If you have just read this psalm, you may be thinking, how can you relate to such a “imprecatory or cursing” psalm? Maybe your life is pretty good, things are generally going well, you are comfortable, enemies are few and far between, there is little to complain about and certainly no one that you feel the need for God to punish for the way they have treated you unjustly?
Brueggemann suggests not to just skip this psalm and move onto a nicer one. He writes, “One may conclude, ‘This psalm does not concern me, because I have never been that angry.’ Such a response may be spoken as though it was a virtue, but I suggest it reflects someone who is only half living. It is a good idea, when encountering a psalm like this, to ask, ‘Whose psalm is this?’ If I am not able to pray that way today, then I can ask, who needs to pray that way today? Who is justified to pray that way today?” (# 2)
Considering world and national and local events, who might you think of? The obvious people who come to mind are those suffering in the devasting destruction and loss of life in Ukraine at this time. As usual, amongst the innocent victims are the elderly, the sick, those with a disability, children and women. The latter too often victimized by rape and other such atrocities of war. But there are many more situations where the anger expressed in this psalm is appropriate and justified – certain Afghans under the Taliban regime, victims of civil war in a few African nations, those living under oppressive and controlling regimes, and how can we forget the millions of refugees worldwide.
“Through this psalm the believer may join in the prayers of those who take God seriously and whose destiny is so heavy that they need others to join in these prayers with them. For such as these, the rage must be carried to heaven, because there is no other court of appeal… We are invited to join in such prayers for others… even if the psalm seems remote from our life. It could happen that this ‘going to court’ (which is what prayers of intercession are about) may lead to other interventions, also on behalf of those abused and needing a vocal friend at court.” (# 2)
So, what was the nature of the people and their actions who the psalmist complained about because of their opposition and injustices that the psalmist (and others) was suffering?
They are 2 people who are wicked and deceitful… they have spoken against me with lying tongues… 3 With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause.
4 In return for my friendship they accuse me… 5 They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship… 16 For he never thought of doing a kindness, but hounded to death the poor and the needy and the broken-hearted. 17 He loved to pronounce a curse… He found no pleasure in blessing… 18 He wore cursing as his garment.
Is there any wonder that the psalmist was full of anger and indignation towards such people and their wicked activities! But he was doing the right thing in appealing to God to bring justice rather than trying to do it himself. So, he prayed:
1 My God, whom I praise, do not remain silent… 21Sovereign Lord, help me for your name’s sake; out of the goodness of your love, deliver me… 26 Help me, Lord my God; save me according to your unfailing love. 27 Let them know that it is your hand, that you, Lord, have done it.
Brueggemann concludes: “’Love of neighbour’ surely means to go to court with the neighbour who is grieved.” (# 2)
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. (Psalm 68:19)
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.(Galatians 6:2)