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Category: Engagement with Truth

Why Imprecatory Psalms?

Why Imprecatory Psalms?


Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to make you wise for salvation through Christ Jesus. All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:12-17 ESV

Imprecate – n. To call down, or invoke curses upon, as on a person (dictionary.com)

If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all. — Thumper the rabbit, Bambi’s friend

I have heard (and read) that Imprecatory psalms are valuable and necessary because we need to know that God can handle our raw emotions. But if it is true that all scripture is profitable (and I believe it is), then there must be more to learn from the psalmist’s 14 or so cries for God to rain down his wrath on the enemy.

Currently I am reading through the Psalms chronologically, which is probably why “imprecatory” is on my radar. Many of David’s early psalms were written when he was a fugitive, running from an unpredictable king Saul who wanted him dead, and had the resources and military power to make it happen. David knew that God was in control, that God was “for him” and that God would “fulfill his purpose for him” (psalm 57:2), but in the meantime. . .

We so long for life to be fair. If I do the right things, then good things should happen. If I desire to do God’s will, there should be no obstacles or hindrances. That thinking is “prosperity gospel.” It isn’t true. It leads to death and destruction. Life is not fair. Not everyone plays by the rules. Devoted Christ-followers get sick. Believers are persecuted.

The despair of “how long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” of Psalm 13:1 is real. When life is difficult, when evil goes unpunished, when healing doesn’t happen, we want to make sense of the situation. But David’s declaration in psalm 13:5 is equally true — “I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.”

And therein lies a key lesson. When I am feeling “Imprecatory” because life is not fair and I feel abandoned and alone, I must “preach the gospel” to myself:

  • “There is none righteous” means that life will not be fair
  • “for all have sinned” means that I am no more deserving of God’s grace  than anyone else
  • Jesus took all the evil, all the unfairness, all the sin onto himself, satisfied the payment of God’s righteous wrath, and gave me his righteousness as a free gift (see Romans 3; 2 Corinthians 5).
  • God will fulfill His purpose for me (Psalm 57). He will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13)

When I consider my lack of love, my grumblings, my discontent, etc. — oh, how grateful I am for Jesus! I am grateful for the gift of repentance. God is teaching me, in my physical weakness and “unhealth,” that I truly need Him every moment of every day. My times are in his hands (psalm 31)  C. H. Spurgeon said, “God is too good to be unkind. He is too wise to be confused. If I cannot trace his hand, I can always trust his heart.”

since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16



God’s Power and Mercy

I (Beverly) read Nahum’s prophecy against Nineveh recently. There are no “epic battle” scenes in movie or print that can match the images of God’s unbridled power against injustice and rebellion against Him.

During this season we see (and sing and read) a little baby born in a cave to nondescript parents and wrapped in rags. Shepherds, the riff-raff of Jewish society, received an angelic announcement of great joy. Magi traveled far to see a king, and they found a little boy in a house with working-class parents. Other than the angel choir with one song on one night, the birth of Jesus passed largely unnoticed. When his birth was “noticed” by Herod, the result was an act of state-sponsored terror that rivals anything we read in the news. The world gasps in shock when a school is invaded and children are shot to incite fear and terror. Herod had ALL the male children in Bethlehem and in all the region who were two years old and under KILLED. Dragged from their cribs and from their mothers’ arms.

There must have been cries of anguish, wondering where was the God of whom the prophets had spoken? The Righteous Judge, the Avenger of his people?

We still ask a form of that question today, every time a school is invaded and students and teachers killed; when police officers are shot execution-style as they sit in their patrol car; when movie theaters and shopping malls become shooting galleries; when young girls are kidnapped and car bombs explode. . .

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will wait for Him.” Lamentations 3:21-24

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as 1000 years, and 1000 years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” 2 Peter 3:8-10

“Therefore, beloved since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation…” 2 Peter 3:14-15

As much as I long for the injustice and the terror and the persecution to be avenged, I also understand that it is God’s mercy giving people opportunity to repent–
God’s mercy that pursued me, and opened my eyes to the gospel, and gave me faith to believe. God’ love that compels us to share this reconciliation. God’s commandment to “go and make disciples of all nations” is because of His mercy.

So while I still pray for justice, I also pray for people to “turn from darkness to light, from the power of satan to God, that they might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in [Jesus].” Acts 26:18
And I pray for people who are willing to go and bring that message to those who have never heard. I am so grateful for God’ patience. . .

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