Second Sunday of Lent—How Psalms Help Us Deal with Our Inner Gangster

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February 28, 2021

Psalm 59

To the tune of “O Sing a Song of Bethlehem” C.M. Sing it at seedbed.com/soundtrack

1 Deliver me, O God, from those
that are my enemies;
Protect me from all those who do
rise up to threaten me.
2 Deliver me from wicked ones
who do evil again;
And save me from the wickedness
of those bloodthirsty men.

3 See how they lie in wait for me!
They fiercely do combine
against me, Lord; they do conspire
for no offense of mine.
4 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!

5 Awake, Almighty Lord of hosts,
O God of Israel,
Arouse Yourself to punish all
that wickedly rebel.
6 At evening they go to and fro;
they make great noise and sound;
They snarl like dogs and prowl about
the city all around.

7 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?”
8 But You, O Lord will laugh at them,
and at the nations scoff;
9 My strength, I’ll watch and wait for You,
my fortress and my rock.

10 My loving God goes before me;
He’ll let me gloat and see
the end of all those wicked ones,
who mock and slander me.
11 But do not kill them, Lord, our shield,
or people will forget;
By Thy strong power bring them down,
and make them wander yet.

12 And for the sins which their mouths speak,
the words their lips let fly,
Let them be caught in their own pride,
because they curse and lie.
13 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.

14 At evening they go to and fro;
they make great noise and sound;
They snarl like dogs, and prowl about
the city all around.
15 They wander, searching for their food;
and if not satisfied,
They howl like dogs and prowl around,
and don’t care how they’ve lied.

16 But I’ll sing of Your strength, O God;
at dawn Your love I’ll praise;
For You’re my fortress, refuge, and
my tow’r in troubled days.
17 O God, You are my strength, and I
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 gangster 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 & Wesson Model 29, .44 caliber SuperMag revolver, uttering his signature greeting to a villainous criminal, “Go ahead, make my day!”

It sounds harsh, but this is what the psalmist had in mind for God to do to his enemies. The singer wanted 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 wanted 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 fire down from heaven to destroy them?” (Luke 9:54). 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” (Rom. 12:19). It all depends on who is taking the revenge.

It all comes down to Calvin’s dictum of a few days ago: “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 gangster 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—equivalent to 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.

So go ahead, make my day . . . sing this song.

Ask Yourself. Share with Another.

Is there anyone in your life you would like to call down fire on? How are you dealing with that? Where is God in the situation?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

1 COMMENT

  1. 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—equivalent to stage 4 small cell lung cancer. Agree-agree-agree-
    By the grace of God, we love our enemies–But that process can reap havoc on your body. As you wail, “when Lord when.” So, you wait on the Lord, and his anger is slow because love is his nature. Then after a while you let it go. After the stress, the pain, you have enough sense to let it go. Giving it to God is a work of faith, since Satan will not let you forget the wrong. So, we strive with all that we have to enter into his REST! Till we find peace for our soul, allowing God to do what he does best!

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