Both of today’s psalms are from the Fifth Book of the Psalms. This psalm is unique in many ways. It starts with a cry for help (verses 1-5), followed by a call for a curse upon the wicked (verses 6-19), and closes by continuing to call for help (verses 20-31). The final call for help is amply peppered with calls for God’s vengeance to be visited upon the psalmist enemies. Walter Brueggemann has referred to this psalm as a “song of hate.”(1) In my reading of the psalm, I hear more of a call for justice: A call for God to expose, punish, and remove all evil. This of course would be good as long as you are on the right side of the line.
You will rarely hear this psalm read in church. For many people, this psalm just seems hate-filled. The call for vengeance present seems, to many people, to run counter to the message of Jesus, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44 NIV) A more realistic view of this psalm might be to see it as calling for God to have the punishment fit the crime. When I read this psalm, I hear the psalmist turning over to God the responsibility of rendering justice. I also cannot help but hear the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Rome, “Revenge not yourselves, my dearly beloved; but give place unto wrath, for it is written: Revenge is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Romans 12:19 Douay-Rheims Bible)
(1) Walter Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms: A Theological Commentary (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1948) 83.
This psalm is clearly a song of praise. It is a psalm that celebrates God’s mercy. It celebrates God’s propensity toward resurrection, “He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people.”(Psalm 113:7-8 Revised Standard Version) It is a psalm that celebrates God as the giver of life, “He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children.” (Psalm 113:9a Revised Standard Version) It is a psalm that celebrates God’s willingness to exalt the humble. This psalm begins and ends with a call to, “Praise the Lord.” Let this be the way we treat our days. Praise the Lord!