Impenitence and Imprecation

Today’s reading is Psalm 35.

We call them imprecatory psalms. They give us no end of consternation. To imprecate someone is to invoke a curse on them. Thus, imprecatory psalms are psalms that call for people to be cursed by God. Jesus tells us to love our enemies, to pray for them, to bless them. Rather than wanting them to be judged and condemned, we should want them to repent and be justified. Yet, David calls down the curses of God on his enemies. What is that about?

While there are quite a few statements that are imprecatory in the Psalms, there are only a handful of psalms that get so deep into this that the psalm is called imprecatory. Psalm 35 is pretty universally accepted as being one of those psalms.

David asks God to take a spear and javelin (some translations say battle-axe) against his pursuers. He wants them to be driven away like chaff. He wants their way to become dark and slippery. He wants destruction to come on them. He wants them to fall into their own pits. Let’s be honest. That’s pretty intense.

While some take Psalm 35 as the first of the imprecatory psalms. Others attribute that honor to Psalm 7. Obviously, these psalms didn’t come labeled with our modern labels. Whether Psalm 7 is the first imprecatory psalm or not, there is a statement in that psalm we need to remember with all of the imprecatory psalms and statements we read.

If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts.

Psalm 7:12-13

It is interesting to note that Psalm 7 goes on to say of the wicked, “He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends.” This sounds a great deal like the imprecations of Psalm 35:7-8.

There are many things we can say about imprecations in the psalms, but at the top of the list needs to be this. Very early in the Psalms, the template for curses and imprecations is established. These curses are for those who refuse to repent. Underlying every imprecation is the understanding that just as we were forgiven when we repented, if others repent, they will be forgiven. Undergirding every imprecation is the understanding that the one praying the imprecation would rather see repentance in others, just as God allowed it in us.

However, if someone continues impenitently in rebellion against God and in their attacks on God’s people, then cursing is what will come. While our first line of prayer for people is for their salvation and well-being, as David’s was in Psalm 35:13-14, we recognize it is right to pray for God to bring justice for God’s people and bring judgment on the impenitent enemies of God’s people (see Paul in 2 Timothy 4:14; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Galatians 1:8-9; Revelation 6:10).

And, of course, it is always proper to notice that these imprecations are not saints meting out their personal revenge on others. In each case, these writers are leaving room for the judgment of God. They are bringing these prayers to God for Him to answer in the way He sees as best.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 35.

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Who is the Lord?

Today’s reading is Psalm 33.

As we learned yesterday, the storm is thundering, the battle is raging, survival is in doubt. Yet, Psalm 33 praises and worships the Lord. Why? Who is this Lord that He should be praised?

First of all, He exists. Psalm 33 removes the notion of naturalism and materialism. It explains that something, or rather Someone, exists beyond what we can feel and touch. Everything that has a beginning has a cause. The heavens, the sea, the land have a beginning. Their cause? The Creator Lord.

Second, He is distinct. Psalm 33 destroys the notion of pantheism, that God is actually the sum total of all things in existence. Rather, there is creation and there is Creator. He is separate and distinct. We don’t search for the divine within us as if we are somehow God or part of God. We listen for His Word that directs us just as His Word brought everything into existence.

Third, He is invisible. Psalm 33 abandons the idolatrous and pagan notion that we must see some representative of God. The hosts of the heavens, the sun, moon, stars are not God or gods; they are creations of God. They aren’t representatives of God; they are the handiwork of God. I do not see God when I look to the hosts of heaven. However, I see evidence for the God I cannot see. The star is not God, but the star could not exist without God.

Fourth, He is involved. Psalm 33 rules out the notion of Deism, that God started the whole universe on some kind of perpetual motion course and is now just watching it play out. No. He actually gets involved in the plans of the nations and peoples. He frustrates those that are against His will. He bestows love on those that go along with His will. He is involved.

Fifth, He is unparalleled. Psalm 33 overthrows the notion of a weak God. No one and no thing can overpower God. In fact, no one and no thing that has any power has it apart from God. We do not have to worry that God is going to lose. He has no equal. He has no true rival.

Sixth, He is love. Psalm 33 squashes the notion that God is morally defective. His steadfast love is seen throughout the world. But this is not because everything that happens to everyone is enjoyable. This is because God is working out His loving plan through everything that happens to everyone.

Seventh, He is discerning. Psalm 33 obliterates the notion that God is indiscriminate. Yes, He loves all people. Yes, He invites all people. But He does not welcome all people. He does not receive all people. Rather, He delivers those who put their hope and their trust in Him. Those who ignore His pleas or twist His Word and Will to their own pleasure will not receive the blessings of His steadfast love. But those who trust, fear, and love Him will be blessed by Him.

No doubt, there is so much more we could say about the Lord. We could probably even say more from Psalm 33. But this is surely enough for us to see a God worthy of praise and worship. Don’t you think?

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 33.

PODCAST!!!

Click here to take about 15 minutes to listen to the Text Talk conversation between Andrew Roberts and Edwin Crozier sparked by this post.

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Don’t Fall for the Lies

Today’s reading is Psalm 10.

While the psalmist and his faith come out on top even as the situation has gone from bad to worse, we need to recognize what a dangerous place he is in. His faith is on the edge of a knife. If it leans too far, it will topple off and be lost. Notice that the wicked in vs. 11 claim God “has hidden his face, he will never see it.” Does that sound familiar? In vs. 1, the psalmist had asked, “Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” The psalmist and the wicked are dangerously close in their opinions of God. In fact, it likely wouldn’t take much more to convince most people, if they were in the psalmists’ shoes, that the wicked were correct. The wicked are spouting lies about God: He doesn’t exist; He doesn’t see; He doesn’t care; He can’t win; He won’t judge. We will hear these same kinds of lies. In fact, modern atheists, agnostics, and skeptics spout them even today. They see suffering and sin go unaddressed in the world and claim God must not be out there. And, sadly, Christians fall for the lies every day. They are made to feel like fools for faith and prayer, and they finally give up. Don’t do it! Don’t give up! Don’t fall for the lies! God is there. God does see. God will win. God will judge. He does it for His reasons. He does it in His time. He will not be manipulated by atheists, agnostics, and skeptics who demand He jump through their hoops to satisfy their curiosities and questions. He has provided evidence of His existence and His work. It is sprinkled throughout our privileged planet. It is all over the accounts of Jesus and the effects He has had on the world. Hang on to Him. As He has done over and over again, He will always do. He will in the best time and in the best way break the arm of the wicked, that is, crush the strength of the wicked. He will do justice to the orphan and the oppressed. Don’t let go of God. Don’t fall for the lies.

Tomorrow’s reading is Psalm 10.

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Not Guilty!

Today’s reading is Luke 23.

“I find no guilt in this man.” That’s what Pilate said. He also said, “I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him.” Herod didn’t find any guilt in Him either. “Nothing deserving of death has been done by him.” “I have found in him no guilt deserving death.” The second thief on the cross even says, “This man has done nothing wrong.” The centurion at the foot of the cross, once Jesus has died, says, “Certainly this man was innocent!” Do you think Luke is trying to make a point? Is there something he wants to make sure we know about this whole sordid mess? Absolutely. This is an incredible miscarriage of justice. The guilty person isn’t being punished. Jesus is innocent. That is important because that point makes this death something more than merely a criminal execution. That makes this death a sacrifice. A lamb who silently faced His slaughter, Jesus faced the cross. He didn’t deserve it. I do. Yet because He endured it, I won’t. Thank You, Lord!

Today’s reading is Luke 23.

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Calling Sinners

Today’s reading is Matthew 9.

We must all remember what Jesus declared was His mission: “I desire equity, not elitism. For I came not to call the mainstream, but the marginalized.” Wait. Sorry. That’s not it. “I desire empowerment, not oppression. For I came not to call the privileged, but the disenfranchised.” Hold on. That’s not it either. I’m not sure what is wrong with me today. He said, “I desire justice, not inequity. For I came not to call the powerful, but the vulnerable.” Nope. That’s not it either. Alright, let me just go back, read it, and quote it word for word: “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Don’t misunderstand me. I believe Jesus likes equity, empowerment, and justice. But that wasn’t His mission. His mission was salvation. It is often the marginalized, disenfranchised, and vulnerable who have nothing left to lose and therefore are willing to see that they are sinners. That’s why those were the classes that often responded to Jesus, though even they ultimately cried “Crucify Him!” But Jesus came to call sinners. And that is good news for me, because that is what I am. I’m a sinner. How about you? If you are clamoring for social equity, empowerment, and justice, I don’t know that Jesus has what you are looking for. If, on the other hand, you are longing for forgiveness, redemption, and salvation from your sins, Jesus is calling you. Why not respond?

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 10.

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