March 30, 2014
Romans 13:4 - For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil.
Proverbs 21:15 - [It is] joy to the just to do judgment: but destruction [shall be] to the workers of iniquity.
John 8:32 - And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
James 4:17 - Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth [it] not, to him it is sin.
The big question is this, "Do the imprecatory psalms and Christian ethics clash? I've asked several Christian friends if they're praying these psalms. Some say yes, some say no, and others have said they pray both the imprecatory psalms as well as praying for their enemies to be led to Christ.
What are the imprecatory psalms? 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, 139, and 140 all contain prayers for God's judgment on the psalmist's enemies. These psalms perplex many. Consider, however, that the purposes of these imprecations are:
1. to demonstrate God's just and righteous judgment toward the wicked (58:11)
2. to show the authority of God over the wicked (59:13)
3. to lead the wicked to seek the Lord (83:16) and
4. to cause the righteous to praise God (7:17).
Therefore, out of zeal for God and abhorrence of sin, the psalmist calls on God to punish the wicked and to vindicate His righteousness. Paul read the imprecatory Psalms as the words of Christ, which were spoken prophetically by David, a forerunner type of Christ. We can see this from the fact that David's words in one imprecatory psalm (69:9) are quoted by Paul as the words of Christ in Romans 15:3, "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me." The implication, then, is that David spoke in these Psalms as God's inspired anointed king, prefiguring the coming King and Messiah, who has the right to pronounce final judgment on his enemies and will do so, as the whole Bible teaches.
So, if David's words were inspired by the Holy Spirit, how do we reconcile them with the Words of Christ in the New Testament? The problem with the imprecatory psalms, is how an apparent spirit of vengeance can be reconciled with the precepts of the New Testament and Jesus' command to "love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt. 5:44). But is it a spirit of vengeance?
Some of the statements in these psalms are very disturbing.
"Psalm 55:15 Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.
"Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth: break out the great teeth of the young lions, O LORD Psalm 58:6
"Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous." Psalm 69:28
"Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow." Psalm 109:9
"Psalm 137:9 "Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones."
That last one in Psalm 137 brings to mind the evil perpetrated by the Nazis at Auschwitz Berkenau when babies were murdered like this in front of their parents who were either sent to the gas chambers or slave labor. They are very harsh. Is this what we should pray for the enemies of God? Perhaps.
Let's look at Korah in Numbers 16:1-40, we see where Korah, a great-grandson of Levi, and younger contemporary of Moses, joined in an attempted revolt against the authority of Moses and Aaron (who were also Levites) by Dathan, Abiram, and On (all Reubenites) and by 250 representatives of the tribes of Israel. They charged that Moses and Aaron took too much authority to themselves in view of the fact that all the congregation are holy. Though it was true that all the congregation was holy, (Ex.19.6), they failed to recognize that Moses and Aaron were God-appointed leaders.
Moses told Korah that the Lord had chosen him to do the works, but not of his own mind. After Moses spoke, (Num. 16: 28-30), the earth opened up and it came to pass that Korah, the 250, their houses and all their goods were swallowed up and went down into the pit with the earth closing over them. The sin of Korah was rebellion against duly constituted Godly authority. God's judgment was swift and final against those who were the enemies of God's chosen leaders.
The answer to the question of whether or not we should pray the imprecatory psalms against the enemies of God is shown clearly in Psalm 7.
O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me:
2 Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver.
3 O LORD my God, If I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands;
4 If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy:)
5 Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust. Selah.
6 Arise, O LORD, in thine anger, lift up thyself because of the rage of mine enemies: and awake for me to the judgment that thou hast commanded.
7 So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about: for their sakes therefore return thou on high.
8 The LORD shall judge the people: judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me.
9 Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.
10 My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart.
11 God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.
12 If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready.
13 He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.
14 Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood.
15 He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made.
16 His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate.
17 I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.
Once you read this psalm, you can understand that David had no "spirit of vengeance" in his heart toward the enemies of God. He even asks God to judge him to see if there is any vengeance...rather he petitions God to cut off David's enemies, because they are the enemies of God and are doing wickedness.
The judgment called for is based on Divine Justice and not based on human grudges. (Believe me, I have many human grudges in my heart against those who have perpetrated the evils upon the Republic of America.) David clearly affirmed in an imprecatory Psalm that he did not have personal ill feelings. He wrote in Psalm 109, “…but I give myself unto prayer (for them). And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love.” (Verses 4,5). David did not hate his enemies, but loved them and prayed for them. He did, however, in the imprecatory prayer, commit them to the Justice of God for their due reward. The actions of David in relation to King Saul are vivid proof that revenge was not a motivation behind his imprecatory prayers. David forgave Saul and, even on occasion, spared his life. (I Samuel 24 and 26).
The phenomenon of imprecation is not unique to the Old Testament. Jesus urged His disciples to curse cities that did not receive the Gospel. (Matthew 10:14; Luke 10:11,12). Jesus, Himself, called down judgment on Tyre and Sidon. (Matthew 11:20, 22. Paul declared “Anathema” (“accursed”) any who did not love the Lord Jesus. (I Corinthians 16:22). Even the saints in Heaven during the Tribulation Period are pictured as beseeching God for vengeance on those who killed the martyrs. (Rev. 6:9,10). Imprecations are obviously not a primitive or purely Old Testament phenomenon. They are the reverse side of love; that is, prayers based on the Holiness and Justice of God, attributes which imply judgment on sin.
Even in these imprecations, one can see an aspiration for Messiah. All judgment has been given to the Son. (John 5:22). Those who long for justice are really aspiring for Messiah's Return to execute judgment. “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.” (II Thessalonians 1:7-10).
We must bear in mind that “every scripture is inspired of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). The book of Psalms belongs in the Bible; it is inspired of God. Our Lord asserted that when David wrote in “the book of Psalms” (Psalm 110) he spoke “in the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 22:43). Christ quoted from the Psalms, and considered them to be on the same plane as the Law and the Prophets (Luke 24:44). [Link]
Likewise, the writer of Hebrews, when quoting from the Psalms, often identified a passage as having been spoken by the Holy Spirit (cf. Hebrews 3:7). Any view that would diminish the integrity of Psalms is an attack on inspiration, hence upon God himself.
I love the psalms, all of them, including the imprecatory psalms of David. Do I pray them? Yes, I do. But I must search my soul for vengeance against enemies I detest, rather than enemies I know God detests, which may be the same in some cases. Our government today is intent upon killing more babies in the womb and more of the elderly with euthanasia. Our government today is intent upon destroying liberty and freedom and our unalienable God given rights written down in the Constitution by our founding fathers. Do I consider them enemies of God? Yes, I do. Our nation has become a Culture of Death, and our God said, Choose Life! and He said it in capital letters in Deuteronomy 30:19. Are the imprecatory psalms of David for today? I would say yes, but your hearts must be pure, there must not be vengeance, but instead a desire for justice, and the hope that the enemies of God would turn from their wicked ways and seek Him, the King of Glory and be saved. Pray without ceasing, for we are in desperate times.
© 2014 Kelleigh Nelson - All Rights Reserved
Kelleigh Nelson has been researching the Christian right and their connections to the left, the new age, and cults since 1975. Formerly an executive producer for three different national radio talk show hosts, she was adept at finding and scheduling a variety of wonderful guests for her radio hosts. She and her husband live in Knoxville, TN, and she has owned her own wholesale commercial bakery since 1990. Prior to moving to Tennessee, Kelleigh was marketing communications and advertising manager for a fortune 100 company in Ohio. Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, she was a Goldwater girl with high school classmate, Hillary Rodham, in Park Ridge, Illinois. Kelleigh is well acquainted with Chicago politics and was working in downtown Chicago during the 1968 Democratic convention riots. Kelleigh is presently the secretary for Rocky Top Freedom Campaign, a strong freedom advocate group.