The writers of these Psalm are praying to God about opposition they face. These kind of Psalms are often called ‘Imprecatory Psalms’. An Imprecation is a calling down of destruction upon someone or a group. In various ways these Psalms call on God to identify, judge and punish enemies they face. In short: God smote so and so…
If we agree Psalms are instruction as to how God wants us to pray, we have a problem. Christ on the cross prayed for His enemies… He taught His followers to ‘pray for those who persecute you’… not against them… Are we supposed to use these Psalms as a guide to call down the wrath of God.
YES, but the heart behind that desire is what is critical. The enemies we are to pray against are not our enemies. The Enemy (Satan) is not our enemy. He is God’s enemy. Those we are asking God to ‘smite’ are those who declare themselves (by word and deed) to be enemies of God and what He stands for. What He stands for is often summarized by the phrase: HIS NAME.
We are being taught by these Psalms how to pray in agreement with God’s will for HIS enemies (we have tons of other Scripture to see HIS will toward HIS enemies). So these are prayers not for our cause to be upheld, but rather God’s Cause / Name.
‘The prayer for the vengeance of God is the prayer for the execution of His righteousness in the judgement of sin.’ ~ D. Bonhoeffer
These Psalms teach us how to pray against the enemies of the cause of Christ. We are to learn how to pray IN AGREEMENT with the revealed will of Yahweh found in the consistent, historical interpretation of Scripture.
Prayers that come from a heart that says: ‘Because I belong to You and You have made me Yours, I stand opposed to those who oppose YOU.’ ‘I leave all justice to you. I seek no revenge. I trust your control of the outcome.’ ‘Lord I ask you to do what you have said you will do’. There is no place for our getting revenge or settling the score or being vindicated.
These are Prayers that draw a line. These are Prayers that make you take a side. Only someone who is truly innocent can leave ALL the vengeance to God. The only way any of us are innocent is to be ‘In Christ’… This is defined by Christ as having surrendered your life to Him and The Gospel. We pray these Psalms ‘In Christ’, agreeing with God’s will & with an attitude of trust. We are going to look at all of psalm 5 and most of psalm 55 to see these principles.
Psalm 5 (72 cross references in 12 verses)
1 Listen to my words, Yahweh, consider my lament. 2 Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to You I pray. 3 In the morning, Yahweh You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly.
- The most important thing we can do in prayer is approach God with humility
- This is a declaration of wanting God to recognize the need for help
- This is a statement of belief that God is worth praying to
- This is a statement of expectation that God will hear and answer
- Where does assurance of God hearing and answering prayer come from?
4 For You are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with You, evil is not welcome. 5 The arrogant cannot stand in Your presence. You hate all who do wrong; 6 You destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful You, Yahweh, detest.
- We are to pray to God recognizing where He stands regarding evil & arrogance
- We are to pray to God understanding what He hates and detests
- We are to pray to God knowing how much the truth matters to Yahweh
Each of us is evil, arrogant and tells lies. How can we ever be welcomed by God?
7 But I, by Your great love, can come into Your house; in reverence I bow down toward Your holy temple. 8 Lead me, Yahweh, in Your righteousness, because of my enemies—make Your way straight before me.
- We can be like the writer, and by God’s great love come into His presence
- We can approach with reverence knowing that God welcomes us in Christ!
- We ask Him to lead us His way, by His righteousness, overcoming His enemy
- Because His enemy is MY enemy
- Verse 8 is is a great prayer all by itself!
9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with malice. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongues they tell lies. 10 Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against You.
- When you are opposed to God you are basically opposed to the truth
- When you are opposed to God the driving force of your life becomes malice
- The author then asks God to judge & sentence them based on their rebellion
11 But let all who take refuge in You be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread Your protection over them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You. 12 Surely, Lord, You bless the righteous; You surround them with Your favor as with a shield.
- This is plea to be included in ‘all who take refuge in God’
- This is asking God to give the experience of ‘The Joy of Salvation’
- Those who ‘Love God’s Name’ love & live out all that God stands for
- When You love all that Yahweh stands for your Joy is found in HIM!
- When you love all that God’s stands for you join Him in opposing His Enemies
- Those He makes righteous…that is the blessing, being made righteous
- It is known as ‘Grace’ God’s undeserved favor… He surrounds His people in it
- And this is our protection from enemies…in this life and forever…
Psalm 55 1-11 & 22-23 (85 cross references in 23 verses)
1 Listen to my prayer, Elohim, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. 2 My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught 3 because of what my enemy is saying, because of the threats of the wicked; for they bring down suffering on me and assail me in their anger.
- It seems like the author is being demanding… ordering God around
- But He is only speaking what God said He would do
- Troubled thoughts: God’s enemies use physiological warfare & threats
- When people attack us in anger it is discouraging and causes suffering
4 My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. 5 Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.
- An anguished heart describes a hurt emotional state (deep emotional pain)
- Facing death is terrifying, even if you know you have ‘eternal security’
- Fear is one of Satan’s favorite ways to try to alienate us from God
6 I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!I would fly away and be at rest. 7 I would flee far away and stay in the desert; 8 I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.”
- This is an expression of wanting to have peace, to avoid the conflict
- The writer is looking to be delivered from the situation
9 Adonai, confuse the wicked, confound their words, for I see violence and strife in the city. 10 Day and night they prowl about on its walls; malice and abuse are within it. 11 Destructive forces are at work in the city; threats and lies never leave its streets.
- This is a cry for God to use His power to confuse and disrupt established evil
- The confluence of population in cities leads to a gathering of evil forces
- This is ‘Spiritual Illumination’: evil has always multiplied in population centers
The middle of this Psalm deals with being betrayed, crying out to God, trusting Him to move, citing His unchanging nature, and identifying common enemies. And then this is how it ends…
22 Cast your cares on Yahweh and he will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken. 23 You my God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of decay; the bloodthirsty and deceitful will not live out half their days. But as for me, I trust in You.
- It is guidance and encouragement to ‘The Righteous’
- We become ‘The Righteous’ by casting our cares / surrendering our life to God
- If He has made You His, you can expect to be sustained through any attack
- If He has made you righteous He will not allow the enemy to change that
- We can be confident that those who oppose God will face HIS judgement
- We can trust in God because like the author, His Spirit assures us
Do you remember earlier when I asked; Where does the assurance of God hearing ans answering prayer come from? It is the Christ-given, indwelling Spirit of God in us!
Prayer Pointers: How God’s Word Teaches Us to Pray
Begin from humility, ask God to listen, hear, consider and answer your prayer.
Have an expectation He will answer without presupposing what that answer will be.
Be honest, real, emotional & open with Him about Your situation.
Fully agree with what Scripture says about Jesus Christ & His enemies.
Ask God to disrupt the evil His enemies do in our community.
Ask God to help you live more devoted to Him because of the surrounding evil.
Ask God to enact HIS will upon those who oppose Him.
Ask God to give you spiritual insight as to the evil that coalesces in cities.
Ask God to sustain you through attacks you suffer for HIS Name, and trust He will.
Ask God to teach you how to love His name and to find the shalom that brings.
Agree that your righteousness comes from trusting Christ, with everything!
Ask Christ to help you trust in His protection as your only protection.