|Posted on June 13, 2014 at 10:40 PM|
It has taken me some time, but I get it now. Join me on this trip:
What if I wronged you? Let’s say I gossiped about you on social media, or maybe I physically came after you. How would you react? You might want to retaliate, get even, show me up, and lay fists on me right? What if you couldn’t? You’d look to someone who could, right? In times of trial and trouble, we often throw our hands up and ask, and demand WHY from God.
Maybe you would say,” Harass these hecklers, GOD,
punch these bullies in the nose.
Grab a weapon, anything at hand;
stand up for me!
Get ready to throw the spear, aim the javelin,
at the people who are out to get me.
Reassure me; let me hear you say,
“I’ll save you.” (Psalm 35:1-3)
Commentaries call Psalm 35 an “imprecatory” cursing psalm from David. Imprecatory psalms are those psalms that contain curses or prayers for the punishment of the psalmist's enemies. To imprecate means to invoke evil upon, or curse. Psalms 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 109, 137 and 139 all contain prayers for God's judgment on the psalmist's enemies. Example imprecatory statements from the Psalms follow:
"Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the grave."Psalm 55:15
"O God, break the teeth in their mouths." Psalm 58:6
"May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous." Psalm 69:28
"May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow."Psalm 109:9
"How blessed will be the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks." Psalm 137:9 This one we will discuss in a moment or three, okay. Critics of the Bible and other violent religions love this verse.
In 1996, I prayed over breakfast at Shoney’s for God to smite my enemies. It angered my devout Christian friend. Let me say, we should not pray to kill our enemies because of two simple reasons: 1. David’s call for justice was not merely, ‘God kill them because I’m innocent, better than them, because I’m perfect in your eyes.’ No, see, because he was after God’s own heart, David wanted God’s perfection, his ideal to be known by all.
“But wait! My God is a loving God,” cried the secular view. Jesus preached love, man! All that judgment is OT. Different message altogether, but Christ spoke more on Hell and Judgment than Heaven; He referenced Sodom’s destruction not as an allusion, but a solid teaching point. God is love absolutely, but what people forget as they are wrapped in sin and living life where they get to Heaven if their good outweighs the bad is that God is the only righteous judge and as the Word says, “It is appointed for man to die once, then judgment,” (Hebrews 9:27). God is the judge. David, a man after God’s own heart, fell to sin and was a lustful murderer, knew the true holiness of God.
Second reason in The Bible, I forget where, it says that we should not gloat when our enemies fall, because it will come back on us ten times. Notice by the way, it says don’t gloat, because we will have enemies-especially if we are real Christians praising God and preaching the Gospel.
Psalm 137. Before looking at verse 9, let’s review the whole thing in context: Eugene Peterson calls this lament “The Babylonian Blues.” They mingle their memories and tears. This is an “imprecatory” psalm, demanding that God strike down the enemies of Israel, a cry for justice. It is one thing to ask God to resolve conflict with those who oppose us…it’s entirely another to pray for their destruction. This song expresses a benediction over those who implement God’s justice. The song does not express desire for Babylon’s doom but merely predicts it. The song states what will happen to the wicked. Those who gloated over the fall of Jerusalem will suffer; those who cursed Israel will be cursed. The psalmist points out that Babylon is “doomed to destruction”, verse 8. In the original Hebrew the past tense is used, to convey the certainty of the coming ruin. It is as good as done. Those who sow evil will reap evil. There will be a day of reckoning. C.S. Lewis observed that, “The ferocious parts of the Psalms serve as a reminder that there is in the world such a thing as wickedness and that is hateful to God.”
Right away someone looking for a fight will say, “Hey Christian, you say the Bible is all God inspired right? How can it say kill kids?”
God doesn’t sanction killing children…but He does grant us complete freedom to express our indignation. Prayer is a safe place to release intense emotions. God doesn’t expect us to “suffer in silence.” In prayer, God can take our hatred and heal it. God can handle our anger, and He wants us to be frank with Him. Psalm 137 is a blunt expression of honest emotions, with nothing held back. Our anger needs to be prayed, not suppressed. This psalm expresses accurately what the people were feeling, but there is no divine approval for their reaction. The context helps us understand that this is a prayer in response to oppression, expressing human emotions and not the intent of God.
God is not commanding such barbaric behavior but stating what the future will be for Babylon.. This was a fulfillment of Isaiah 13:15-16: Everyone who is found will be thrust through, and everyone who is captured will fall by the sword. Their children also will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be plundered and their wives ravished.
It is impossible to please God without faith. That faith lies at the cross, folks. Let’s strive to be more Christ like or even like David pre-sin by looking to the ideals of God’s holiness.
Let me close with a story I heard. A little boy once built his own toy sailboat. He built the sail and had it all fixed up, tarred and painted. He took it to the lake and pushed it in hoping it would sail. Sure enough a wisp of breeze filled the little sail and it billowed and went rippling along the waves. Suddenly before the little boy knew it, the boat was out of his reach, even though he waded in fast and tried to grab it. As he watched it float away, he hoped maybe the breeze would shift and it would come sailing back to him. Instead he watched it go farther and farther until it was gone. When he went home crying, his mother asked, "What’s wrong, didn’t it work?" And he said, "It worked too well." Some time later, the little boy was downtown and walked past a second hand store. There in the window he saw the boat. It was unmistakably his, so he went in and said to the proprietor, "That’s my boat." He walked to the window, picked it up and started to leave with it. The owner of the shop said, "Wait a minute, Sonny. That’s my boat. I bought it from someone." The boy said, "No, it’s my boat. I made it. See." And he showed him the little scratches and the marks where he hammered and filed. The man said, "I’m sorry, Sonny. If you want it, you have to buy it." The poor little guy didn’t have any money, but he worked hard and saved his pennies. Finally, one day he had enough money. He went in and bought the little boat. As he left the store holding the boat close to him, he was heard saying, "You’re my boat. You’re twice my boat. First you’re my boat ’cause I made you and second you’re my boat ’cause I bought you!" And so it is with God. We are are “twice God’s.” First God created us and then God redeemed us.