My wife and I are reading through the Psalms in our evening reading and occasionally a nugget of the Psalms jumps out of the page. Don’t you love it when, after years of reading the “Old Book” passages become alive, reinforcing old teachings or simply warming your heart.
This is the book of Psalms, and it is rich.
I pray I can communicate a portion of the blessing we receive from this wonderful book.
1 Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me!
2 Take hold of shield and buckler and rise for my help!
3 Draw the spear and javelin against my pursuers! Say to my soul, “I am your salvation!”
This is the first of the imprecatory psalms, a psalm that speaks of violence upon the writers enemies. Imprecatory means cursing, and this psalm, along with eight other psalms (55, 58, 59, 69, 83, l09, l37 and l40) recites what was going on in the saints heart during times of trial and struggle.
Does the writing of this type of psalm give us license to pray down vengeance on our enemies? Can we model our prayers upon the scriptural example set out in these psalms?
This is a tough question for me since I tend to hear the Master’s comments when James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven
And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” Luke 9:54
Of course, based on the Old Testament witness, this could be an accepted course of events. In one of the imprecatory psalms, the author speaks of smashing babies heads against rocks!
Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock! – Psalm 137:9 ESV
But not so with the Son of God. Luke simply states that Jesus turned and rebuked them.
But he turned and rebuked them. – Luke 9:55 ESV
To call destruction onto our enemies is against the spirit of the gospel. The folks that have chosen to be our enemies are without the gospel and under condemnation. We are not to hurry them to their destiny. We need to persuade them towards the Lord Jesus. (Let us not talk of our brothers as enemies, for this is simply sin.)
In this Psalm, David is most likely running from King Saul, and seeking survival. Yet when he has opportunity to take revenge on King Saul, he relents and provides mercy. Why won’t he become the answer to his own prayer?
Again, this is why this type of Psalm gives me pause.
Can New Testament believers pray to God for their enemies destruction while showing mercy to them at the same time? This smacks of a double minded existence, where what we want and what we do are two different things. Talk of being conflicted!
Can we ask the Father in heaven to serve justice upon the enemies of the church while maintaining a clear conscious? Consider the slain souls of Revelation 6.
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.
They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
Rev 6:9-10 ESV
Is this sufficient justification for us to cry our for vengeance on our enemies? Notice these souls are not seeking their justice, but requesting the time when God’s judgement will avenge their blood.
Are you starting to see why these imprecatory psalms give me pause?
Let’s consider the passage before us.
Verse 1 starts out with “Contend” and “Fight”. David is calling out to God to defend him, no, not to defend him but to fight for him. There is a difference. David is seeking an offensive move from God and not simply a protective, defensive stance. And yet, is this the same cry that we believers cry out as we may come under attack, pressure, or pain, and that we seek God’s ever present help?
I often don’t think of God as an offensive (as opposed to defensive, not repulsive) warrior, and that surely impacts my prayers, and most likely my general faith state.
When have you asked the Lord to fight for you, or better yet to fight with you in the deliverance of another soul, by prayer, or fasting?
When I hear of contending and fighting, I think I understand that the Old Testament saint was expressing a war like term that was related to this earth, to battle with a national or physical enemy. This is not on the Christian’s agenda. Our battle is not with flesh and blood – This is a hard lesson for me to keep focused on.
In the midst of all the requests in this portion of the psalm, for the Lord to fight for this saint, verse 3 modifies all of these requests, asking that in the middle of all of the strain and stress, his soul would know that God is his salvation. This is key to the Psalm and is a thought repeated through out the passage (v 9, 27)
As we venture through this psalm, I find I am challenged to settle back and let the Lord have the reins of the salvation He has provided. Recently I have seemingly thought it all depends on me, that I am responsible for success, for safety and for security.
I have to give these fears, doubt and burdens back to the Master and realize He is good, He is strong and He is my Salvation
How about you? Are you carrying a burden you needn’t? Are you depending on yourself for things you cannot deliver? Are you tired and worn out?
You may have the wrong yoke on!
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11:28-29 ESV
Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.