Ever notice how much of the material in the Psalms speaks about judgement, in a completely unapologetic way? Maybe, as you steep yourself in the teachings of Jesus, especially, Jesus the Gentle and Lowly, you might even think that these thoughts are somehow out of step with Jesus–like, they’re for the Old Testament, but not our New Testament. But no–they’re God’s word, just as much as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And besides, you know you love the Psalms as much as anything in the Bible, right? So, how can Christians learn to read, feel, and even sing all of the Bible–even the Psalms that sound, well, mean?
Peter Leithart offers some great thoughts on this these Psalms, which are often referred to as “Imprecatory Psalms.” He observes that these Psalms
…aren’t a barbaric residue, but express fundamental biblical convictions about God and the world. When we pray for justice, we’re praying for God to be what he truly is—Judge of all the earth.
Do you hunger for justice? Do you wish you could see evil eradicated? So does God. And so do the people of God. And so they have, for all of history. I encourage you to read the article, and even to look up the scripture references. It would make a great mini-bible study through these things. Leithart says these Psalms can even help ground us more fully in the real world, and the global plan of God:
Singing the “mean” psalms is thus part of the church’s mission. These psalms arouse a hunger and thirst for justice, as we take up the prayers of the destitute as our own. They expand the scope of our prayers. We may not be under threat, but these psalms keep before us the daily dangers of persecuted brothers and sisters. Imprecatory psalms ground us in the real world, counteracting our instinct for over-spiritualized, anodyne, Pollyannaish piety. They’re a form of church discipline, as we ask Jesus to uproot liars and predators from his field, the church. Through these prayers, we defend the house and kingdom of God, and participate in the Lord’s work of establishing justice, vindicating the innocent, defending the helpless. As we sing the “mean” psalms, Satan is trampled under our feet (Rom. 16:20).