Summer of Psalms: Ministry of a Curse

BIG IDEA: In Hebrew, the book of Psalms is called “The Book of Praises,” which is interesting because many of the psalms, including Psalm 109, don’t seem much like songs of praise. But if you look closely, even the most challenging and difficult psalms, are still psalms of praise. We all feel anger toward our enemies. Is it right to pray these feelings to God? Is our anger sinful? How might the Psalms teach us how to be fully human and yet not sin?

SERIES: Summer of PsalmsIn many ways, the Psalms are at the heart of Scripture, but we often disregard them. Let’s reclaim the wonder of the Psalms! Let’s reclaim this God breathed collection of 150 poems of the people of God sung aloud for thousands of years by the Hebrew people, inspiring and teaching generation after generation of Jewish children to communicate with Yahweh the one true God. Written prophets, poets, reflecting upon life with God between the Time of King David and the exile to Babylon, collected and organized for us by Spirit led scribes so that all people might have access to them, memorized and used for God’s people, including Jesus and his followers as “THE” vital connecting point for the hurting, praising, suffering, confused, joyful considerers. We must reclaim the Psalms if we want to learn to pray, to live, to connect with God.

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 109
Be not silent, O God of my praise!
2 For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me,
speaking against me with lying tongues.
3 They encircle me with words of hate,
and attack me without cause.
4 In return for my love they accuse me,
but I give myself to prayer.
5 So they reward me evil for good,
and hatred for my love.

6 Appoint a wicked man against him;
let an accuser stand at his right hand.
7 When he is tried, let him come forth guilty;
let his prayer be counted as sin!
8 May his days be few;
may another take his office!
9 May his children be fatherless
and his wife a widow!
10 May his children wander about and beg,
seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit!
11 May the creditor seize all that he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil!
12 Let there be none to extend kindness to him,
nor any to pity his fatherless children!
13 May his posterity be cut off;
may his name be blotted out in the second generation!
14 May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD,
and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out!
15 Let them be before the LORD continually,
that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth!

16 For he did not remember to show kindness,
but pursued the poor and needy
and the brokenhearted, to put them to death.
17 He loved to curse; let curses come upon him!
He did not delight in blessing; may it be far from him!
18 He clothed himself with cursing as his coat;
may it soak into his body like water,
like oil into his bones!
19 May it be like a garment that he wraps around him,
like a belt that he puts on every day!
20 May this be the reward of my accusers from the LORD,
of those who speak evil against my life!

21
But you, O GOD my Lord,
deal on my behalf for your name’s sake;
because your steadfast love is good, deliver me!
22 For I am poor and needy,
and my heart is stricken within me.
23 I am gone like a shadow at evening;
I am shaken off like a locust.
24 My knees are weak through fasting;
my body has become gaunt, with no fat.
25 I am an object of scorn to my accusers;
when they see me, they wag their heads.

26 Help me, O LORD my God!
Save me according to your steadfast love!
27 Let them know that this is your hand;
you, O LORD, have done it!
28 Let them curse, but you will bless!
They arise and are put to shame, but your servant will be glad!
29 May my accusers be clothed with dishonor;
may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a cloak!

30 With my mouth I will give great thanks to the LORD;
I will praise him in the midst of the throng.
31 For he stands pat the right hand of the needy one,
to save him from those who condemn his soul to death.

KEY CONSIDERATIONS

  • A Psalm of David: the people of Israel looked to David is a representative of God, a godly man, their King on Earth. And he was. But unlike the Messiah to come, he was a fallen man.
  • Fully Inspired: through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, even this Psalm, is God-breathed.
  • Imprecatory Psalm: A calling down of curses upon one’s enemy. There are four of these in the book of Psalms, and David wrote all of them.
  • Should the people of God today pray prayers of curse? It’s complicated. Is it wrong to pray that God would smite enemies like the Nazis? It’s complicated. Because Jesus asks us to love our enemies. So perhaps it’s not something we should practice. But there is nothing wrong with expressing the anger that we feel towards our enemies in prayer to God, and in doing that we can take steps towards freedom from our anger.
  • Verses 1-5
    • The Big Question of this Psalm: When we ask God to speak, to act, are we willing to trust a) that he will speak and b) his answer? Or will we, in our impatience, try to speak for him?
    • The Power of Words: These first few verses all talk about injuries David has incurred as a result of harmful words. The Bible talks throughout about the evils of the tongue.
  • Verses 22-25
    • A Shadow of Himself: These verses describe to us how being sinned against has affected David, a man after God’s own heart. And to be that kind of person does not require us to be without weakness. Rather it requires that we acknowledge our weakness and grab a hold of the Holy Spirit to strengthen us.
    • Feeling Beaten Down: In moments when we feel weak, broken, like the whole world is shaking its head at us, like we’re flimsy, know that you are no less God’s than when you are firm and strong.
  • Verses 26-29
    • Cry Out: When you’re feeling beaten down and angry at the world, cry out to God. Take David’s example and tell God honestly how you feel. We must learn how to incorporate this into our communication and relationship with God. We have to learn desperation, dependence, and honesty.
  • Verses 6-20
    • The Curses: When you’re a shadow of yourself, these verses are a good representation of how we often feel towards our enemies and towards the world when we’ve been wronged. This is how humans respond.
    • Playground Politics: These curses escalate in a way that’s all too familiar to us. David leaves nothing out of the picture. He goes all the way in his anger towards his enemies who have sinned against him. David asks for….
      • An eye for an eye.
      • Justice.
      • That his enemy would lose his position, office.
      • His enemy’s death.
      • That his enemy would lose all material possessions.
      • Lose his legacy
      • Lose his father’s legacy.
      • The sins of his mother to always be remembered.
    • Righteous Curses: David’s curses are righteous in the eyes of God because the curses fit the crime. David was also the highest representation of God on Earth at that time, which meant that sinning against David was sinning against God’s representative. His anger was righteous.
    • Righteous Anger is a right response to sin in the world. But we have to do the introspective work of discerning whether or not the anger we feel is righteous.
  • Verse 21
    • Anger Without Sin: This verse exemplifies how you can be righteously angry and still not sin. It is David’s submission to God’s grace and God’s perfect judgment, trusting that he will be faithful.
      • Not my will: David’s anger is righteous, but he never presumes to take vengeance into his own hands, trusting that God will judge. It is never right to take into your own hands what is God’s.
        • Righteous anger acted upon equals unrighteous judgment. Righteous anger prayed about, leaves room for the righteous judgment of God to work itself out.
      • Act of Love: David invokes God’s name, and that is an act of love. Because God’s name is tied to God’s character, and God is gracious. When David transcends his anger and invokes the name of God, he opens up God’s love and care for his own enemies because God is a god of grace and mercy.
        • The story of Jonah is a great example of this. Jonah tries to escape his calling because he doesn’t want his enemies to experience God’s grace and mercy.
      • Christ: David’s prayer opens the door to Christ. When we feel anger that cannot be released, we give it over to God to enact his will, and God’s will was to pour out all judgment onto his son Jesus so that all would be free from sin through the blood of Jesus. That’s what David does, whether knowingly or not.
    • Verses 30-31
      • The Players in this Psalm:
        • The Sinner uses his mouth to condemn David to death.
        • David uses his mouth to give himself, his situation, and his accuser to God, giving praise to God.
        • God uses his mouth to speak righteous judgment on his terms, in his timing, for his purpose.
      • God’s Response: If God had chosen to do as David had asked, bringing down these curses upon David’s enemies, then that act would have been one of righteous judgment.

Our Response

  • When you feel this sort of anger, know that God doesn’t want you to burn with anger forever. He doesn’t want you to enact judgment with your own hand. He doesn’t want you to not feel anger in the face of sin. Instead, he wants you to love what he loves, hate what he hates, and trust him unconditionally to deal with it.
  • How will you speak? How will you use your mouth in the face of your righteous anger? The right word is near you, the word of God, in your heart and in your mouth, so confess it with your mouth, and you will be saved.

Want to study this topic more?

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