Take it All to God
John Telgren


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).