Thursday, February 19, 2009

Psalm 35 – “May they rot in the pit”

Vengeance is not something that we generally associate with in the Bible, after all, Christians are meant to be a ‘rather nice lot,’ aren’t they? King David and others turn the table on this notion in some of the psalms of lament, and Psalm 35 is arguably the pick of them in this regard.

This imprecatory psalm[1] is a classic piece of literature that one would scarcely expect to find in the Bible. But, it’s there. Think of psalms too like Psalm 44 and Psalm 88--read these and see if you’re not left scratching your head about the Jewish and Christian piety.

But, the theology of the lament psalm is just as poignant as any other piece of Scripture; because it speaks so truthfully of the nature of life. Life disappoints us (even for Christians… especially for Christians) and God never apologises for it, so at least he gives us the ability to complain in bitterness to him. And Psalm 35 is a bitter complaint.

About David’s enemies, verse 8 reads, “Let ruin come on them unawares. And let the net that they hid [for me] ensnare them; let them fall into it--to their ruin.” (NRSV)

And David dealt humbly with the same people who later took advantage of him--David sees no justice. He implores his LORD for justice and he sought it quickly.

I mean, is it ever right to feel this way about people and situations that are against us? It may not be right, but it is real. David’s response however is to cry his frustrations to God in prayer. And not that alone, but he screams in desperation as his foes pursue him and hem him in, threatening his life; not many of us can claim such persecution, though there are some in this world who could.

It might be justice that we’re praying for, and that’s fine, but this psalm teaches us, perhaps by example, we must allow God to fix his justice in place in his timeframe, though David sought it as soon as possible. And there’s no reason we can’t wish for our burdens to be lifted as quick, but in the end, we have to leave it to God--timing, places and method.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

[1] “Imprecatory psalms are those psalms that contain curses or prayers for the punishment of the psalmist's enemies. To imprecate means to invoke evil upon, or curse. Psalms 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 109, 137 and 139 all contain prayers for God's judgment on the psalmist's enemies.” (Source:

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