This week my sermon text is Psalm 13, one of the lament Psalms. The point of this week is to encourage people to turn to God in their times of suffering, to question Him if need be, but over it all to trust in God’s unfailing love (verse 5 of Psalm 13).
As I was doing some reading on Psalms of lament I was reminded that there are times when the writer of Psalms asks God to punish those who are persecuting him. Take for example Psalm 137:
O Lord, remember what the Edomites did on the day the armies of Babylon captured Jerusalem. “Destroy it!” they yelled. “Level it to the ground!” O Babylon, you will be destroyed. Happy is the one who pays you back for what you have done to us. Happy is the one who takes your babies and smashes them against the rocks! (verses 7-9; NLT)
Here the psalmist is praising God and hoping that what has been done to Jerusalem will visited on the nations responsible. The bottom line is that this is very harsh. What do you do with a text like this?
I think one has to remember two things. First, we have to remember that the psalms are worshipers heartfelt cry to God. The reason that the Psalms still resonate with us is because they continue to capture our feelings. To divorce the original heartfelt cry that the author felt in order to discover some theological truth does a disservice to the Psalm. Ultimately the purpose of the Psalms is to lead us, those who claim to be God’s people, in worship of God. With that in mind, who among us hasn’t wished this very thing on a person who has done us wrong? I know I have. That doesn’t make it right, but it is a reminder that when we turn to God in worship we can have a whole range of emotions boiling in our hearts.
The second thing is that justice is ultimately in the hands of God. I like what W. H. Bellinger wrote about this issue in his book on Psalms:
“The speakers of the Psalms exhibit a strong sense of justice and an awareness of what it means to be God’s people. These passages, then, are part of the fight against injustice and the enemies of God and God’s worshiper(s). In addition, these psalms are prayers addressed to God, not curses as they are sometimes called, and thus they leave any decision in the matter to God. The prayers seek God’s help rather than invoking an impersonal, ritualized curse formula. In these prayers against the enemies, the worshiper does not destroy the enemy, but in a liberating act of faith, places the matter with God, the judge par excellence.” (Psalms, p. 54)
We may have our preference for the way justice is dolled out, but that ultimately rests in the hands of God.
With that being said, I wonder if it is ever proper to pray against people? I have heard Dr. Mark Moore, professor at Ozark Christian College, say that when he drives past an adult bookstore that he prays that the men inside that store will be found out by their mothers, wives, and daughters and that the store will lost business. I think that is a fair thing to pray.
I think it would be good to pray against elected officials who support abortion and same-sex “marriages” that they will lose their next election. I have a friend who was in an accident which was caused by the other driver, and then that driver decided not to pay for the damages. My friend prayed that God would make him feel so guilty that the man would pray. A couple days later the man showed up and said, “I can’t take it anymore, here is the money.”
There are legitimate times in our lives when it is proper for us to pray against someone else, but we have to remember that God is the one in control, He is the one who decides how divine justice is distributed.