March 16, 2014
My God, deliver me from those that are my enemies;
Protect me from all those who do rise up to threaten me.
Deliver me from evil ones that work iniquity;
And give me safety from the men of bloody cruelty.
See how they lie in wait for me! The mighty do combine
against me, Lord; not for my fault, nor any sin of mine.
I’ve done no wrong, yet they in wait are ready to seize me;
Arise to help me, Lord my God, look on my plight and see!
Awake, Almighty Lord of hosts, O God of Israel,
Arouse Yourself to punish all that wickedly rebel.
At ev’ning they go to and fro; they make great noise and sound,
Snarling like dogs that often prowl about the city round.
See what they spew out from their mouths; for in their lips are swords;
And they say, “Who can possibly hear any of our words?”
But You, O Lord will laugh at them; and at the nations scoff;
My strength, I’ll watch and wait for You, my fortress and my rock.
My loving God goes before me; He’ll let me gloat and see
the end of those who wicked are, who mock and slander me.
But do not kill them, Lord, our shield, or people will forget;
By Thy strong power, bring them down, and make them wander yet.
For their mouth’s sin, and for the words that from their lips do fly,
Let them be caught in their own pride, because they curse and lie.
Consume them in Your wrath, O Lord; consume till they’re no more.
It will be known to ends of earth that Jacob’s God is Lord.
They come at evening – they return with snarls like dogs and prowl;
They wander, searching for their food; and finding none, they howl.
But I’ll sing of Your strength, O God; at morning Your love praise;
For You’re my fortress, refuge, and my tow’r in troublous days.
O God, You are my strength, I will sing praises unto You;
O God, You are my fortress, full of lovingkindness true.
CONSIDER THIS. . .
Back to back imprecatory psalms. So can we cut the fancy language and just call it what it is? Song 59 and a series of others of its ilk are the Gangsta Psalms of the Bible. They are the melodies of revenge; the I’m going to make you sorry for the day you were born songs. Picture Clint Eastwood in his signature role as “Dirty Harry,” armed with his signature Smith and Wesson model 29 .44 calibre SuperMag revolver uttering his signature greeting to a villainous criminal, “Go ahead punk. Make my day!”
It sounds harsh, but this is what the Psalmist has in mind for God to do to his enemies. The singer wants to make his enemies pay. Song #59 stops just shy of torture: “But do not kill them, Lord, our shield, or people will forget; By Thy strong power, bring them down, and make them wander yet.” He wants to make them suffer.
To imprecate is to call down curses and wrath on one’s enemy. This reminds us of the question Jesus’ disciples asked him in response to their not being welcomed into a Samaritan village, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” But doesn’t the New Testament categorically forbid this kind of behavior? “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” It all depends on who is taking the revenge.
It all comes down to Calvin’s dictum of a few days back, “It is God with whom we have to deal.” Vengeance and wrath belong to God alone. I think the point (at least one of them) of the imprecatory Psalms is actually to create a safe opportunity for the Psalmist to get the gangsta out of him or herself. The only thing worse than having this kind of vengeful spirit is not finding a healthy way to expel it. It makes for the worst kind of sin sickness— the equivalent of stage 4 small cell lung cancer.
Oh there will be justice. It’s just not mine to take. I must take the long view. I must take my inner gangster straight to the throne of God and sing out those dark melodies until they are no more. Yes, that’s it. It’s an offer we can’t really afford to refuse.
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So go ahead. . . . make my day. . . . . sing this song. CLICK HERE.