse. What or who are the “enemies” that press in upon you today?
I am grateful to know that God–who chose to walk among us in Jesus–is with me in all those difficult circumstances. The Lord is with you in all that makes you say, “Woe!” I like to imagine that on the days when I, like David, feel terribly alone, God’s mighty shield surrounds me. Active in battle and always victorious, the Lord parries, thrusts, and repels. The Lord, mighty in battle, is more than a match for all those “enemies” that preoccupy our thoughts and fill us with woe.
I suspect that Psalm 35 inspired Patrick of Ireland in the fifth century to write the prayer that has become known as the lorica or “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.” The word lorica is Latin. It alludes to the body armor worn by Roman soldiers to protect them in battle. Patrick knew enemies. He dedicated his life to sharing the gospel with the very people who had enslaved him for six years. The prayer, like a magic spell woven around the body, invokes God’s powerful protection. It has long been used as a “Prayer Upon Arising,” a morning prayer to invoke the help of God for the day to come. As you go forth into your day, may you remember the words of Psalm 35–and Patrick of Ireland. The Lord is fighting for you.
Blest be the tie!
“St. Patrick’s Breastplate”
I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;*
I bind unto myself today.
I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet ‘well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the Prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.
I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.
I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.
Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.
Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.