We’ve looked at a lot of different categories of Psalms this summer, but there’s one major category that thus far we have avoided: Imprecatory Psalms. Imprecation is the act of calling down curses or judgment upon one’s enemies. And if you’ve spent any time in the book of Psalms at all, you know there is plenty of that here. What do we do with these Psalms? Most of the time modern Christians deal with them by avoiding them, by leaving them out of their devotional plans, or quickly skimming through these ugly parts of our beloved Psalter.
But the people who compiled this hymnbook of Psalms left the Imprecatory Psalms here for a reason. The fact is, the world we live in is full of terrible enemies. Our good world is also a cursed world, the world that because of sin is shot through with horrific evil too dark to name. But the Psalms dare to name it. They dare to speak the heart of those who have been abused and victimized by evil, and they invite us to articulate the same anger and hatred against evil that the Psalmists knew. For modern middle class Americans, these experiences of suffering and evil feel very alien. But for people who live and have lived in such places as Nanking, Darfur, Burundi, or even Venezuela, these prayers are very real and resonant.
In preparation for this Sunday I invite you to spend some time in the Imprecatory Psalms. Try reading Psalms 10, 13, 21, 58, and of course 137. Imagine the circumstances of those who prayed and sang these words. Envision the kind of people who might pray these words today, and pray these psalms for them. Apply the psalms personally, especially if there are places of deep anger or hatred in your life that you have suppressed and not dared to speak to God as these Psalmists do. God is big enough to hear even the darkest, most hateful places of your heart. But ultimately meditate on Jesus, who fulfilled these Psalms by allowing the full vengeance of God’s wrath on evil to be poured out upon himself, so that we, the enemies of God, might become God’s family (Colossians 1:21-22). These Psalms demonstrate just how necessary and terrible was the event of the cross for us and the world.
We’ll also be taking communion this Sunday, that place where we rehearse again the truth and power of the cross for each of us.
Our weekly worship guide can be downloaded here.
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
3 for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.
6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.
7 Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did
on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried,
“tear it down to its foundations!”
8 Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is the one who repays you
according to what you have done to us.
9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.