Sometimes you just have to tell it like it is. There is a time to do your best in putting up a good face and dealing with people who don’t ever stop gossiping, slandering, and trying to get their way. But there is also a time to call such behavior “evil” and cry out to God for help.
Psalm 35 is a classic prayer in the category called “imprecatory psalms.” The term “imprecatory” means to call down a curse on a person or group of people. Maybe this surprises you that there is such language in the Bible. In fact, there are 18 such imprecatory psalms which make a clear petition to God for him to turn the evil back on themselves that they inflict (or try to inflict) on others.
I’m a believer in making simple observations about the biblical text. Let’s observe a few things about such psalms:
1. David asks God to deal with the evil behavior of powerful people.
Unlike most of us, David went through a time in is life where there were powerful people who were literally trying to hunt him down and take his life. As much as we might speculate whether David wanted to take matters into his own hands, the fact remains that he didn’t. David relied on God to execute judgment.
2. David did not hold his feelings back in describing exactly what he wanted God to do.
There is nothing sanitized here in the psalm. David was understandably upset. He did nothing wrong, yet he was being chased like an animal. David said it plainly to God: “attack my attackers;” “aim your spear at everyone who hunts me down;” “send your angel after them;” “surprise them with disaster;” and, “let them fall and rot in the pits they have dug.” Whatever you might think about how a proper Christian ought to say and pray, imprecatory curses might not be your first thought. But here they are, out there for us to read in the Holy Bible.
3. The psalms are the prayer book of the church.
That includes the imprecatory psalms. Yes, they ought to be prayed by us right along with psalms of praise, thanksgiving, and song. I want you to think what might be a radical thought for you: We ought to include imprecatory prayers in our regular rhythms, routines, and rituals of prayer.
Evil will not have the last word. God opposes the proud and the arrogant who step on others to get their way. But he gives grace to the humble, that is, those who look to him for justice and righteousness; are open about their feelings of hurt and upsetedness; and, lift-up imprecatory prayers which are biblically consistent.
Saving God, you protect the helpless from those in power and save the poor and needy who cry out to you. Mighty God, turn back on those with slanderous tongues, gossiping words, and sinful actions the evil they intend to inflict on others. Let them fall into a deep black hole for which they cannot get out and harm anyone again; through King Jesus, our Savior, in the assistance of the Holy Spirit. Amen.