PASTOR’S CORNER, David Harris, Fellowship Baptist Church, Liberal

The imprecatory Psalms do not deal with hardship in general, but a particular kind of evil. These Psalms address personal evil intentionally worked by others. Evils like betrayal, false accusation, persecution, personal animosity.

Many Christians are nervous about the imprecatory Psalms and wonder if we should use them at all. Isn’t this a failure to love our enemies? Before we move on, I want to remind you that the command to love our neighbor (including enemies) is the second part of the Great Commandment that begins with loving God with all our hearts, souls and minds (Matthew 22:36-40, ESV). Our love for neighbors and enemies is not Christian if it outranks our love for God and his rightful role as King and Judge of everything. If loving enemies means erasing part of God’s character or justice, then we are not really loving them as Christ has commanded, for he told us to love God first.

In particular, I contend our allergic reaction to biblical imprecatory language is due to our having forgotten two biblical truths. (1) Forgiveness is two-sided (Luke 17:3). And because it is two-sided (it must be offered and accepted with repentance) full forgiveness is not always possible. (2) God’s right to judge is not an imperfection in his character (Isaiah 33:22). His judgement is a good thing, not a flaw in the makeup of our world.

So should we be ashamed of these Psalms? In his Reflections on the Psalms, CS Lewis thought the contrary, imprecatory Psalms are something Christians should treasure: “If the Jews cursed more bitterly than the pagans this was, I think, at least in part because they took right and wrong more seriously.”

Psalm 7 is one example of God’s people taking right and wrong seriously. And it is a wonderful guide for us. 

First, to pray when you’ve been wronged, look beyond the perpetrator.

The first four words of Psalm 7 reorient the writer’s mind toward the fundamental truth: “O Lord, my God…” (ESV)

These opening lines not only reveal the Psalmist’s heart: they invite the readers to reorient their own minds. Look beyond the perpetrator to the God to whom the perpetrator must answer.

To do this you must have God to which to look. Here we stumble on one of the many empty promises of the secular worldview. You may be tempted by the idea that life would be much easier without a judgmental God that tells you what to do. But a non-existent God who has no enforceable expectations of you has no enforceable expectations of those who harm you.

Eventually you will run into the hard edges of life. If you renounce the God who has moral authority over you, you have also renounced the God who has moral authority over the perpetrators who will make life hard. This is why the abandonment of the imprecatory Psalms by modern Christianity is the greatest crime to the vulnerable and abused in our society.

Second, to pray when you’ve been wronged, evaluate your innocence.

In verses 3-5 David prays for his enemies to be successful if he is guilty. He is telling God “If I have done what they are accusing me of, more power to them.”

In verses 6-9 he begs God to act as judge and vindicate everyone involved, both the evil and the good. Just how far-reaching is David’s confidence? Well, have you ever prayed asked God to give you exactly what you deserve? That is what the Psalmist is doing here. God is not only their Judge - he is also David’s Judge, and ours.

Third, to pray when you’ve been wronged, plead God’s intervention.

In verses 10-13 God is pictured both as the defender of the righteous and as one ready to punish evil. Metaphorically he is sharpening his sword so it will cut. He takes his bow and strings it.

When you’ve been wronged, and there is no possibility of reconciliation, God does not want you to move on and pretend it’s not a big deal. Plead.

Fourth, to pray when you’ve been wronged, commit to worship. Look at verse 17. “I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.” (Psalm 7:17, ESV)

Psalm 7 and its companion prayers are nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, the imprecators are a source of comfort for the Christian. In Christ, God has come to this fallen world, and has suffered unjustly at the hands of sinners more than any of us. When we have been wronged, we can pray to the God who has ultimately been wronged - and one day, Jesus will return, and all evil will come to an end.

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