Contentment in Enemy Territory

Psalm #56

William Kiptoo grew up in Kenya, Africa and tells movingly of his families’ difficult life.  he writes:

        My family also experienced violence. As he was tending cattle in Marakwet, my grandfather was abducted by raiders and exiled in West Pokot. The raiders sold him to a family in Southern Turkana. In captivity, my grandfather grew up and became a nomadic pastoralist. My father tended cattle for a white settler who owned 5,000 acres. I grew up in Uasin Gishu County, one of the poorest squatter environments. We lacked clean running water, housing and toilet facilities. Even after my family returned to Marakwet years later, the conflict between the Pokot and Marakwet continued to simmer. I have lost countless family members at the hands of bandits.

Our psalmist would understand.  Twice in the first two verses he refers to being ‘trampled,’  and indication of just how severe his difficulties were.

The words picturing his oppression pile up:  trample, oppress, fight, plot, conspire, lurk.  Truly he is in an oppressive situation.

But our psalmist through his tears and dismay trusts that his faith in God is not misplaced.

You yourself have kept track of my misery.
    Put my tears into your bottle—
    aren’t they on your scroll already?

Two images show that God cares by keeping track of the sufferings of the psalmist: collecting tears and writing the       afflictions in a book.       


Trust  is the key word in the psalm.  Note the repition in vs.4 and 11:

I trust in God; I won’t be afraid.
    What can mere flesh do to me?


11 I trust in God; I won’t be afraid.
    What can anyone do to me?


In Romans, Paul who quotes the psalms extensively, draws on this sense of ‘God for us’ with his powerful litany of assurance in chapter 8:

31 So what are we going to say about these things?

First question:  If God is for us, who is against us?

Answer: (nobody)  32 He didn’t spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also freely give us all things with him?

Second question:  33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect people?

Answer:  (nobody) It is God who acquits them.

Third question:  34 Who is going to condemn them?

Answer:  (nobody) It is Christ Jesus who died, even more, who was raised, and who also is at God’s right side. It is Christ Jesus who also pleads our case for us.

Fourth question:  35 Who will separate us from Christ’s love?

Answer:  (nothing)  Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

We are being put to death all day long for your sake.
    We are treated like sheep for slaughter.[a]

37 But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us.

Conclusion:   38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

William Kiptoo’s experience led him into peace-building work for MCC in Kenya and Tanzania.  He writes:  My experiences call for patience, perseverance and more importantly, prayer. How do I begin to heal others when I am not healed? Humanizing the enemy requires God. I try to live up to the ideals that I preach – extending forgiveness to all those who may have caused harm to my family members in Marakwet. This is not easy. I find healing in the biblical stories of those who … have lived this journey, celebrating small gains, with the hope that the efforts I put today will one day yield something better.   [Story from MCC Peace Packet 2022]

PRAYER:  In a world of struggle and injustice, your love, O Lord, is our one true anchor.  Put our momentary troubles in Your perspective.  Give us today the peace that only You can give.  Amen. - Lord, Listen to your Children