Today’s Chocolate: Green & Black’s Organic 85% Dark Cacao
Today’s Passage: Psalm 109
Psalm 109 is about David’s enemies. Specifically, it concerns how they are bad people and bad things should happen to them. Normally, that would be the end of it, but David happens to know someone–an Invisible Sky King, in fact–who determines which things happen to which people. So David asks him to make his enemies die in a fire so that it’s just like they never existed.
After that intro, I feel that I should reaffirm to you that yes, I am a Christian.
But this psalm is one of the hard passages. I mean, among David’s numerous ill wishes for each of his tormentors, he says, “Let [his sins] be before the Lord continually, that He may cut off their memory from the earth” (109:15). He’s basically asking God not to forgive them for all the suffering and affliction they’ve given David. And what do we do with a request like that? Do we think David’s somehow vindicated in his ill will? To his credit, he appears to be bearing in mind God’s words, “Vengeance is Mine, and retribution” (Deut. 32:35); he doesn’t take vengeance himself. But is he justified in asking God to shorten the lifespans of his foes, strip their wives and children of their wealth, and cut off their family trees?
On the other hand, David appeals to God to rescue him from his oppressors. And he doesn’t plead on the basis of his own righteousness, but on God’s goodness and his own position as a victim who suffers at the hands of evil men. He prays: “But You, O God, the Lord, deal kindly with me for Your name’s sake; because Your lovingkindness is good, deliver me” (109:21). Compared to the rest of the psalm, David’s cries for help are reasonably unproblematic. We can expect God to behave in a manner consistent with his compassionate character, rescuing his servant the psalmist from affliction and answering at least this portion of his prayer.
But we’re left with that question: why is this psalm in here? Some would say it illustrates that we desire mercy for ourselves, but justice for our enemies. Some would say it shows us that we can be raw and honest with God, expressing our deepest emotions of anger and bitterness. Even if God, in his forgiveness, doesn’t grant David’s wishes, he at least sanctions their sincere expression before him; he won’t strike down David for coming clean with what’s really on his mind. And I can get behind ideas like that. But I can’t help but wonder: was this psalm performed as part of corporate worship in ancient Israel? And how weird a praise song would that be? Imagine gathering on Sunday morning and singing: “Let there be none to extend lovingkindness to him, nor any to be gracious to his fatherless children!” (109:12)