The Implications of the Imprecatory Psalms: Praying the Imprecatory Prayers. War is imminent, facing the enemy of one-hundred thousand screaming warriors who is geared up and mocking the God of Abraham, the one true God. In the midst of war while bending to one knee on the battlefield, the godly soldiers shouting imprecations that God will wipe out all the adversaries. Unbridled, fervent, and intense is this prayer: Let their table become a snare before them, And their well-being a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see; And make their loins shake continually.
Pour out your indignation upon them, And let your wrathful anger take hold of them. Let their dwelling place be desolate; Let no one live in their tents. For they persecute the ones you have struck, And talk of the grief of those you have wounded. Add iniquity to their iniquity, And let them not come into your righteousness. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, And not be written with the righteous. –Ps. 69:22-28 NKJV In the first place, the sounds of these prayers are impassioned and direct.
The authors love God and are against the people who are opposed to God. Of course, the very utterances against God send them into an impassioned rage, with all their heart, mind, and soul; it is a righteous rage for the love of God. Who would pray this imprecatory prayer, and a more complex issue, is it ethical to pray the imprecatory prayers? Nonetheless, King David the second king of Israel prays to God that his adversaries will be wiped out. The fact is; David prays specifically that God will wipe them out of the book of life.
Top scholars such as C. S. Lewis see’s the imprecatory prayers as devilish and full of hate, while, some say they are terrible and awful prayers that should not be prayed, and there are other scholars including: Michael Travers and Warren Wiersbe, who see theses prayers as the inspired word of God. The authors of these prayers are David and his chief musician Asaph, who pray these imprecatory prayers with righteous indignation, and a consequence of the unrighteousness of the enemy who is against the living God. Therefore, in the Christian era of today, Christians should listen to David’s ideas and also understand the love he has for God.
Therefore, Christians today would pray with vigor and ask God to take away the sinful adversary. C. S. Lewis a British novelist, Christian apologist, lecturer, and teacher at oxford university approaches the imprecatory prayers as bad prayers, saying: “one way to deal with these terrible or (dare we say? ) Contemptible psalms, is to simply leave them alone”. Although, Lewis’s strategies on Christian apologetics are spot on, his position on imprecatory psalms is off kilter. The approach should be based on how the author of the prayer acquires his words. Moreover, hearing from Michael e.
Travers author of, Encountering God in the Psalms, he claims: “if we acknowledge that God inspired the imprecatory sections of the psalms and we realize that their inspiration requires us to come to terms with them, then we can begin to understand their place in scripture”. Thus, referring to 2 timothy 3:16, which explains the author of the imprecatory prayer is in fact-3— inspired by god. Furthermore, Jason Jackson, editor for Christian courier also a writer and bible teacher explains the details of imprecatory Psalms not clashing with Christian ethics. Jackson xpresses his facts biblically based; “every scripture is inspired of God” [referring to 2 Tim. 3:16].
In fact, Warren Wiersbe a pastor, Bible teacher, and a prolific writer of Christian literature and theological work and the author of Be worshipful, Glorifying God for Who He Is, a commentary on the Psalms, exclaims: “those people who have difficulty accepting the ‘imprecations in the psalms must also deal with them in Jeremiah, the preaching of John the Baptist (Matt. 3), Jesus (Matt. 23), as well as the martyrs in heaven (Rev. 6:9-11)”. Wiersbe is mentioning the imprecations that came from Gods son—Jesus and other men of God.
As a result, while understanding the prayers are the inspired word of God this helps clear the idea of ethics i. e. Praying the imprecatory prayers ethically, meaning: to apply the prayers with moral standards according to God’s word. For example, David is the one praying the imprecatory psalm while clearly understanding the holiness of God and his covenant with the nation of Israel. Pastor John Piper in his sermon, Pour Out Your Indignation Upon Them exclaims: “This is a reliable expression of what happens to the adversaries of Gods anointed, David is Gods anointed and Jesus is Gods anointed. They Love God with the total embodiment of the person, therefore asking God to eliminate the enemy who is causing others to fall, which in turn will keep others upright.
David surly prayed these imprecatory prayers against King Saul. However, David could have taken Saul’s life; nonetheless, David showed his understanding of God and gave grace by cutting off a piece of Saul’s garment. Thus, a resemblance of New Testament scripture “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good” (Rom. 2:9 KJV). At the same time, according to Robert Plummer, professor of the New Testament Interpretation and author of 40 Questions of Interpreting the Bible also reciprocates claims in imprecatory prayers “the speaker calls God to enact His divine justice against the Psalmist enemies” In essence the Psalmist enemies are enemies of God.
Plummer gives the example of David and Saul, “David who pronounced sharp an imprecatory prayer against Saul (Ps 18; 52) David is able to exhibit amazing restraint and grace towards his enemy in daily life. Moreover, David understands the covenant and Saul is one of Gods anointed. Therefore, if David would have killed Saul that would be directly against one of Gods anointed. Furthermore, David is showing discernment of God’s love, will and judgement. According to James E. Adams, preacher, an expert on Psalms, and author of, War Psalms of the Prince of Peace: Lessons from the Imprecatory Psalms, claims: “we must be careful not to make [imprecatory] Psalms our own personal prayers according to our changeful moods”, however, “we must come to understand them as Christ and His apostles understood them”.
Therefore, understanding that Jesus himself made imprecations towards Pharisees, knowing Jesus is the sinless son of God. As a result, when Jesus is saying the imprecations in Matthew 23; Jesus does not sin as He speaks to the Pharisee’s in an impassioned voice, while being mindful of His audience, with a clear mind of the holiness of God, and honestly judging the hypocrisy of the Pharisee’s. Moreover, Jesus, The Living Word, speaks at the last supper, saying: He who has dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!
It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matt. 26:23-24 NKJV). Jesus here speaks directly and truthfully not swaying his words. In light of this, Jesus did not stop loving Judas; it was Judas who walked away from God. Clearly, teaching others to speak imprecations with-in the boundaries of ethics. Also, Dr. Walter C. Kaiser Jr. author and an expert in Old Testament studies, Bible Translation, Theological Education, and Biblical Archaeology, asks: “can a God of love and mercy be categorized as one who hates”?
He was referring to the verse of Psalms 5:5. Kaiser further explains, “This verse (as well as Psalm 11:5) clearly affirms that God does hate wrongdoers, the wicked and all who love violence”. Travers defines: “We need to appreciate the holiness of God if we are to understand the outrage the Psalmist express in face of their enemies”. By showing the love for God by being outraged by witnessing a sinful enemy blatantly sinning against a Holy God. Travers also teaches that “we must learn to hate sin without sinning”.
Displaced anger would be sinful, however, when looking at the righteous anger of Jesus as he casts out the money changers at the temple, and rightly so. The act was sinning against God in His temple. Kaiser explains: “God’s anger marks the end of indifference”. Meaning God does not stay neutral nor does he turn his anger away from sin. Moreover, Kaiser further demonstrates his stand on imprecatory prayers by this explanation: “These invocations are not mere outbursts of a vengeful spirit; they are, instead, prayers addressed to God.
These earnest pleadings to God ask that he step in and right some matters so grossly distorted that if his help does not come, all hope for justice is lost”. The love for righteousness and justice runs through the “cursings” as the Psalmist speak out against their adversaries. In addition, John interprets his revelation given by Christ Jesus: “and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth” (Rev. 6:10 KJV) That is to say, the martyrs are asking for revenge of their blood.
This is a true vision of righteous judgment. The imprecatory Psalms can be used in the Christian tone of today; however, the prayer should only be said while being mindful of the holiness of God, and understanding the enemy that is being faced. The apostle Paul expresses: “Be diligent to present yourself approved of God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15 NKJV). Paul is saying that all Christians need to work for the approval of God which is achieved by correctly handling the word of truth— including the imprecatory Psalms.
Moreover, Aaron Canty author of Augustine’s Totus Christus Hermeneutic for Interpreting the Psalms reveals: For Augustine, the exegetical implications of the profound unity between Christ and the Church are that not only do Psalm passages speak about Christ and the Church but also many of those passages are spoken by Christ, or by the Church, or by Christ and the Church together”. Meaning that the Church is the congregation intertwined with Christ Jesus as one whole entity.
Further expressing “The solidarity between Christ and the rest of humanity are so powerful that whatever Christ says, the Church says, and whatever the Church expresses, Christ expresses, as well. ” This is seen as the Imprecatory Psalms being prayed to God, by a Christian would be distinguished that Christ as well is saying the prayer. Therefore, as a Christian in the world today should harken to David’s ideals and his love of God more than the sin of the enemy, and pray that God takes away the sinful—God hating enemy.