Most Gracious and Holy, Loving God, I come before You today to ask just this one thing, and I hope that You will not deny me. For I have lived a righteous life, loving others and doing good works, and it would be most glorious to see You favor me in this way. Lord, I ask, please, that You simply smite my enemies. Smite them good. Make them wallow in the dirt and die a terrible and painful death for being absolute jerks and totally against me...I mean, uhm, against You, Lord. Smite them. In Jesus' name, I pray (so that You have to do it).
It's tempting, right? Especially for those of us who are trying hard to live a good and faithful life, who maintain our integrity, who love and serve and have to watch the wicked thrive among us. We have to watch as those who do ill harvest good, don't seem to have the troubles that we have, seem to actually create troubles for us. We do our best, and it's not good enough, and they do no good and it's all sunshine and roses. It's tempting for us to want nothing more than for God to smite our enemies.
We're not the only ones. When God's people came under attack from Sennacherib, that was their plan, too - God should just smite him. Smite him good. Hurl holy arrows down on this guy who is trying to attack the sacred and holy land of God and end this thing, once and for all.
But that's not generally the way that God works. In fact, if you look in the Scriptures, the only ones God tends to smite right on the spot...are His own people. His enemies, He takes a different approach with.
In this case, God does not smite Sennacherib. Rather, what He does is bring news from far away and cause the man to change his plans and go home. Instead of continuing the siege against God's people, Sennacherib walks away from the ramps he's been building against the walls, he stops his shouting, he stops his threats, he rolls up his battle plans, and he goes home.
At home, his own people kill him in his own temple worshiping his own god, who is unable to save him even at his most holy place.
This is such a critical, but important balance. God can't - He can't - make His people untouchable in the world. He can't just come to their rescue and smite everyone who comes against them all the time. That's not how life works, and most importantly, it would eliminate the opportunities for His people to show what faith looks like. What He looks like. If God just smites everyone who is not for Him, no one new ever comes to be for Him because there is no witness; nobody can get close enough. And what we have is a powerful God, but not much need for faith. We don't have to demonstrate a way to live in this world because we don't live in this world - we live in a bubble that God's not allowed to let anyone burst.
But at the same time, He does protect us. He does find ways to turn our enemies away, to send them back to where they came from. He manages to put them in the place where they feel most safe and then expose their weaknesses, which destroy them from within. He didn't do it to them; they did it to themselves because they did not have what we have - a living, active, meaningful faith in a real, powerful, loving God. In a weird way, their downfall, though not a smiting, is still a testimony to our God. It's still a witness.
We want so much for God to just show Himself, to just be powerful and put everyone in this world in their place. And He does, but not in the way that we think. He doesn't show Himself in might and power; He shows Himself in witness - through you and me and, yes, even our enemies. Through using His strength to expose what is weak, His wisdom to expose what is foolish, His righteousness to expose what is wrong.