# 135 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 35 Slandered-mocked-hated!

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It wasn’t a particularly pleasant experience. There I was at home with my family in the rural town of UM in Pakistan and the police came knocking at the door. They asked me to accompany them to the police station as a complaint had come in as regards us and what we were doing there, which was running TB clinics to help mainly the poor of the district suffering from this killer disease. When I arrived, there sitting with the police chief was the religious leader from the local Mosque, someone who had never been particularly friendly towards us. Straight away he began to make false accusations about us, suggesting that our medical work was useless and just a cover up for the real reason we were there, i.e. to lead people away from his religion. To his first accusation about our work I suggested they asked the many patients who had been cured of TB due to our treatment. As regards his second accusation I simply took out my passport and showed him the visa granted to us by his government. It said “Missionary Visa”!  I said, “Your government is obviously not worried about out religious activities or why would they allow us in the country?’ The ‘case’ was dismissed! But it is never enjoyable to be disliked, falsely accused and slandered. In fact you could say, it is very stressful!

In Psalm 35, I think we can safely assume that the psalmist is David because “many points of correspondence between the statements of this psalm and the experiences of David in Saul’s day can be suggested if one compares 1 Samuel 20, 23-26.” (Leupold  # 43) This was a tough time in David’s life and the sorts of descriptions he uses in this psalm concerning his “enemies” tells all. Among other things he says about them that they are:

 those who contend with me…
 those who fight against me…
those who pursue me…
those who seek my life…
those who plot my ruin…
they question me on things I know nothing about.
They repay me evil for good…
They slandered me without ceasing…
they maliciously mocked
those who hate me without reason…                                                                                                 
devise false accusations…

I think it is safe to say that David was stressed! And who could blame him?

Now, compared to living in days like David lived, or even living in our own days in a war zone like, for example, Syria, most of us (particularly in Australia) know little about stress related to enemies attacking us either verbally or physically. So, I think it is fair to suggest that this would be an extreme situation for the majority of us. But, on the other hand, we all experience stress in some way, and so can enter in to some extent.

So, a key thing we can learn from this psalm is simply that David dealt with this stress by talking about it. Something suggested by any good therapist. But, even more important, by talking about it to God. Sadly, not the normal suggestion of most therapists! And David didn’t gloss over things, he told it like it is. He didn’t consider that there was anything God couldn’t handle, or might be offended by, or wouldn’t be interested in. Everything was poured out to God – all his suffering, his frustration, his anger, his pain and importantly, what the cause of all this was.  He knew what to do and he did it.

I’m not suggesting that this is the only thing we can do in a stressful situation, but this one is vital. Don’t leave it until all else fails!  Prioritize spending time talking to God about all that is happening.

Then, in time, as David says here:

…my soul will rejoice in the Lord
and delight in his salvation.
10 My whole being will exclaim,
“Who is like you, Lord?

Father, in this world we will have times of stress and even opposition because we belong to you. Help us to always come to you in such times, trusting you to meet our needs at such times. In answer to David above, Lord, there is none like you! Amen.

 

# 134 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 35. Omitted from public worship.

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I wonder when was the last time you either read or sang any part of Psalm 35 in church? Or maybe the right question is, have you ever read or sung it in church? We have our favourites and, I imagine, this psalm is not one of them. So then, I guess we need to then ask, why not? And you might say, well Rod, just read it for yourself and then you will understand!

Historically, at times, Christians have had a problem with psalms like this, sometimes called “imprecatory psalms” which are described as those that “invoke judgment, calamity, or curses, upon one’s enemies or those perceived as the enemies of God.”  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imprecatory_PsalmsUsing images of conflict and hostility, right from the beginning this psalm reveals this truth as it petitions God to “engage himself as a warrior…to match the hostilities of the opponents.” (Broyles). The psalmist (probably David) passionately and desperately cries out:

Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me;
    fight against those who fight against me.
Take up shield and armour;
    arise and come to my aid.
Brandish spear and javelin
against those who pursue me.
Say to me,
“I am your salvation.”

May those who seek my life
    be disgraced and put to shame;
may those who plot my ruin
be turned back in dismay.
May they be like chaff before the wind,
with the angel of the Lord driving them away;
may their path be dark and slippery,
    with the angel of the Lord pursuing them.

Since they hid their net for me without cause
and without cause dug a pit for me,
may ruin overtake them by surprise—
may the net they hid entangle them,
may they fall into the pit, to their ruin.

Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord
and delight in his salvation.
10 My whole being will exclaim,
“Who is like you, Lord?
You rescue the poor from those too strong for them,
the poor and needy from those who rob them.”

Wilcock quotes C.S. Lewis in his book Reflections on the Psalms when in his chapter on “The Cursings”, he says: “The Church of England’s Alternative Service Book of 1980 marked passages in thirteen [Imprecatory Psalms] which…’may be omitted’…in public worship. In one case (Psalm 58) the entire psalm was so marked.” Thankfully, says Wilcock, “their successors were less swayed by the spirit of the age, and Common Worship, published in 2000, contains no such editorial high-handedness.”

He also quotes Wenham who referred to “a study some years ago which concluded that on the grounds of their ‘bloodthirsty threats and curses’ no fewer than 84 psalms (out of 150!) were ‘not fit for Christians to sing’!”

Such is the problem some people have with these particular psalms. What about you?

Bit by bit, over the next weeks we will look at this psalm and see (with the help of some better qualified than me) if we can find some possible answers to the questions we may have with this particular type of psalm, and hopefully find ourselves having a new appreciation for why these psalms are included in the scriptures.

Father, thank you, even if we don’t always understand everything we read in the Bible, we know that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that [we] the servant[s] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). And that even includes these “difficult” psalms! Amen.

Note:  to listen to Psalm 35 as a song go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfoyhlSJ9f8