Reflections on Scripture

by Wayne Bandy

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      Psalm - Chapter 109 (Contemporary English Version)
    1. (A psalm by David for the music leader.) I praise you, God! Don't keep silent.
    2. Destructive and deceitful lies are told about me,
    3. and hateful things are said for no reason.
    4. I had pity and prayed for my enemies, but their words to me were harsh and cruel.
    5. For being friendly and kind, they paid me back with meanness and hatred.
    6. My enemies said, "Find some worthless fools to accuse him of a crime.
    7. Try him and find him guilty! Consider his prayers a lie.
    8. Cut his life short and let someone else have his job.
    9. Make orphans of his children and a widow of his wife;
    10. make his children beg for food and live in the slums.
    11. "Let the people he owes take everything he owns. Give it all to strangers.
    12. Don't let anyone be kind to him or have pity on the children he leaves behind.
    13. Bring an end to his family, and from now on let him be a forgotten man.
    14. "Don't let the LORD forgive the sins of his parents and his ancestors.
    15. Don't let the LORD forget the sins of his family, or let anyone remember his family ever lived.
    16. He was so cruel to the poor, homeless, and discouraged that they died young.
    17. "He cursed others. Now place a curse on him! He never wished others well. Wish only trouble for him!
    18. He cursed others more often than he dressed himself. Let his curses strike him deep, just as water and olive oil soak through to our bones.
    19. Let his curses surround him, just like the clothes he wears each day."
    20. Those are the cruel things my enemies wish for me. Let it all happen to them!
    21. Be true to your name, LORD God! Show your great kindness and rescue me.
    22. I am poor and helpless, and I have lost all hope.
    23. I am fading away like an evening shadow; I am tossed aside like a crawling insect.
    24. I have gone without eating, until my knees are weak, and my body is bony.
    25. When my enemies see me, they say cruel things and shake their heads.
    26. Please help me, LORD God! Come and save me because of your love.
    27. Let others know that you alone have saved me.
    28. I don't care if they curse me, as long as you bless me. You will make my enemies fail when they attack, and you will make me glad to be your servant.
    29. You will cover them with shame, just as their bodies are covered with clothes.
    30. I will sing your praises and thank you, LORD, when your people meet.
    31. You help everyone in need, and you defend them when they are on trial.
Reflections

Psalms - Chapter 109

Entered: March 23, 2009

Psalm 109 is referred to as an imprecatory psalm - a psalm which prays for harm or injury to come upon one. In a sense it seeks to put a curse upon a person who is acting wickedly toward the psalmist. The psalmist portrays himself as being wrongfully treated. The attacking person had spoken deceitfully against him without cause. In return for love, the psalmist had been accused. Therefore, the psalmist asked God to judge this person. Let him be found guilty and make his days few. Then the prayer against this attacker progresses toward vengeance against the person's family. The psalmist's prayer then asks that the attacker's actions would come back on himself. "He loved cursing - let it fall on him; he took no delight in blessing - let it be far from him." Finally, the psalmist describes his own weak condition and asks for God's deliverance.

We read this and find ourselves uncomfortable with it. How do we justify this prayer for vengeance. A variety of explanations are offered by commentators of which most I find to be rather unsatisfactory. The one that comes closest to my own sentiment is found in the Believer's Bible Commentary: "the imprecatory Psalms express a spirit that was proper for a Jew living under the law, but not proper for a Christian living under grace." Theologically this makes sense in trying to rectify the tone of this psalm, but getting down to a personal level, I must say I identify with the psalmist. There have been times over the years that my prayers have been little different. I was suffering from some individual's hateful actions and spirit and I would ask God to deal with them, and not necessarily from a heart of righteous indignation. There is no avoiding it, my motives were not pure. But when we have feelings toward someone that are bent on revenge how are we to deal with them? Should we not take them to the Lord? Certainly better to take them to Him than to act on them or to be spouting off our vengeful thoughts to others.

There is no indication in the psalm that the writer sought for God to take away impure thoughts toward this other person. The writer gives no indication he considered himself wrong to have such thoughts or to pray such a prayer. But in response to this psalm I am inclined to say where better to take such thoughts and feelings than to the Lord. Pray as the psalmist did if it helps to get it "off your chest." But then ask for God to help you with these thoughts and feelings and to give you a heart of forgiveness toward the one who has wronged you.

Entered: May 01, 2014

This psalm of David is one of the most glaring of the psalms in terms of calling down curses on one's enemy. It obviously does not reflect the New Testament teachings of Christ to love one's enemies. But on the other hand, it expresses a zeal for God's cause of justice and righteousness on earth. Not only does David want his enemy to be put down, he wants those who stand against God and His law to be put down.

In the first part of the psalm David raises his complaint against his enemies. They speak against him with lies, return his love for them with accusations, and they repay his good to them with evil. Then he turns to calling down curses on them. Curses which extend beyond the enemies to their families and ancestors. He asks that they have their own accusers who cause them to be found guilty before a judge. He asks that they might die, making their days few and their children fatherless. Then, becoming more vitriolic, David asks that their children become beggars having to search for food, and that creditors seize all that they own. He wants their descendants to be cut off and their forefathers' guilt to be remembered before the Lord. He continues with these curses through verse 20.

Having concluded his requests for God's curses on his enemies, David turns to asking for God's blessings on himself. Whereas the curses against his enemies are seen as upholding God's righteousness by putting down those who stand against it, the request for blessings for himself are seen as upholding those who stand with God in agreement with His law. David asks that God deal kindly with him and deliver him from his enemies. He makes this appeal based not on his own worthiness but on God's faithful love. He also believes God will naturally stand with the needy who are being oppressed and against their oppressors, allowing His justice to reign.