Friday, October 28, 2011

Psalm 58 – In Time, the LORD Will Avenge

“People will say, ‘Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth’.” ~Psalm 58:11 (NRSV).

The uninitiated could be forgiven for reading Psalm 58 as possibly unbiblical. They might contend: “How can Christians pray such passages for harm to their enemies?”

For Christians, that is the very point.

Everyone deals with injustice, directly and personally, whilst also visually, as they survey the nature of life and the indiscriminate character of results both harsh and also just and all between.

The Christian’s defence is the Lord.

The Lord will facilitate vengeance; the Lord will repay (Deuteronomy 32:35, c.f. Romans 12:19). Patience in the mood of distress will see to it.

The Structure for Imprecation

The ‘art’ of imprecating is the fashioning of a curse over one’s enemies, and what this psalm does well is it models a way we can pray when we are contorted in anger as we take in the vista of discouraging injustice sweeping our perspective.

The structure of imprecation in this psalm is simple: a two-verse introduction precedes a broad seven-verse body containing the detail of the psalmist’s imaginatively vitriolic mind as he speaks ruin over the wicked. The conclusion, like the introduction, is contained in two verses.

We may wonder, yet again, whether we can legitimately holler such curses over others. It doesn’t seem ‘Christian’ to do that.

Understanding Imprecation in the Process of Adjustment

Cursing someone who has hurt us may not seem very good, but God understands it is part of the normal human process of adjustment. What this psalm commends is keeping such destructive emotion below the level of action—a commitment to waiting on the Lord.

With psalms like this God allows the venting of normal human reaction. Whether we yell into a pillow, or roar heinous utterances against our betrayers, matters little. The main thing is we have a harmless outlet.

What gives us peace is that God allows for it. God makes room for anger, for we are to be angry, but sin not (Ephesians 4:26).

If we take the first nine verses under advisement, looking at verses 10-11 as instructional, we can see the logical end point in our adjustment: faith will speak for us, as our relative silence goes towards our defence. The Lord is fighting this battle.


Many Christians feel confused, even perplexed, regarding their emotions for anger. Indeed, it’s a universal human emotion. Being Christian matters little, except for the command:

“Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.” ~Ephesians 4:26-27 (NRSV).

Anger is acceptable because God made us in ways to feel it. Our role is to deal with it appropriately. Beyond that, this psalm commends a faith that rewards the patient.

Furthermore, let this be a model for the rest of the world to see. We do not take the law into our own hands.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

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