Reading through the Bible together

Sunday, November 24, 2013

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This Psalm is directed to “My God, whom I praise,” and closes with a commitment to praise Him: “With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lord.” David, the author of this Psalm, is attacked again, surrounded by enemies who hurl at him denouncing words and distort any sense of fairness: “They repay me evil for good and hatred for my friendship” (v.5). Starting from verses 6 to 20, we have the part of the Psalm where David changes his expression from plural to singular and opens the floodgates of his bitter feelings, asking for their evil to be rewarded accordingly. Here and in several other instances while reading this Psalm, we are struck by such violence of language that we wonder what is going on. The words were strong enough to be quoted by Peter with a scathing application to Judas: “‘Let his dwelling place be desolate, and let no one live in it;’ and ‘Let another take his office’” (Acts 1:20).

Some observations will help us better understand these passages. The severity of the language has to be understood in the context of those times. Life was cheap and men and women were ruthlessly killed. Rather than relying on his sword, David summons God to intervene and to pronounce a judgment on the evildoers. He does not engage in retaliation. Once he tried to do that and he was convinced to give up by a wise woman. Words like “the wicked” or “the deceitful” and “the accuser” (vs. 2 and 4) are reminder of the language used for Satan, the original foe of God and of His children, the initiator of evil and sin in the universe. God is not passive if confronted with injustice and oppression, so His children are expected to have the same attitude toward evil. At the same time this Psalm is a practical lesson of what should we do with our negative emotions, with the bitterness which sometimes comes into our hearts to control us, with or without us being aware of it. C. S. Lewis says that we have to forgive our brother seventy times seven for the same mistake and not for 490 different mistakes. David speaks to God about his negative emotions and he summons Him to manifest Himself and intervene. This is his reason to turn to God in full confidence: “But You, O GOD the Lord, deal with me for Your name’s sake; because of Your mercy is good, deliver me” (v. 21). This way only can we enter the state of mind needed to praise God.

Dear Lord,

Help us when we see ourselves surrounded by enemies or when our souls are engulfed by sadness. We seek You in full confidence that You are at the right side of the “poor and needy.” Our hearts will praise You only. Amen.

 

Ioan Campian-Tatar
General Secretary
Romanian Union Conference