The Outrageous Prayer of David in Psalm 109 and Charles Spurgeon
I recently read Psalm 109 and was troubled. I’ve spent the last week trying to wrap my head around David’s prayer. I’ll just give the highlights here. The specific situation that prompts David to write this Psalm is unknown, but he is being accused, slandered, and cursed by an individual or a group of people. To add injury to insult, it is someone whom David loves and has treated with nothing but kindness and goodness. He laments that he is repaid “evil for good and hatred for [his] love.” (vs. 1-5) This wasn’t what I found to be outrageous. This happens to good people all the time. It is a hurtful and wicked thing when those you love hate you. So, what does David have to teach us about what to do in this situation. After all, this Psalm is the inspired Word of God. That’s why I was taken by surprise with what David says next, and prays will happen to this person(s):
Vs. 6 – That someone just like this man treat him the way he has treated David (No problem)
vs. 7 – That he will be found guilty and his prayers considered sin (I’m tracking with David)
vs. 8 – Kill him and give his position and title to someone else (Um…Sure. Take his job away. Don’t know I would ask for God to kill the guy though.)
vs. 9 – Kill him – Make his children fatherless and his wife a widow (Ok. Should I be asking God to kill people?)
vs. 10 – Make his children beggars on the street who live in a ruined home (What?! His children? Ex. 34)
vs. 11 – Take away all of his families possessions and make his family still living destitute (Ouch!)
vs. 12 – While his children are begging for food and money, don’t let anyone show pity or kindness to them (Is David a God-follower?!?!)
vs. 13 -15- Let his name be two generations away from being forgotten and condemn his family to hell! (WOW!!)
David goes on again to ask that this man and his family be treated in the very way that he has treated others (Vs 16-20), but that God would treat David with mercy according to his steadfast love. David confesses that he is needy, poor, hurt, and trusting in the Lord alone. Something his accuser is not doing.
Didn’t Jesus say in the New Testament to “pray for your enemies and to bless those who curse you”? (Mt. 5:44) Was this type of language only used in the Old Testament, but now since Jesus and the cross, Christians aren’t to pray or think like this any longer? Apparently not. Jesus says of Judas in Mat. 26:24 that it would have been better for him if he had never been born. Jesus reserved his harshest words for the Pharisees (Mat. 23:13-26). Paul said that if he or an angel preached any gospel contrary to the one about Jesus, let them be condemned to hell. (Gal. 1:8) So my question is: Is what David prays for here in contradiction to how Jesus tells us to pray for those in the NT? The conclusion I’ve come to is: No. Why?
1.David was praying this about a man who presumably would not repent. He was an unfaithful Israelite who was wicked to the core of his very being and would not turn from his wickedness. (Ps. 7:12-16) All who will not repent of sin ultimately face the same judgment as this man (Jn. 3:36).
2. David was asking the Lord to do exactly what God had said he would do to the proud and wicked. (Ex. 34:6-7; Job 40:12; Prov. 15:25; Jer. 50:32; Is. 13:11) According to James 4:6 God’s mind on the proud and wicked has not changed.
3. David trusted himself to the good and just judgment of God to deal out the retribution. David would not take matters into his own hands. The Christian in the New Testament is still called to this. (Rom. 12:19)
God’s steadfast love is a powerful and unchanging reality for those who love Jesus. However, for those who remain unrepentant and love wickedness, this prayer may still be applicable today. Charles Spurgeon’s commentary on this was insightful as well:
Those who regard a sort of effeminate benevolence to all creatures alike as the acme of virtue are very much in favor with this degenerate age; these look for the salvation of the damned, and even pray for the restoration of the devil. It is very possible that if they were less in sympathy with evil, and more in harmony with the thoughts of God, they would be of a far sterner and also of a far better mind. To us it seems better to agree with God’s curses than with the devil’s blessing; and when at any time our heart kicks against the terror of the Lord we take it as proof of our need of greater humbling, and confess our sin before our God.
Concerning David’s prayer that this man’s children be consigned as beggars and shown no mercy, Spurgeon writes:
We confess that as we read some of these verses we have need of all our faith and reverence to accept them as the voice of inspiration; but the exercise is good for the soul, for it educates our sense of ignorance, and tests our teachableness. Yes, Divine Spirit, we can and do believe that even these dread words from which we shrink have a meaning consistent with the attributes of the Judge of all the earth, though his name is LOVE. How this may be we shall know hereafter.
Finally, the actual writing of this Psalm and the detriment to this man’s children may have been a great mercy. It is addressed to the choirmaster and was probably sung in the Jewish synagogue. It may be that many who sang this song would have heeded the warnings within it and repented themselves. I wonder what would happen if we sang songs in our churches today that had such warnings in them. Can you imagine singing a song that had lyrics like: “May all those who lie and gossip about other people and refuse to repent lose their loved ones and all their earthly possessions in hopes they may turn to Christ.” Not sure what tune that would go to or how popular it would be. It may also be that as this man’s children lived in destitution because of the sins of their father, they would realize the wickedness of their fathers way, and walk after the Lord. It might be that even in this prayer of judgment, David is seeking mercy for later generations.