February 2020  
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God's Psalms for Man's Heart and Mind
Psalms that Curse
Psalm 69
The name of this series of messages from the Psalms is “God's Psalms for Man's Heart and Mind”, and I'm calling them that because, on the one hand, the Psalms are inspired by God and therefore meant to instruct us how to think about God and man and the world. And on the other hand, the Psalms are poems or songs and are meant to awaken and express and shape our feelings about God and man and the world.
We have focused in the previous messages on the feelings of spiritual depression or discouragement (Psalm 42) and regret and guilt (Psalm 51) and gratitude and praise (Psalm 103).
Today I want to focus on the emotion of anger, or more specifically the desire for retaliation or revenge, the anger and emotion we feel when something horribly wrong or unjust is done, and in particular, done to us.
There is perhaps no human emotion any stronger than the one we feel when we are wronged or offended. It might be a spouse violates our marriage vows or a business partner cheats us or even something as minor as someone cutting in line or running us off the road.
There is something about our personal rights and space and property being violated that causes us to bristle with anger like nothing else.
And there is nothing like the satisfaction that comes from knowing that somebody who has been offensive to us gets what's coming to them. There is a deep satisfaction that comes from knowing that justice has been served.
If you understand what I'm talking about, then you understand the message of a group of psalms that are known as imprecatory psalms. If you're not familiar with that word, they are psalms that include curses and judgments and pronouncements against , God’s enemies.
These psalms are problems for Christians because Jesus taught us, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27–28).
In fact, Jesus didn't just teach it, He practiced it as He prayed for his enemies on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). So it sounds like these psalms are doing the opposite of what Jesus said and did.
Psalm 69 is an example of one of those imprecatory psalms, and I want to use it to help us try to understand how God's uses these psalms to shape our thinking and feeling as New Testament believers.
It is a fairly lengthy psalm, so rather than read it, then go back through it with some commentary, I want to give you an overview, then see what it says to our heart and mind.
The situation in the 69th is that David feels overwhelmed by enemies, and they don’t seem to be military enemies as much as personal enemies. And they are heartless and vicious.
Now as we saw last week, David is a man who understands suffering for sin and foolishness. And in this psalm, even though he is experiencing tremendous attack by enemies, he doesn't pretend to be perfect.
We are going to hear him say he is suffering without cause, but he doesn't want the hearers of this song to think he's perfect. In fact, he admits in verse 5 that he has committed wrongs and that God knows it.
But the point he will make is that the hostilities against him are not related to these wrongs he is confessing. His enemies hate him without cause. And they attack him with lies.
Verse 4
As the psalm unfolds, it becomes clear that David wants the name of God to be honored, and because of that, his enemies attack him.
verse 7, 9
In other words, his suffering is not only undeserved, but comes as a direct result of his relationship with God. Their attacks on him are attacks on God by the enemies of God. The psalmist is enduring reproach because of their hatred for God. It’s the people who hate you God who are making life hard for David because he represents God.
And because of that, he pleads for God to rescue him from this miserable situation.
verse 14, 18
Then come seven verses which are entirely curses on his enemies. He prays to God that these enemies — his enemies and God’s enemies — experience the full force of God’s judgment and that they not be acquitted. He’s not praying for their salvation; he’s praying for their damnation.
verses 22–28
Then he closes the psalm with another cry for help and a promise of praise.
verses 29–30
So, in summary, here we have king David, not a perfect man (verse 5), but a righteous man (verse 28), a man who loves the glory of God, trusts God’s mercy for redemption (verse 18), and who stands up for the cause of the humble (verses 32–33), and who is suffering the undeserved persecution of his enemies and God’s enemies.
And in the middle of this cry for help, he devotes seven verses to calling on God to punish these enemies.
So how do we deal with this psalm as New Testament Christians? One of the keys to its understanding is to see how New Testament authors use this psalm, and how they understand and apply it.
And we get a lot of help here because seven of the verses of this psalm are directly quoted in the New Testament, including the curses.
By the way, the New Testament writers did not shy away from imprecatory psalms. It seems in fact that they found them especially useful in explaining the work of Jesus and what it means for us.
We never find New Testament writers apologizing for these psalms or trying to sugarcoat their message or explain away their meaning. They are never
embarrassed by this psalm or others similar to it.
They never advise us to consider them as Old Testament theology or as something that should be disregarded or left behind.
Neither do they lead us to believe this kind of prayer or revenge is sinful or personal. In fact, as we'll see in a moment, Jesus regards this psalm as inspired by God, and as such it should be revered and honored as divine revelation, and therefore, sacred truth.
The New Testament quotes Psalm 69 in at least two important ways. First, it quotes the psalm
1. As the Words of David
First, Romans 11:9–11 quotes Psalm 69:22–23.
We'll look at the psalm first, then the companion New Testament usage.
Psalm 69:22-23
In particular, in this section of the psalm, David is asking God to pour out judgment upon his enemies. In fact, he prays that in response to what they've done to David, God would give them poison them.
In addition to that, he prays they would be blinded and unable to find their way and spend the rest of their days trembling in fear before the Lord.
And basically, what we have is a prayer for their condemnation, destruction and damnation, which is obvious from
verses 27–28
Now that sounds pretty spiteful, don't you think? But if it was just personal agner and venom, it seems to me that Paul if Paul was going to quote it and have it recorded forever in the New Testament, he would either avoid it altogether or at least correct it.
Instead, he does just the opposite and uses it to support his teaching in Romans 11. Now in this chapter, Paul is teaching that most of Israel has rejected Jesus as her Messiah and has come under God’s judgment. The judgment is that a hardening has come on the greater part of Israel so that they will not believe. Listen to what he says in
Romans 11:7, 25
So one of the main teachings of Paul in Romans 11 is that God is judging Israel with this hardening until God’s full appointed number of the Gentiles are saved.
Now follow what we're seeing. Paul is talking about the righteous judgment of God, and in that
context, of all the Old Testament passages he could have chosen, he specifically reaches back to this so-called imprecatory psalm and uses it to support his point and quotes verses 22–23 in
Romans 11:9–11
So the way Paul interprets the words of David is not as sinful personal revenge, but rather as a reliable expression of what happens to the enemies of God and His faithful. David is God’s anointed king, and he is being rejected and reproached and reviled.
And in Psalm 69, Davis is speaking, not as an individual who is being unfairly attacked, but as God's inspired, anointed representative, and by his prayer, he speaks the judgment of God, and that 's why Paul quotes these words in Romans 11.
He's making the same point as David. The enemies of Christ, the Messiah of God, are going to be experience God's judgment as well. So that's the
first way the New Testament quotes Psalm 69. They are prophetic words of judgment by God’s inspired spokesman on the enemies of God’s anointed.
The second way the New Testament quotes Psalm 69 is
2. As the Words of Jesus
And in that regard, there is a prophetic flavor attached to the psalm as what happened to David as God’s royal anointed one is a foreshadowing of the final anointed one, the Messiah, Jesus.
And as Jesus quotes from this psalm, it's as if He is looking back at the experiences of David and seeing His own life and mission being lived out in advance.
Four quick examples:
The first one is found in
- Jesus Cleansing the Temple.
In John 2:13–17 we read about how Jesus drove the sellers out of the temple.
verse 16
Notice that Jesus calls the temple, “my Father’s house”. That is reminiscent of what we read in Psalm 69:9.
Then notice,
verse 17
In other words, they see in David’s words and actions a foreshadowing of Christ’s words and actions.
Then, think about the fact that Jesus was
- hated by His Own people
John 15:24-25
Here we find Jesus hated by the Jewish leaders in the same way David was hated by his own people
Psalm 69:8
This time Jesus himself is the one that quotes Psalm 69 as part of God’s “law” or God’s instruction, and what he says is a direct quote from
Psalm 69:4
So Jesus himself is aware of David’s experience and sees them as foreshadowing His own and says, "When David is hated by his adversaries, this points to my experience and must be fulfilled in me."
The third example comes from
- Jesus on the Cross
On the cross, in the most important moment in history, Jesus brings his life to a close by intentionally fulfilling Psalm 69 one more time in his own experience.
Notice what David wrote in
Psalm 69:21
Jesus had lived in this psalm and absorbed this psalm and made this psalm part of his very being. Otherwise, I don’t know how we could explain what He said from the cross. Here he is hanging on the cross in horrible agony and we read:
John 19:28–30.
According to what the Apostle John records, Jesus died fulfilling Psalm 69. I don't know how a psalm could be more honored than that.
In fact, the very psalm that many see as a problem because of its tone, or tend to ignore because of its content, Jesus lived and quoted and fulfilled as He gave His life for our sins.
The final example is
- Jesus Enduring Reproach
One more illustration of Psalm 69 as the words of Jesus comes from verse 9 David where says to God, “The reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.”
In Romans 15 Paul is calling Christians to be patient with the weak and to deny themselves and humbly receive others, and amazingly at this point, he reaches back again to Psalm 69:9 and says,
Romans 15:2-3
In other words, he takes the words of David and sees them fulfilled in Christ, and the specific thing he focuses on is that Christ willingly endured the attacks of men because He understood they were really attacks on God.
So it seems that Psalm 69 has two prongs in the New Testament. One prong is judgment, and therefore the curses David requests are sinful personal retaliation but are pronouncements of the justice and judgment of God
The other prong is the suffering of God’s anointed as this suffering is endured for God’s sake. And the suffering is either the means by which the enemies of God are brought to repentance and saved, or the means by which they are judged in their sin and condemned.
So what do we do with psalms like this? How does God use them to shape our thinking and feeling?
Three answers. First that leads us to
1. Affirm and Understand God’s Judgment
David prays for wrongs to be righted and for that judgment to bring glory to God. And he prays believing that, God’s judgment on both David's and God's unrepentant enemies does come, and when it comes it is right and just and even desirable.
That says to us there is a divine judgment coming, and at that day Christians will approve what God does, and that's what David’s prayers are seeking, therefore, that’s what we should think and feel.
Second, Psalm 69 shapes our thinking and feeling by
2. Reminding Us of the Ministry of Jesus
What David experiences as the Lord’s anointed, Jesus completed in greater ways in His own suffering and death. His suffering was both a saving and a condemning suffering. Those who accept it, it will save, and for those who are hardened by it, it will condemn.
Third, this psalm shapes our thinking and feeling by
giving us
3. Incentive to Forgive
Perhaps the main thing this psalm says to us is that we should never be happy about our enemies being cursed. While God is honored through justice, His heart is to heal and forgive and ours should be the same.
This psalm and others like it are not encouragements or incentives to curse our enemies. In fact, in Paul’s mind the psalm takes us in the exact opposite direction as we saw a moment ago in Romans 15 where he said, “Christ did not please Himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.’” In other words, the message is to follow Christ and forgive.
We don't have to seek revenge or defend ourselves. We leave that to God and instead, follow the counsel Paul gave in
Romans 12:19-21
The burning coals will be purifying if there is repentance, and punishment if there is not. God will decide. We will approve. But until that day of judgment, we follow the words of the Anointed King:
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. . . . You will be sons of the Most High” (Luke 6:27–29, 35).
Let's pray.
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