Sister to Sister: Q and A…About those Imprecatory Psalms…

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QuestionMarkQuestion: When the Holy Spirit was speaking in the Psalms was He speaking in EVERY instance of them? The verse referenced in the podcast was Matt 22:44 which comes from Psalm 110:1 like you said but I am not sure I understand why you are leaning toward ALL Psalms written being the words of the Holy Spirit rather than (in some instances) the emotions of David being expressed. If David’s will for enemy destruction is in fact the Holy Spirit’s writing (like it is when David prophesies about Jesus’ coming) then I know that it is okay. That’s because whatever God says is right and true and just because He is God. However, the law David was under says “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,” in Exodus 21:24 so it doesn’t seem far fetched that he would want ill for people who want to destroy him which Jesus does NOT endorse in Matt 5:38-39. I am very sorry if this doesn’t sound humble… I mean for it to be humble. I just am not sure I fully get your reasoning on this point.

Response: First of all, let me say that asking questions like this very good and scripture-focused question is not prideful. Asking expresses humility, in my judgment. Acting like I have all the answers would be prideful, so I am not going to do that. I am going to give you my best judgment, and my judgment will, sometimes, not be right.  But talking about the scriptures is always a good thing, so let’s have a go at this. I think you are asking several related questions:

  1. Does the Holy Spirit speak in all the Psalms? I believe so. If we are free to decide, on our own, which words are inspired and which words are not, then we do not need the book of Psalms, for our learning. In fact, it would be detrimental. We would not be able to decipher, with any certainty, what is truth.
  2. What about the prayers for enemy destruction? Did the Holy Spirit inspire David to pray that? Yes. The Holy Spirit could, through David, perfectly, justly and righteously discern the appropriate measure of punishment for each enemy of the anointed of God and of God Himself. This is true in this case just as it was true in the cases of the destruction of the enemies of God as the children of Israel went into Canaan in the book of Joshua. God gets it right, every time.
  3. Could David have had God’s approval to pray for destruction of enemies because he was under the eye-for-eye law, whereas we would be prohibited from such a prayer because we are under a different law? I do not believe it was the eye-for-eye law that gave David license to pray for bad things to happen to his enemies; first, because verses like Psalm 59:13 are about totally consuming people and those people were wicked, but they had not necessarily totally consumed other people. Second, eye-for-eye is just that. Individual payment for harm was to equal the harm done in the crime in specific situations. (Check the context of Exodus 21:24–very different from people who are seeking to overthrow the anointed one of God, the King of the House of Israel, progenitor of the Messiah) Eye-for-eye law was applicable in Jewish court upon individuals who caused harm to others and that was not the situation the Holy Spirit is speaking about through David.
  4. Does Matthew 5:38-39, then, prohibit us from praying for the destruction of our personal enemies? I think verse 44 does, for sure. I do not have the miraculous inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He does not speak through me. I do have the Spirit’s admonition that I should be in prayer for those who despitefully use me. I have the Spirit’s admonition in the bottom of Romans 12 about how  must I return good for evil, heaping coals of fire on the heads of  my enemies and leaving the vengeance to God. So I must want the best for my enemies, including (and foremost this should be) their ultimate turn to God and their salvation. But the thing about the Psalms is this: their ultimate author WAS God. God–the Holy Spirit– wrote the Psalms though the Singer of Israel and other men. So, every plea in that inspired book, unless the Psalmist was quoting  an uninspired man,  is  just and right. In the new Testament, the Holy Spirit promised that God will take vengeance on those who know not God and obey not the Gospel– in flaming fire, no less. He adds that these will be punished with everlasting destruction (II Thessalonians 1:8,9) Is it wrong for me to pray that the victory over Satan will be won, in the end, and that those who do not submit to my God will be punished–even destroyed? No, that would simply be praying the scriptures…agreeing with the Spirit.  But it would be wrong for me to pray for the destruction of my personal enemies because I am not the all-knowing, all just Holy Spirit.  David was the pen of  that Spirit. The  Psalms are inspired by the Lord. We even have the direct evidence of that in the very words of Jesus in the New Testament, as you cited.

Just because David prayed it doesn’t mean I can pray it in the same way. David was inspired. I am not. (David was also the anointed of God, so those who wanted his throne were rebelling against God himself.)  Just because Isaiah could foretell the future does not give me the ability or right to do so. He was inspired. I am not. In Romans 11:9,10, Paul quotes from Psalm 69, an imprecatory prayer, once again validating these Psalms as being fully and divinely inspired. The Holy Spirit would not be quoting imprecatory Psalms in New Testament  teachings if they were just the emotions of David.

My two cents on the question. Hope it is helpful. I’m sure there are many of you who can shed lots more insight than I can. The article we referred to on the podcast is here: https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1156-do-the-imprecatory-psalms-and-christian-ethics-clash and it was very helpful to me.

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