In studying the Psalms of David and comparing them to the historical accounts of David’s amazing “wild and wooly” life found in 1st and 2nd Samuel, there is a category of unique Psalms David wrote (and I believe were inspired by the Holy Spirit), that appear to be shocking upon your first encounter. Have you ever lost your temper and said things you wished you hadn’t? Have you ever cut loose with a string of profanities directed at someone who had lied about you or cheated you? I never plan on cursing but my problem is –I know all the words ! This is why I love David. This is why I relate so well to him. Just read some of the things he wrote about his enemies:
Ps.58:6 O God, knock their teeth out of their mouth…let them be like a miscarriage, never born…the righteous will wash his feet in the blood of the wicked
Ps.109:9-11 Let his children be fatherless, and wander around and be beggars…let his creditors take all that he has…let his name be blotted out
Ps69:22- May they go blind…make their loins shake continuously…pour out your divine indignation on them
Ps.137:9 Blessed is he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks
Frankly, I suspect the original Hebrew was even more graphic and X rated. No doubt the translators have tried to tone it down. What is going on here? Has David never read the New Testament passages about loving your neighbor, repaying evil with good, and turning the other cheek? Are we to assume David was in error here, or got out of control in his writing and needs to be forgiven? Is it possible that the Old Testament teaching is just different from the N.T. and should now be discarded? Didn’t Jesus say David wrote “in the Spirit”, meaning it was inspired (Matt22:43, Acts 1:16; 4:25) ?
These passages in the Psalms are called the “imprecatory Psalms” meaning the cursing Psalms. In extreme circumstances, David with nowhere else to go, called on God to stamp out injustice, repay evil, and bring retribution to the wicked. If you read the historical accounts of David’s relationship with such men as Saul and later Absalom, you will see that David loved them, served them, and forgave them. Nevertheless, in extreme cases he called on God for justice using passionate imagery. How many times have we said something like “I’d like to knock his teeth out” but never done it. David felt that way, but the situation was much more extreme, in fact it was “life or death” desperate. David knew the promises of God. He knew God promised to bless Israel and curse her enemies(Gen 12:3). David knew that God promised to sustain him as king as well as his descendants. Therefore in the passion of the moment David was actually expressing his faith in God’s promises using emotional imagery. David no doubt remembered God’s promises to Moses and Israel over 400 years before in Deut. 32:35-43 like, “vengeance is mine and retribution…for the Lord will vindicate His people and will have compassion on His servants…I will make my arrows drunk with blood and my sword shall devour flesh. God will avenge the blood of His servants and will render vengeance on His adversaries.”
Naturally the questions must be asked: Is the O.T. teaching different from the N.T.? Is the God of the O.T. wrathful and full of revenge while the N.T. God is a God of love? Didn’t the N.T. teach “love your enemies”, ”bless and curse not”, ”forgive 70 X 7”, and “repay evil with good”? NO, the O.T is not different in these teachings, no it is not 2 different gods, and our God is both a God of love and justice (which requires judgment). There are also imprecatory(cursing) statements by Jesus and the N.T. authors such as Matt:23:33,38; Galatians 1:8-9, Acts 1:20;8:20, Rev. 6:9-10. You can’t talk about love w/o justice because God is at the same time loving and perfectly just and holy. Justice requires wrath and a righteous kind of vengeance. In Romans 12:19 Paul wrote “never take your own revenge but leave room for the wrath of God, vengeance is mine says the Lord.” So Paul taught that personal revenge was unacceptable, but the righteous vengeance of God was guaranteed. David’s imprecatory Psalms also were not calling for personal revenge, but for God’s righteous retribution against outrageous evil.
How can we explain the seemingly severe nature of David’s curses?
- They express an appropriate godly righteous anger over evil in extreme situations.
- They express faith in God’s promises to His people during times of utter helplessness.
- They call for the righteous revenge of God and not personal revenge.
- They are spiritual therapy for the unjustly oppressed and persecuted.
What benefit can we say they are to us or how can we use them as David did?
- Instead of personal revenge trust God as David did.
- These kind of prayers are for extreme circumstances only.
- Instead of suppressing emotions like a volcano that eventually erupts, take your emotions privately to God and express them in faith that God cares.
- Pray for God’s will according to His promises instead of selfish desires.
- Don’t just complain about circumstances but express your belief that justice will reign some day.
I was watching the movie about the horrors of the Civil War last night. The actress who won the academy award uttered her famous line at the height of injustice—“ THIS WILL NOT STAND. GOD WILL NOT LET THIS STAND FOREVER”. She was right so when you can’t take it anymore, when they flat wear you out—LET IT FLY –SAY WHATEVER IS ON YOUR HEART. But do so privately and to God who alone can right all wrongs, give you a peace that surpasses all understanding, and has promised justice.