To imprecate means “to invoke evil upon or curse” one’s enemies. David prayed such prayers in the Psalms. Jesus invoked the Psalms. Paul also cursed those with another gospel, and the Saints cry out for God to avenge their blood. But should Christians incorporate imprecatory prayers today in light of Jesus commanding we love our enemies? My guest, Dr. John Diamond, joins me in this episode to discuss this important and timely topic.
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The consistent witness of Scripture affirms the legitimacy of God’s people making use of imprecatory prayers in their individual, family, and corporate prayers. Underlying this assertion is a basic assumption that the prayers of God’s people should be rooted in all of Scripture. The Psalter is God’s divinely inspired prayer book and hymnal. It gives us the language of petition and praise. The imprecatory psalms help give shape to the hurt and outrage that the people of God at times experience in a world desecrated by sin.
Some react to the harsh language of the imprecatory psalms. While this is understandable, we mustn’t lose sight of what our sin deserves. Others underscore the teaching of Jesus to love our enemies. But loving our enemies in the New Testament never comes at the expense of forgoing appeals to divine justice. Praying for God to punish the wicked is neither unloving nor vindictive but is an expression of faith in Him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23). Still others want to limit the imprecatory psalms to old covenant Israel. While the circumstances of God’s covenant people have changed with the advent of Christ, the same cruelties that plagued Israel as a believing people in a hostile world still haunt the church today. If we remove the vocabulary of the imprecatory psalms from our homes and churches, what else will Christians sing and pray when tragedy strikes?
To pray the imprecatory psalms is ultimately to pray as Jesus taught us to pray. As Christians, we long for God’s kingdom to come. We yearn for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Praying the imprecatory psalms is not a call to arms but a call to faith. We lift our voices, not our swords, as we pray for God either to convert or curse the enemies of Christ and His kingdom. –Dr. John W. Tweeddale
I cannot forbear the following little incident that occurred the other morning at family worship. I happened to be reading one of the imprecatory psalms, and as I paused to remark, my little boy, a lad of ten years, asked with some earnestness: “Father, do you think it right for a good man to pray for the destruction of his enemies like that?” and at the same time referred me to Christ as praying for his enemies. I paused a moment to know how to shape the reply so as to fully meet and satisfy his enquiry, and then said, “My son, If an assassin should enter the house by night, and murder your mother, and then escape, and the sheriff and citizens were all out in pursuit, trying to catch him, would you not pray to God that they might succeed and arrest him, and that he might be brought to justice?” “Oh, yes!” said he, “but I never saw it so before. I did not know that that was the meaning of these psalms.” “Yes,” said I, “my son, the men against whom David prays were bloody men, men of falsehood and crime, enemies to the peace of society, seeking his own life, and unless they were arrested and their wicked devices defeated, many innocent persons must suffer.” The explanation perfectly satisfied his mind. [as found in War Psalms of the Prince of Peace: Lessons From the Imprecatory Psalms, 90; James E. Adams]
King David, the psalmist most associated with imprecatory verses such as Psalm 55:15, 69:28, and 109:8, often used phrases like, “may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them” (Psalm 35:6) and “O God, break the teeth in their mouths; tear out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD!” (Psalm 58:6).
Psalms 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 109, and 139 were written by David to ask God to bring judgment upon his enemies. (The other two imprecatory psalms, 79 and 137, were written by Asaph and an unknown psalmist.) These prayers were written not so much to exact revenge upon one’s enemies, but rather to emphasize God’s abhorrence of evil, His sovereignty over all mankind, and His divine protection of His chosen people. Many of these prayers were prophetic and could be seen taking place later in the New Testament in actual historical events.
Matthew 23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
Matthew 26:23–24 And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me. 24 The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.
1 Corinthians 16:22 If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.
Galatians 1:8–9 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
Galatians 5:12 I would they were even cut off which trouble you.
2 Timothy 4:14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:
Revelation 6:10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?
Previous show with Dr. Diamond on this subject.
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