Praying for Justice
(6) Break the teeth in their mouths, God. Tear out the fangs of the young lions, Yahweh. (7) Let them vanish like water that flows away. When he bends the bow, let his arrows be blunted (the points cut off). (8) (Let them be) like the snail that melts away as it goes. (Let them be) like the miscarried child of a woman that never sees the sun. (9) Before their cooking pots can feel the (heat of) thorns, whether green or dry, he will sweep them away. (10) The righteous one will rejoice when he sees vengeance (done). He will wash his feet in the blood of the wicked, (11) and humanity will say, “Surely (there is) a reward for the righteous. Surely there is a God who judges the earth.”
The opening verses of this segment contain some of the most vivid images in the entire book of Psalms. We have already seen in yesterday’s study that David compares the wicked to venomous cobras (vss. 4 & 5). Here he portrays them as young lions, ready to pounce and destroy their prey (vs. 6). In the next couple verses David makes several requests for God to defeat and destroy the wicked who have perverted justice and opposed the righteous. He first urges God, “Let them vanish...let his arrows be blunted” (vs. 7). Then he prays, “Let them be like the snail that melts...like (a) miscarried child...that never sees the sun” (vs. 8).
In the psalm’s closing, we find two repetitions: “the righteous” (vss. 10 & 11) and “surely” (vs. 11). These are linked in the sense that each points to the psalmist’s great yearning for justice to be done on behalf of those who have committed themselves to living for God.
I. Requests for God to destroy the wicked (6-9)
II. What results when God destroys the wicked (10 & 11)
- The righteous will rejoice. (10)
- All will know that God will judge the earth. (11)
God will vindicate the righteous by ultimately judging those who have wickedly opposed them.
We have recently examined another imprecatory psalm on May 6, namely Psalm 54. The following expands on the application given there. The issue that immediately faces New Testament believers when reading passages like Psalms 54 & 58 is the appropriateness of our praying for the defeat and destruction of our enemies. In view of Jesus’ command to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us (Mt. 5:44), we ask ourselves, “How do we respond to a passage like this? Should we ever use such harsh and vindictive language in our praying?”
One answer to this difficult question can be found in the way the New Testament authors distinguish between personal and corporate responses to the evil in the world around us. On a personal level, we are to apply Paul’s instruction in Romans 12: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath” (Rom. 12:17-19). This spirit of meekness is reinforced by Jesus’ example as described by the Apostle Peter: “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate. When he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:23).
However, we take heart in knowing that a day is coming when, “God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares” (Rom. 2:16). The Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, is filled with descriptions of God’s wrath being poured out on the earth because of the wickedness of the enemies of God. Here we see believers rejoicing over the ultimate triumph of God’s justice over evil. This can help us as we consider how we should relate to imprecatory prayers such the requests found in Psalms 54 & 58. On the personal side, we should entrust ourselves to the one who judges justly and realize that we are never to be vindictive regarding the wrongs we are personally forced to endure. However, as members of the Body of Christ, we should pray earnestly that God’s justice will prevail for all who have suffered unfairly and have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake. We can prayerfully rejoice in the assurance that every evil perpetrated against those who belong to Christ will someday be avenged by a just and loving God.