Many Christians struggle with the imprecatory psalms. They wonder how to interpret and use psalms that call for God’s wrath against enemies like this:
Let their own table before them become a snare;
and when they are at peace, let it become a trap.
Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see,
and make their loins tremble continually.
Pour out your indignation upon them,
and let your burning anger overtake them.
How do you reconcile this with Jesus command to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44)?
Graham Gladstone, a pastor at The Rock Community Church in Woodstock, Ontario, sent me this, and it’s very good. He’s given me permission to post it here:
The imprecatory psalms record for us the human response to evil, sin and injustice. We, with justice in mind, want to see evil-doers get theirs.
Question: I wonder if/to what degree the Hebrews expected the fulfillment of their imprecatory prayers to come through their Messiah?
If so, no wonder they were disappointed, because when He came, He came not as a nationalistic warrior, but as a Suffering Servant.
Now, here’s the twist.
The imprecations are humanity’s plea: God, punish evil!
The Incarnation is God’s response.
The problem is, all of humanity finds itself under the curse that it calls upon its enemies in these types of psalms. Instead of doling out the punishment of the imprecations that every human deserved, God answered the prayer by sending (not a warrior to punish individual sinners), but His Suffering Servant Son to receive the punishment that all sinners deserve, and so ransom humanity. What incredible mercy!
What incredible mercy indeed. The incarnation, including the work of Christ at the cross, is God’s answer to the imprecatory psalms.