Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sunday Inquiries #6

Appoint a wicked man against him; 
let an accuser stand at his right hand.
When he is tried, let him come forth guilty;
let his prayer be counted as sin!
May his days be few;
may another take his office!
May his children be fatherless
and his wife a widow!

May his children wander about and beg,
seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit!
May the creditor seize all that he has;
may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil!
Let there be none to extend kindness to him,
nor any to pity his fatherless children!

May his posterity by cut off;
may his name be blotted out in the second generation!
May the iniquity of his fathers be
remembered before the Lord,
and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out!

Let them be before the Lord continually, 
that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth!
Psalm 109:6-15

King David goes on and on from there.

So gentle audience, I beseech you:
How do solve a problem like King David?
How do you catch God and pin Him down?
How do you find a word that means justice?

The most basic and primal answer is to run on about how the Bible is a wide and open place, full of various forms of writing; one must comprehend the genre of literature one is reading in order to give a sound exegesis. Right, I get that. But that all seems like its an evasion tactic. David is, in this passage and others, pleading with God to bring recompense upon his enemies. So how do I read his words? This is Holy Spirit inspired stuff, yes? Why did God let him write it? Why did He allow it to make it into canon?

How do I reconcile the words of a desperate and angry man with the words of my King and my Lord who tells me to forgive seventy times seven? 

My partial answer is that the marrow of the Psalms is not a list of God's ordinances and reasoning towards the world, but rather, examples of impassioned pleas to the God who listens. It does, most assuredly, give credence to Christ's words, cast all your cares upon me. Indeed. Nevertheless, if the principle is simply just 'take all your thoughts to the Lord', what keeps us from interpreting other parts of scripture likewise? Furthermore, if we say that David's words here are not meant to be taken as something to emulate, than we are certainly betraying David's intent, correct? David wanted his enemies to perish and he thought it a good and noble thing to ask the Lord to punish them. Surely that's why he went to the point of writing this Psalm down and having it remain as a song to be song in the nation of Israel. 

If David's intent is not the Spirit's intent -- than by what criteria can we trust any writer in Biblical texts? This reminds me vaguely of the literary style of the untrustworthy narrative... something akin to the likes of Holden Caulfield or Alex DeLarge. You just can't trust those fellas.

What I see in Psalm 109 is a philosophical worldview that is richly distinct from that of Christianity. Love thy neighbor is no where to be sniffed. 

...What to do, what to do?

I ask once more:
How do solve a problem like King David?


  1. (Sunday inquiries, on a Thursday? sneaky....)

    This view of God as "The Punisher" certainly is hard. similarly...

    On Wednesday, during Life group, we divided into our small groups and each group was to present one of the six concepts of worship, in our book. I was appointed team leader, and the team leaders started yelling out what number they wanted. One, two, and three were being yelled out a lot, so our team said "pick six!". I yelled out "six". Of course, none of us had read ahead and knew what six was---
    the fear of the Lord.

    Our task was to summarize the section on the fear of the Lord, and illustrate it with a story-- a fable, a movie, a real-life story.

    As we sought to define it, several opinions were voiced....
    "My Mom always said, you better not be lying because God is watching and he could strike you dead." "hmm I don't think that's the fear of the Lord." "Does God work through manipulation?" "I thought perfect love casts out all fear."
    One story was brought up-- in the OT, where the men reached out to keep the tabernacle from falling, and were killed for touching it.
    I brought up Ananias and Sephira-- lying to the Lord.

    These stories and comments were hard for all of us, and extremely puzzling to some new believers.
    Our conclusion: let us strive to know more of God.
    If we start to grasp just a glimpse of his (complex) character... we will understand He is loving... He is holy... He is to be feared... He is at hand (and can strike you down for lying- as A&S)... He is complex, but not contradictory.
    It's puzzling.
    But let's keep exploring.

    Another interesting spin-off conversation is..
    do we have the authority to curse people?
    I've heard of "cursing people in Jesus' name"... eww I don't like that. ("from the same mouth can't come blessing and cursing...")
    I have heard of "accidentally cursing someone".
    And then there's the old- "whatever you bind of earth will the bound in heaven."
    Oh yeah and that one guy who got cursed and blinded.
    Rough stuff.

    1. I don't reckon I know much about that cursing business, but your comment, "{God} is complex, but not contradictory" is intriguing. I'm sure there's plenty of Scripture to back up that statement, but it still seems like a riddle... like those times in the OT wherein the narrator says that "God changed his mind".

      Sure, it's rough, but there are more stories born of roughness than of the smooth.