Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Psalm 109: Prayers of Judgment

"Appoint an evil man to oppose him; let an accuser stand at his right hand" (Psalm 109:6).

Psalm 109 is sometimes regarded as the toughest of the imprecatory psalms, the psalms of cursing. The New Testament applies it to those who crucified Christ (verse 8 with Acts 1:20; verse 25 with Matthew 27:39; verse 27 with Acts 2:23; verse 30 with Hebrews 2:12).

Rather than consider the details of this psalm today, let us meditate on the imprecatory psalms in general. Not only are certain psalms, like 58, 109, and 137, devoted largely to cursing God’s enemies, but we also find judgment called down upon God’s enemies in many places in the other psalms as well.

First of all, we have to say that God does not make mistakes. He has instructed us to pray these psalms. He wrote them. He wants to hear us pray and sing them. If they scandalize us, then it is we who must change our attitude. So as believers we must accept the imprecatory psalms as good words from God.

Second, we should think of the imprecatory psalms as the other half of the two-edged sword of God’s truth. When we pray for God to save people, we do not order Him to do so. He is free to say no to our prayers and leave people in their sins. Similarly, when we pray for God to judge people, we are not ordering Him to do so. He is free to save them, even if we have asked Him to judge them.

Third, the prayers of judgment align our thoughts with God’s holiness and righteousness. God is a God of judgment, and we must submit ourselves to that fact. We must learn to delight in His judgments, as we delight in Him. In Psalm 139, after meditating on the greatness of God’s glory, the psalmist is horrified that anyone would dare rebel against Him. “I have nothing but hatred for them,” he says. “I count them my enemies.” He calls on God to kill them (Psalm 139:19–22).

Finally, let us remember that when God kills a person, it is not necessarily a death unto destruction. You and I were judged by God and were put to death for our sins in baptism, but we were resurrected. When we pray for God to destroy His enemies, we leave it up to His discretion whether to destroy them redemptively or everlastingly.

All of the Psalms call on God to draw near. When He does He brings judgment and salvation. We cannot have one without the other. Indeed, the doctrine of justification means that salvation comes through judgment. If you want God to draw near you must be prepared to let God be God, acknowledging His freedom to come in mercy or wrath.