If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: Numbers 1, Psalm 35, Ecclesiastes 11, Titus 3. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can't do all the readings today, read Psalm 35.
Psalm 35 belongs in a category of Psalms called “Imprecatory Psalms.” The word “imprecatory” means “cursing” or, more specifically in this context “to pray down a curse” on someone. Psalms in this category can be difficult for believers to read and apply to our lives. They specifically ask God to go to war against and kill David’s enemies but seem to contradict Christ’s command to “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44). So we may ask ourselves if these prayers are appropriate to pray today, in what context would we pray them if they are appropriate, and was David wrong for praying them if they are not appropriate to us?
As we think about these questions, it is helpful to remember that David is asking God for justice. Verses 1-3 open this Psalm with a call for God to fight against David’s enemies. Verses 4-16 explain why David felt it was appropriate for God to fight his enemies. They were seeking to take his life (v. 4), they set traps for him “without cause” (v. 7), they prosecuted him legally with trumped up charges (v. 11), they repaid his past concern and prayers for them with evil (vv. 12-15), and they slandered and mocked him (vv. 15c-16). These attacks against him were not only personal, they were political. As God’s chosen king, the one to whom God had made covenant promises, their attempts to harm, kill, or depose David were attacks against the very kingdom of God itself. Since it was God’s will for his kingdom to dwell on earth as the kingdom of Israel in that age, it was also appropriate for God to defend his kingdom which included his promises to David. In this age, however, we are awaiting God’s kingdom when Christ returns. Until that happens, Jesus told us to expect the kind of persecution that he himself received. While there is a sense in which any attack against God’s children is an attack on God himself, God has not called us to establish his kingdom in this age but to preach the message of the kingdom through the gospel. Persecution is part of that, therefore we pray for our persecutors to be saved not to be smitten.
Another thing that we should understand is David’s motives for praying these prayers. His motive was not personal revenge, but rather for God to be glorified in his deliverance (vv. 9-10, 18, 27-28). This was a desire for justice but motivated by his faith in God and his desire to see God glorified. While Christ called on us to pray for our persecutors that they may be saved, there may be times when God’s enemies are seeking the extinction of the church itself. In these cases, it is appropriate to call on God to defend his people, if he chooses, so that his glory will be revealed. If we pray in that spirit, asking God to glorify himself no matter what he chooses to do, then we are praying in a way that honors God rather than from a desire to see revenge.
Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about wh0at you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we'll talk scripture again tomorrow.