Psalms 58 Devotions
by Pastor Mark Hudson
Have you ever heard the phrase imprecatory prayers or imprecatory Psalms? Imprecatory prayers are those that call down a curse against God’s enemies. Since this is one of the Psalms that call down God’s judgment on sinners, I thought we might explore this topic.
Here are some of the passages in the Bible that show similar desires to curse the wicked: Ps 59, 69:23-25, 109, 137 (showing some element of hope) and 5:11; 10:15; 17:13; 54:7; 55:10. One author claims there are 40 imperative petitions which ask for injury to or destruction of enemies. What follows are direct quotes of what Tate writes in volume 20 of the Word Biblical Commentary p. 88ff. Walter Brueggemann is quoted as writing these petitions give “freedom of expression to those raw edges in our life that do not easily submit to the religious conviction we profess on good days.”
Tate rightly contends that fear, hurt, anger, and the desire for revenge are elements in our lives as human beings. We gain nothing by denying the real nature of our experiences. Forgiveness of our enemies is not easy, but it is facilitated by the acknowledgment to God of our hurt and anger. When bitterness and pain are poured out to God, the way may be cleared for a fresh vision of reality and new trust in God.
Furthermore, in most cases, the language about enemies is directed to God rather than to the enemies. The speakers do not ask for the power to take things into their own hands and to be able to personally punish their foes, and permission is never granted for them to do so.
Yahweh is not an indifferent God, how turns away from the terrible evils of humanity; he is the defender of the poor and oppressed, the comforter of those who hurt and mourn. He is a God who hears and saves.
Tate further claims that these Psalms invite us “. . . to enter into them on behalf of others, if not for ourselves. The language of these Psalms evokes in us an awareness of the terrible wickedness that is in the world. They may not be our prayers, at the moment at least, but they are the prayers of our sisters and brothers who are trampled down by persons and powers beyond their control. The long Christian tradition of the imprecatory psalm as the prayers of Christ on behalf of the poor and needy may be of real value in this regard. An ancient Christian tradition treats the psalms as both about Christ and as prayers of Christ. . . .
I hope this whets your appetite for more theological reflection on these Psalms. Consider also that when you pray, “Come Lord Jesus” or “Thy kingdom come” are you not asking for judgment? You are asking for Christ to return and when Christ returns He will come in judgment, wrath, and glory.
Would you feel different about these prayers if you watched the slaughter of family members, the violent destruction of your church building, jailing of church members unjustly? Since we have not experienced tragedy, loss, and deprivation, is our view of the Bible and the Christian life distorted?
I also want to include this link from John Piper. He is quite possibly my favorite Baptist. Contending with him would be Al Mohler, Steve Lawson, Mark Dever, and a host of other fantastic Baptist. Some of these men are so good, my advice is: just read whatever they write. I am so thankful to these godly, spiritual, and gifted men. https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/do-i-not-hate-those-who-hate-you-o-lord
Father, help me to balance a sincere love of those who do not share my faith and a respect for them as people as well as their contribution to my life and our community with such a fierce love for you that I oppose the worldview of those who hate you. I confess that I don’t have that balance figured out. I see Christ spending time with those who are far away from You and having a love for them. Yet I also read the Psalms and Revelation where your judgment is a cause for praise. Help me to teach in such a way that I let other know I am also trying to work out these tricky issues. Lord, help me to love others but love you, by far, the most. Amen.