Links Daily Devotional

Hard to Watch

Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him. (Proverbs 24:17-18, NIV)

I had no strong rooting interest when I turned on the PGA Championship on Sunday afternoon. None of my usual favorites were contending.

But I am a sports fan, and eventually my eye lands on one side or another, and I start cheering them to victory. On Sunday, for whatever inexplicable reason, my gaze settled on Keegan Bradley. Maybe I figured he stood the best chance of making an exciting finish out of the tournament, especially with Jason Dufner looking so unflappable.

Turns out Bradley won, of course. But in the getting there, he made that nearly fatal triple bogey at the fifteenth. At that point, my tensions changed. I didn’t give up on Bradley; the nature of the closing holes didn’t allow it. But I sure didn’t want to see Dufner melt down. I hope you’re with me here—that you would not root for something to happen to another that you never want to have happen to yourself, or to one of your favorites.

So when Dufner’s ball found the water at fifteen as well, I gulped. “Oh no!” As it was, Dufner did no worse in the closing stretch than scores of others had done before him. Did he choke? I don’t think so. He saved bogey at fifteen. His three-putt at seventeen was bad, but when he did it again in the playoff, we saw that this was an error caused by the severity of the green as much as by the man. And he played eighteen—the biggest brute of all—in par-birdie under the most pressurized conditions of the day.

Where’s the devotion in all this, the attention to Scripture? In a nutshell, as wonderful as it was to see Bradley smile and fist-pump his way to victory, I hope that the lost opportunity for Jason Dufner was hard for you to watch.

We are reminded in Proverbs that an enemy’s (or an opponent’s) fall is no reason for rejoicing. We know that David rebuked and punished those who came with “good news” of Saul’s death. We remember that Jesus stepped between the adulterous woman and those who would have stoned her—though she had disregarded the demands of God for her sexual life.

The Bible calls us to be people of mercy. Doesn’t this make sense? To us, mercy has been given in apparent disregard for our own sinful heart. A blanket of grace covering our rebellion.

God’s judgment does come into the lives of all people. His wrath provides discipline and ignites holy fear. But worse, wrote the wise writer of Proverbs, is the heart of the man who pretends to be God the Judge, dispensing dread and condemnation rather than the merciful heart of God. This man will not see his enemy’s demise, but rather the softening of God’s heart toward that enemy.

Of course, if we are truly in Christ, this is the very thing we should desire. We should earnestly want to see God’s soft heart give to all people—friends and enemies alike—just what it has given to us: a redeemed and abundant life.

Jeff Hopper

August 16, 2011

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