Calling Upon God Amidst False Accusations-Reading And Praying Psalm 109

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It is written:

Psalm 109:1-31-To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. Do not keep silent, O God of my praise! 2  For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful Have opened against me; They have spoken against me with a lying tongue. 3  They have also surrounded me with words of hatred, And fought against me without a cause. 4  In return for my love they are my accusers, But I give myself to prayer. 5  Thus they have rewarded me evil for good, And hatred for my love. 6  Set a wicked man over him, And let an accuser stand at his right hand. 7  When he is judged, let him be found guilty, And let his prayer become sin. 8  Let his days be few, And let another take his office. 9  Let his children be fatherless, And his wife a widow. 10  Let his children continually be vagabonds, and beg; Let them seek their bread also from their desolate places. 11  Let the creditor seize all that he has, And let strangers plunder his labor. 12  Let there be none to extend mercy to him, Nor let there be any to favor his fatherless children. 13  Let his posterity be cut off, And in the generation following let their name be blotted out. 14  Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD, And let not the sin of his mother be blotted out. 15  Let them be continually before the LORD, That He may cut off the memory of them from the earth; 16  Because he did not remember to show mercy, But persecuted the poor and needy man, That he might even slay the broken in heart. 17  As he loved cursing, so let it come to him; As he did not delight in blessing, so let it be far from him. 18  As he clothed himself with cursing as with his garment, So let it enter his body like water, And like oil into his bones. 19  Let it be to him like the garment which covers him, And for a belt with which he girds himself continually. 20  Let this be the LORD’s reward to my accusers, And to those who speak evil against my person. 21  But You, O GOD the Lord, Deal with me for Your name’s sake; Because Your mercy is good, deliver me. 22  For I am poor and needy, And my heart is wounded within me. 23  I am gone like a shadow when it lengthens; I am shaken off like a locust. 24  My knees are weak through fasting, And my flesh is feeble from lack of fatness. 25  I also have become a reproach to them; When they look at me, they shake their heads. 26  Help me, O LORD my God! Oh, save me according to Your mercy, 27  That they may know that this is Your hand—That You, LORD, have done it! 28  Let them curse, but You bless; When they arise, let them be ashamed, But let Your servant rejoice. 29  Let my accusers be clothed with shame, And let them cover themselves with their own disgrace as with a mantle. 30  I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth; Yes, I will praise Him among the multitude. 31  For He shall stand at the right hand of the poor, To save him from those who condemn him.

This Psalm is profoundly powerful in its’ descriptions. David is being unfairly attacked and criticized. The text suggests that he is being somehow attacked legally, in a situation involving a court of law. Notice that the Psalm starts with a description of David calling on God to work and intervene in his situation. The curses of verses 5-20 seem to suggest that these are actually the curses David’s enemies are raising against him.

“What is unusual about this particular supplication is that the long central section of the psalm, verses 6-19, is, in the most persuasive reading, an extensive quotation of the venomous words of accusation and imprecation that the speaker’s accusers pronounce against him.” (Robert Alter, The Book Of Psalms: A Translation With Commentary, 554 (Kindle Edition); New York, NY; W.W. Norton & Company)

Several things about this Psalm are worthy of notice.

First, consider that the Psalmist is showing kindness and grace to his attackers.

Psalm 109:4-5 (CEV)-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.

The CEV brings out the original here in a powerful way.

“The literal sense of the received text is ‘and I am prayer.’ The consensus of Hebrew tradition has understood this to mean something like ‘and I am all prayer.’ The ancient Syriac version may have worked from a Hebrew text that read tefilati later, ‘my prayer is for them.’ That reading would be more cogent as a parallel to ‘in return for my love’ in the first verses.” (Robert Alter, The Book Of Psalms: A Translation With Commentary, 554 (Kindle Edition); New York, NY; W.W. Norton & Company)

There are other Psalms where we read of God’s people praying for their enemies to be saved.

For example:

Psalm 83:16-Fill their faces with shame, That they may seek Your name, O LORD.

Second, the Psalm operates under the principle that these people are so wicked that they are unrepentant.

Eighth, most of the imprecations psalms (Psalm 109 included) assume these persecutors will not repent. They have resisted th love of the godly (Ps. 109:4-5). We, on the other hand, are called to love and seek the salvation of the wicked. We don’t have perfect knowledge of the possibility of someone’s repenting. We’re not biblical writers. We’re not prophets and apostles. While we pray for God to execute judgment and establish peace, our prayer for our enemies should focus on God’s bringing people to repentance. Further, in Psalm 83:17-18 the prayer sees punishment as a means of grace leading the wicked to repentance. You can see in Psalm 109 that this is a song. Imagine that! Why sing about God’s judgment? One reason is to strike fear in the ungodly in hopes that they may repent. Our deepest desire for our enemies, even those who persecute us and inflict abuse on the church, is that they may be saved.” (Tony Merida, Johnny Hunt, Danny Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus In Psalms 101-150, 113-114 (Kindle Edition): Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group)

It is good and right to pray for our enemies, as this Psalm teaches (and our Lord commands-Matthew 5:44-45). We remember at the same time there are some who will never repent of their wickedness in this life. So, it is good and appropriate for God’s people to pray that the wickedness of the wicked would be stopped and their evil mouths shut from the harm that they bring upon God’s people.

Third, it is important to mention that imprecatory Psalms still serve a purpose for the church today. Consider that Jesus several times quotes from Psalm 69, an imprecatory Psalm (cf. John 15:25 with Psalm 69:4; John 2 17 with Psalm 69:9; Matthew 27:24 with Psalm 69:21). The Apostle Paul, in Romans 11:9-10, directly quotes Psalm 69:22-23. As Copan points out:

“As we’ll now see, several New Testament authorities quote various imprecatory psalms. Indeed, the apostle Paul cites this allegedly mean-spirited Psalm 69 passage in Romans 11: 8–10, applying it to hard-hearted Israelites: “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever” (ESV)….The Old Testament encourages loving one’s personal enemies and praying for persecutors. Jesus does so too, but he approves of believers’ prayers “day and night” for God to “bring about justice” (Luke 18: 7–8; cf. Rev. 6: 9–11). Revelation 18: 4–6 calls for this same justice: “Pay her back even as she has paid, and give back to her double according to her deeds; in the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her.” Some of our critics from within might say that this cry sounds like a voice from hell. But John tells us that this is a voice from heaven denouncing the wicked city of Babylon….Indeed, the New Testament has its share of imprecatory prayers and requests for divine vengeance (Acts 8: 20; 2 Tim. 4: 14; Rev. 6: 9–11; 11: 17–18; 15: 2–4; 16: 5–7; 18: 1–8). God is an avenger (1 Thess. 4: 6), 17 and imprecations from both testaments are a call for the “public vindication of God’s truth” in that they express a willingness to make God’s enemies our enemies.” (Paul Copan, Is God a Vindictive Bully?: Reconciling Portrayals of God in the Old and New Testaments, 134-137 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic)

It is good and appropriate for Christians to pray for the salvation of their enemies; and it is also good and appropriate for God to stop the workings of the wicked who refuse to repent of their wickedness.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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