The Daily Office: Day 52- Imprecatory Psalms

Silence for 2-5 minutes:

If your mind wanders, silently pray a simple prayer again and again, such as, "I surrender to your love" or "Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me" until the Holy Spirit gives you a sense of peace and focus. 


Scripture:  Psalm 35:1-8

1 Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me! Take hold of shield and buckler and rise for my help! Draw the spear and javelin[a] against my pursuers! Say to my soul, "I am your salvation!"

Let them be put to shame and dishonor who seek after my life! Let them be turned back and disappointed who devise evil against me! Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them away! Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them!

For without cause they hid their net for me; without cause they dug a pit for my life.[b] Let destruction come upon him when he does not know it! And let the net that he hid ensnare him; let him fall into it—to his destruction!

Reading:

Psalm 35 is one of the imprecatory Psalms.  An imprecatory Psalm is a prayer, in this case by David, asking God to bring down a curse or calamity on an enemy.   Imprecatory Psalms are filled with such intense anger that Eugene Peterson has said that they are Biblical cursing.   


 In Psalm 35, David asks that his enemies be disgraced and become like chaff in the wind, that their path be slippery and that this treacherous path leads them to their utter ruin.    Given that Jesus has called us to love our enemies and that we are to "be angry and sin not," what are we to do with these imprecations?  Why do they remain in scripture?  Issac Watts was so offended by these Psalms that he left them out of his 1719 hymnal.  This famous songwriter thought them too dangerous and profane to sing.


Let's look at the imprecatory psalms in light of the gospel and the Kingdom message of Jesus Christ. First of all, I think Psalms like this show us that our anger must be brought in prayer to the Lord, for that is the only place where it is safe to discharge such rage.  Anger is like the engine light coming on in our car.  We ignore it at our own peril.    If we act on our anger, we will be vengeful and bitter,  disgracing the gospel and tainting our souls.  If we deny our anger, our fury will emerge when we least expect it.  But, when we give the Lord our anger, He can help us process it, so that eventually we can forgive others and walk in love.


Lastly, we can turn our anger against the forces behind godlessness, darkness and evil.  The Apostle Paul writes, For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)  God gives us a target for the imprecatory Psalms.  Let the prayerful wrestling begin!

Actions:

What are you angry about today?  Who is your anger directed toward?  Process it before the Lord, asking Him to bring you to a place of love for enemies.  How might you direct your anger at godlessness toward the dark cosmic forces of this age? 

Prayer:

O Lord, I can either live in denial about my anger or see it erupt toward others when I least expect it.  I give you my anger, asking you to transform it into prayerful action against dark spiritual entities and love toward human enemies.  Amen.

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