Take it All to
The so-called imprecatory psalms
invoke curses, judgments, and calamity upon the wicked. Song writers do
not use them to write new hymns. Preachers typically do not preach them.
Daily devotional guides usually bypass them.
Why do we practice a "passover" or perform what some call a "psalmectomy"
with these texts? Perhaps it is because we believe that these sentiments
are not godly. Maybe they are an embarrassment because we feel they make
us look like a fringe fanatic religious group. Maybe it is because we
believe reading these may encourage ungodly thoughts and behavior.
The first thing we need to keep in mind is that these Psalms are
scripture. These are not merely songs like those in our song books. As
part of the word of God, they have been handed down to us for our
edification and instruction. The Psalms, unlike other parts of scripture,
are not words written directly to us, but words written to God. They model
for us how to approach God. There are praises, prayers, requests, wisdom
instructions, and many "imprecations." (Ps 5, 6, 11, 12, 35, 37, 40, 52,
54, 56, 58, 69, 79, 83, 109, 137, 139, 143).
What do we do with these imprecatory psalms? Are these sentiments always
ungodly? The Lord taught us to pray, "Your kingdom come" (Mt 6:10).
Doesn't this mean the abolition and destruction of all other kingdoms,
especially the ones that are oppressive and openly hostile to God and his
godly ones? Scripture tells us that the kingdom of God will shatter and
put an end to the kingdoms of the world (Dan 2:44). Even though the kings
of the earth take their stand against the Lord and his anointed, he who
sits in the heavens laughs at them and subdues them (Ps 2). A very common
description of God is the "Lord of Hosts," which is a military term (Ps
24:1 46:7). God is a strong warrior who destroys his enemies and defends
the orphan and the widow (Ps 146:9). Jesus rides on a white horse, leading
the armies of Heaven against the adversary (Rev 19:11f). To make a blanket
statement that all forms of indignation are ungodly is a gross
oversimplification. There are times when it is extremely godly and
appropriate when it comes from a pure heart. The Bible says that God's
judgments are just (Rev 16:5; 19:2). He will not let wickedness ultimately
prevail. What kind of God would he be if he did?
We must note that the psalmist never exacts his own vengeance, but allows
the Lord to do so in his own way. Instead of acting out his fury, the
psalmist entrusts it to God. There is no better place to take them than to
God! Exposing his heart to God allows God to take the indignation, the
bitterness, and the fury and weigh it. Righteous indignation and the fury
of self-centered revenge are two very different things. One is godly, the
other is not. This is why the Psalmist entrusts his heart to God. Notice
how the Psalmist does so in this Psalm:
"If only you would slay the wicked, O God! Away from me, you bloodthirsty
men! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your
name. Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise
up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my
enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious
thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way
everlasting" (Ps 139:19-24 NIV).