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HOW ARE WE TO PRAY THE CURSING PSALMS? (PSALM 35)

My dear friends Sylvia and Ann have come to my home each summer since Steve’s death — true and faithful friends who radiate the love of Christ. Each year we renew our friendship through tears and laughter and prayer. I am blessed by their seeking hearts, hungry for God, and by their unselfish husbands who give them up, knowing what this time means to us all. Again, this year, they helped me in both spiritual and practical ways. (Ann and Sylvia gave me the necklace I’m wearing from the Holy Land that says. “I am my beloved and my beloved is mine.” Then they took me shopping because “my wardrobe looked a little tired.”) I love them so! What a gift from God friendship in the Lord can be.

 

close-upannsylviame Sylvia, me, and Ann — forever friends —  July 2014.

In my deep woods, Ann’s cell phone didn’t have a signal, so my friend Linda took my house phone to Ann’s room and plunked it down on the bedside table for her to use.  The next day, Ann picked it up to make a call.  But she accidentally grabbed the Roku television remote that was sitting next to it.  When Ann came down the hall carrying the remote, and telling us she couldn’t get the phone to work, Sylvia and I  collapsed in laughter! (We actually have a history of being technically challenged and I could regale you with stories about any one of us or all three of us together!) But in this particular episode, I saw a great illustration for the cursing psalms.

The "telephone" that didn't seem to work
The “telephone” that didn’t seem to work

We must use an instrument in the way the creator of that instrument intended it to be used. Otherwise it definitely will fail and frustrate us.

Tim Keller gives a wonderful message on Genesis 1 in which he explains that this chapter is misinterpreted because people are asking a question of it that the Creator never intended for it to answer. They ask “How was the world created” as if the genre of Genesis 1 was a scientific treatise. Instead, because the genre of Genesis 2 is poetry, the question is going to be philosophical. The question Genesis 1 asks is “Why was the world (and man) created?” And the answer is to glorify God — for   everything He does is good, is good, is good.

So what are we to do with the “cursing or imprecatory psalms,” like Psalm 35, which has the psalmist asking the Lord to have the angel of the Lord chase his enemy down a slippery slope to his destruction? How did our Creator intend us to use these psalms? Are we, indeed, to curse our enemies? It would seem so, upon first reading. But we need to understand the Creator’s purpose for the imprecatory psalms of lament.

Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them! (Psalm 35:6)
Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them! (Psalm 35:6)

USING THE IMPRECATORY PSALMS AS OUR CREATOR MEANT THEM TO BE USED

C. S. Lewis points out in Reflections on the Psalms, we must “not for a moment see all this vindictive hatred as good and pious.” We know that Jesus commands us to love and pray for our enemies, but it isn’t just the New Testament — even the Old Testament tells us not to hate or bear a grudge against our enemies.  (See Leviticus 17, 18, 19). So what are we to do with these psalms?

I want to bring you thoughts from some of the best minds and hearts I know, and then this forum is for us to discuss in love and to seek God. He does have a reason He created these psalms, and we must ask Him what it is. But we know, according to the heart of the gospel, it is not to pray curses upon our enemy. So how are we to pray them? I will share what I have learned that does walk in line with the gospel in hopes it will be helpful. I don’t have the complete answer, but I will share with you what I do know.

One of the most helpful illuminations came from Philip Yancey in The Bible Jesus Read. He tells how his friends would tell him to read the psalms when he felt sad or stressed — and he would come across one of the “winteriest” psalms and come away frostily depressed! But then he realize that the psalms are not like other books of the Bible, written from God to man, but instead, this is the prayer journal of the Bible, and it is as if we are looking over the psalmists journal as he laments his real emotions and feelings to God. He is writing what Sara Groves calls “processing songs,” trying to process the injustice and pain in the world and in his life. It is a lament in which he tells God how he feels, honestly, what he desires, honestly — but then, allows God to speak back to him.

I will tell you one way I have prayed using the cursing psalms — and I will tell you that some disagree with me, so you may as well. One of my daughters was in a relationship with a man who was hurting her, but she was putting up with it. Honestly, my genuine feelings were like those of the psalmist. I wanted this man’s way to be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord chasing him. I knew God wanted me to be honest with Him, as long as I was listening to Him in return. He did, indeed, convict me that it was wrong for me to be praying for the destruction of this man. The Lord began to give me compassion for this man and I prayed for his healing. However, I did not see change. So then I prayed (and I know this is the controversial part) that if God knew his heart was not going to soften, but rather harden, that God would take him out of my daughter’s life. And indeed, that is what happened. God gave my daughter enough discernment to draw a boundary and keep it, then brought compassionate believers in her life who sheltered and guided her, and took this man out of her life forever.

I have prayed the same for those who seemed bent on destroying others in our community — and I have seen a school superintendent removed, a hospital administrator removed and a doctor removed. However, I didn’t pray for anyone’s death, but sometimes wonder — for they lost their jobs in my community only to get jobs in other communities.

I have prayed for the deaths of evil leaders who are committing holocausts, if that would be God’s way of dealing with them. I know Bonhoeffer was part of the plot to kill Hitler, and wrote to his sister-in-law:

“If I see a madman driving a car into a group of innocent bystanders, then I can’t, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe and then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.”

Did Bonhoeffer pray for Hitler’s demise? I think he must have — though that doesn’t mean he did not forgive.

There is much to ponder, and I’ll be eager to hear your thoughts on how you think our Creator intended us to use the imprecatory psalms. But I do know we are not to, as Lewis said, see vindictive evil as good and pious.”

I also know that our real enemies are not flesh and blood, and I can pray these psalms quite verbatim for the devil and his angels. And I can find comfort in knowing God will always have the last word, and only give Satan enough rope to hang himself.

Let the net that he hid ensnare him!
Let the net that he hid ensnare him!

Sunday Icebreaker

1. What stands out to you from the above and why?

2. At this point, what do you think is one purpose of the imprecatory psalms?

Monday-Wednesday Bible Study

SCHEMING

3. Read Psalm 35:1-10

A. What lament, and what feelings do you see honestly expressed to God on the part of David?

B. What is particularly grievous about the scheming of the enemies, according to verse 7?

C. Jesus quotes this psalm concerning himself in John 15:25. What is the context?

D. Though Jesus might have felt what David felt, how does He actually respond when the scheming enemies come against him in John 18:4-11? What do you learn from this?

E.  How do you see victory at the end of this section? (Psalm 35:9-10) How did this happen for David? For Jesus? How will it happen for you, no matter what life holds?

MOBBING

4. Read Psalm 35:11-18

A. What lament, what particular pain, do you see honestly expressed to God?

B. How did Jesus experience the betrayal of friends, of those whom He had loved?

C. What victory do you see at the close of this section? (verse 18)

GLOATING

5. Read Psalm 35:19-28

A. What feelings do you see here? Can you identify in any way?

B. How did the enemies of Christ gloat at the cross?

C. What victory do you see at the end of this psalm?

6. How do you think our Creator, who created the imprecatory psalms, intend us to use them?

7. Take a section of this psalm in which you identified with the pain, and pray it, in the way You believe Your Creator would have you pray it.

 

 

10459112_10152133179480047_9079510966771921964_n8. Pray for the persecuted church. Reportedly the latest method being used by jihadists in Syria to eliminate Christians is crucifixion. I know we must pray for strength for our brothers and sisters, and I agree with Tertullion that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. But how are we to pray for those who persecute? Indeed, we can pray they will be moved by the testimony of those they persecute. We can pray for changed hearts. Do we also pray that God will remove them or take their lives? I don’t know. When I don’t know how to pray, I have prayed: “This is my thought, but You know best.” Pray here for the persecuted church, and, as His Spirit leads you, for those who persecute.

 

Thursday-Friday: Piper written sermon

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/do-i-not-hate-those-who-hate-you-o-lord

8. Share your notes and comments from the above.

Saturday:

9. What is your take-a-way and why?

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262 comments

  1. Amen Jackie ~  “Forgive me for my complacency.  This life is not primarily about me and mine.  If I live for your Glory, I MUST care for your sorrows.”

  2. 6. How do you think our Creator, who created the imprecatory psalms, intend us to use them?I appreciated Elizabeth’s response about entering into Christ’s sufferings.  Not sure if this is what the Creator intended, but they help me express pain to Him, examine and be honest about my attitudes toward what/who hurt me, and ultimately to focus on, rejoice in and praise Him.    Imprecatory psalms bring me right into the presence of the One who does have control of the universe.  Looking to Him changes my perspective.  My natural responses are to try to ignore pain and anger if possible, and if that’s not possible, to “stew” or attempt to fix the problem.  He is so good!  He can “handle” me as I am and draw me to himself in my pain.  Just thinking of this now, but I wonder if His purpose for the imprecatory psalms is to woo us to himself, to show us His glory and love. 

  3.  
    5.
    A. What feelings do you see here? Can you identify in any way?
    Tend to my case- I can relate to this impatience for sure. I always prefer a quick fix over a long process. Yet, I know deep down we do the most growing during those long processes.
     
    B. How did the enemies of Christ gloat at the cross?
     
      They laughed at Him and said if he was really the Son of God he could get out of the situation. They just had no clue.
     
    C. What victory do you see at the end of this psalm?
     
      The Lords name is being uplifted during the good and bad.
     

  4. 7. Take a section of this psalm in which you identified with the pain, and pray it, in the way You believe Your Creator would have you pray it.
     
    Dear God,   Somedays I feel like I am beset on either side with those who are out to deceive me, scam me, con me, steal my identity, terrorirze me.   Why are there so many of those people and not so many truthful, trustworthy, pleasant, and peace-making people?     I have confidence that in your scheme of things, dear God,  good will win over evil.   However, it taxes me to see how it is ever going to happen.   I trust in your plans, O Lord, but meanwhile please protect me and those I love from being seriously impacted by all of the evil ones.    O God, please thwart the efforts of the evil doers!!   I look forward to the coming of your kingdom.   Thank you for hearing me.  Thank you for protecting me.   I praise you for your constant presence, as it is all that keeps me sane!   Amen.  

    1. I’m lost ashamed and can’t find my way back my sight is failing me I need to remember that I am only human pray for me …

  5. 5. Read Psalm 35:19-28
     
    A. What feelings do you see here? Can you identify in any way?
     
    Oh yes, I can identify. I just had an experience this evening that certainly fit! I would love nothing more than the person to be “punished” for being so rude to me! They thought they had the upper hand. I was trying to make a point (calmly, not rudely) and they were so smug with their answer and then suggested I was on drugs!!! So mean. 
     
    B. How did the enemies of Christ gloat at the cross?
     
    They mocked Him and gambled for His clothes.
     
    C. What victory do you see at the end of this psalm?
     
    Once again David praises God.
     
    6. How do you think our Creator, who created the imprecatory psalms, intend us to use them?
     
    I don’t know for sure. Maybe as a reflection of our behavior to others? As soon as I was removed from tonight’s situation, I decided I needed to do some bible study. I logged on and read these verses and viola! it was clear that I shouldn’t have continued the conversation with the mean one. Instead, I should have   voiced my concerns to God; had the conversation with Him instead of her. Should we “take it up” with Him and protect ourselves from others’ gloating? Should we keep our eye on the prize and not worry about those who hate us? He will judge, it is not necessary for us to do so. Is that why we would pray these Psalms? To ask Him to take over and punish them so we don’t have to? Isn’t it always about giving Him control instead of us?

  6. Laura – “As soon as I was removed from tonight’s situation, I decided I needed to do some bible study.”  I love your heart!  Perfect example of how we stay close to Him amid life’s turbulence.  Even (or maybe most especially!) when we question how we dealt with a situation, we run to Him……because even when we’re hurt, we realize that we want to please Him more than we want to justify ourselves!  Thanks for starting off my day with that wondeful example!

  7. 8. Wow, this little article was “power-packed-Piper!”  As usual, John Piper always seems to leave me with much food for thought.  It interested me that Piper said that “Paul read the imprecatory Psalms as words of Christ, spoken prophetically by David, the type of Christ.”  It did leave me wondering if that was a generalization, with exceptions?  Something I’d like to dig more into!
    It was probably Piper’s third point that stopped me in my tracks though……he mentioned “hate the sin, love the sinner”….but then goes on to say “there is a kind of hate for the SINNER that may COEXIST with pity and even a desire for their salvation.”  Lightbulb moment!!!  I’ve just never looked at it quite like that before…..though I realized that that’s what had been bubbling up inside of me.  Maybe especially with our families….those we know SO well and have loved so long…..that the sin has practically become inseparable from the sinner…..and we do almost experience “hate’….though we also LOVE at the same time.  We see the grievious harm following in their wake…..and the utter arrogance before our lovely, Holy God.  
    Nonetheless, Piper concludes with a thought I”d like to hold on to…..”We would do well to leave such final assessments to God, and realize our own corrupt inability to hate as we ought.”   I guess my focus should be, as in Piper’s audio from last week….to BE A BLESSING to those in our lives….believers and unbelievers alike!  To do good (PRAY good) for our enemies and leave them in God’s hands.  

  8. 9.  My takaway – as Dee said in her wrap……praying “this is my thought, but You know best”.  If in our hearts we are seeking Him….we can run to him with ANYTHING…and we can say it even in ways that seem harsh……BUT always with a humble heart to seek to become more like Jesus.  To do whatever it takes to be clay (willing clay!!) in the Potter’s hands.  

  9. 8. Share your notes and comments from the above.
    This is such a tough thing! Here is what stood out: 
    -There is a point where the wickedness and hatred toward God is so far gone that it is irremediable. All that remains for that person is judgment.
    -This is not personal vindictiveness but a willingness to leave the final assessment of their wicked hearts to God and to realize our own inability to hate as we ought.
    For me the hard part is in keeping my moral repugnance not focused merely on how the hate seems to be directed toward me, but that they hate God rejecting His love-the One who died for them because he loved them! 
     
    -The imprecatory Psalms were not avoided by Jesus-in his human nature He often used Psalm 69 for self understanding, encouragement and guidance.
    This statement blew me away and probably stood out the most! In gratitude that God became flesh- Jesus needed His Word and so do I! Jesus felt the stinging pain of Psalm 35-He loved his enemies yet their hard hearts hated him and he pressed into Psalm 69 to speak truth in his soul and his just, fiery anger rose against them. He deeply felt what I do when I am hated but He was Holy in His affliction and He is messing with my heart to make me Holy in mine- In awe that God understands that I fail in my ability to hate as I ought but He hates as I ought so I can press into Him. For some reason this swept me with awe and thankfulness for the cross-that I am His and have the privilege to share with Him in His suffering. 
     

  10. 9. What is your take-a-way and why?
    Still ruminating and wrestling with some thoughts-just praying for Him to show me these areas in my heart where..Yes I can pray the right way for the demise of those whose hearts are hardened toward Him-but is my heart truly shaken by their evil and their hate for Him? Does my heart shake like His toward injustice, oppression, and am I truly grateful to Him upon having my eyes opened to the nails the evil one is hammering in my heart? Am I grateful for His Word-my very sustenance in life? When suffering comes am I willing to let go of self preservation and let Him ravish me? Do I really truly Love Him so that the things that hurt Him, that anger Him- truly hurt and move me? I honestly have to say I have only loved Him back just a smidgen to how He loves me-but GLORY-HE ISN’T FINISHED WITH ME YET! Lord take my heart and let it be consecrated Lord to thee.. take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise.
     
     

  11. 4. Read Psalm 35:11-18
     
    A. What lament, what particular pain, do you see honestly expressed to God?
     
    David laments that for his goodness, he is being repaid with evil, “They repay me evil for good, to the bereavement of my soul.” He tells of when they were sick, he thought of them as friends or a brother; mourning and sorrowing for them and praying for them. Yet when trouble comes to him, these same people rejoice at his trouble, slandering him.
     
    B. How did Jesus experience the betrayal of friends, of those whom He had loved?
     
    The worst example of this is Judas, who was in Jesus’ inner circle of friends. Jesus loved him as He loved the other disciples, not excluding him when He washed their feet. Yet Judas betrayed Him for money, turning Him over to the authorities to be arrested, and even led them to Jesus and kissed Him to let the soldiers know which one they were to seize.
     
    C. What victory do you see at the close of this section? (verse 18)
     
    David sees ahead to the day when he will be giving thanks and praising God in the congregation; so his position will be restored and his shame taken away.

  12. 5. Read Psalm 35:19-28
     
    A. What feelings do you see here? Can you identify in any way?
     
    David expresses what it feels like to be hated without cause; he even describes the malicious expressions on their faces; he describes being accused of things he didn’t do and the wicked delight that is being taken in trying to ruin him. His enemies have a smugness about them, thinking they are better than David. They are telling lies about him. David pleads with God to defend his cause, relying on the fact that God does see what is happening and will judge justly.
    I can’t claim to ever have been so maliciously treated as David, with someone trying to utterly ruin me, but I have been gossiped about and mistreated verbally.
     
    B. How did the enemies of Christ gloat at the Cross?
     
    They shouted insults at Him; only a few things were recorded in the Bible but I’ll bet there was much more said. They taunted Him, saying “If You are the Son of God then save Yourself…” They looked at a helpless, dying man and mocked. They showed no compassion.
     
    C. What victory do you see at the end of this psalm?
     
    That the Lord will take the side of David and all those who are for his vindication; they will be the ones shouting for joy. It will be known that the Lord delights in David and makes him successful, and all the praise for David’s victory will belong to God.
     
    B.

  13. 6. How do you think our Creator, who created the imprecatory psalms, intend us to use them?
     
    One thing I don’t see in this psalm is David lashing back at his enemies; returning verbal insults with them, arguing, defending himself to them, or outright taking revenge. Instead, he takes everything to God; he tells God what they are doing (even though he knows God sees) and saying and he honestly vents his frustration and anger. He asks God to deal with them. God doesn’t want us to become like these people, sinking down to their level and acting as mean as they do. But we need to do something with all the emotions that are stirred-up in us when we are being treated like this. God is a safe Person to go to and He will listen to our cries, our laments, our anger…even if we are feeling such strong emotions as hatred we need to tell Him about it and then it won’t grow and fester inside of us. He does understand how we feel yet He won’t let us hold onto sinful attitudes. And these psalms show us that we can still praise Him in the midst of the trouble.

    1. Susan, That is soaking in for me more and more as I pray these Psalms.  I’m not thinking about how to out-scheme the schemers as often as I am go right to the Lord using an imprecatory psalm or the pattern of one.

    2. so good Susan “Instead, he takes everything to God”…too easily I “vent” to others, this is such a good reminder

    3. So good, Susan and Laura.  You both came upon this…not to engage in “returning verbal insults…arguing, defending (self)…taking revenge.,” but take it to the Lord (e.g., venting frustration, anger, moral disgust) to Him.  So glad you shared it…now I see it clearly too.

  14. Just read an interesting statement from Jennifer Rothschild’s book God Is Just Not Fair. “God gave me the merciful opportunity to feel my pain.”  In her chapter on wrestling with God over an issue (hers has to do with not being healed from blindness) she makes this statement and indicates that because she comes to Him with her pain she can therefore cling more fully to God.  Because this is an ongoing issue, she confronts the pain over and over again and over and over again gains peace with God as she clings to Him in her weakness.  The question that struck me – can I truly cling to Him if I am not truly feeling my pain surrounding my issue?  Perhaps this is why God has given us these Psalms, to remind us that it is OK to feel pain, frustration, anger, etc..  That He is capable of handling anything we can throw at Him and that we need Him all the more.

    1. Thanks, Sherryl!  Might have to add that book to the “list.”   That’s exactly how I have experienced the Bible Studies on this blog, and most recently praying the Psalms.  The timing has been perfect — and the things that used to derail me still hurt but I am not destroyed (hit with a couple things this morning that, together, would have wrecked me before).   I’m so thankful God is allowing this learning process, because I know he is preparing me (just not sure for what!!)

  15. I was having Keller withdrawal this week and I listened to 2 great older sermons–one is currently free so I thought some of you may enjoy it too, “Lord of the Storm” http://www.gospelinlife.com/lord-of-the-storm-5642.html you have to put it in your cart and checkout, and then enter this code: JOHNSIXMP3
    Wow it was exactly what I needed to hear. The other one I re-listened to yesterday may really be in my top 5 at least, Be Humble and Make Peace on Philippians. It was funny because after I listened yesterday I pulled up my old notes from when we heard it last year–and I was shocked at how much more profoundly it had impacted me and convicted me this time around. One layer at a time…I am a really slow-peeling onion 😉

    1. Elizabeth, Glad you posted this (I was going to, but got distracted by my job).  I did download it though — have a bunch to put on ipod for long flight.   Many years ago, I used the onion illustration to let someone know that he shouldn’t try to bore a hole right through to the center.  He needed to see the layers 😉   I just didn’t know there would be so many!!

      1. oh good point Renee, though I’m the most impatient person I know, I can be thankful the Lord doesn’t “bore a hole” straight through, but gently, patiently peels…;)

    2. Thanks for the tip on the free sermon, Elizabeth.  I’m still such a newbie at this but I did download.  I need a Keller surge as well.  🙂

    3. I got the email from Gospel in Life and downloaded the free Keller sermon, Lord of the Storm, as well. Really enjoyed it. It fits perfectly with how to think about the lengthy electrical outages and major storm damage we had here in New Brunswick last week due to Hurricane Arthur. I highly recommend it. Keller always hits the spot. I find his messages so encouraging!

  16. Quick comment on Piper:Learned a bunch of stuff, but one thing that struck me is the “kill ’em” verses that were posted at the top.  I tend to overlook the harshness of the verses in some imprecatory Psalms.  Yeah, I want to “make ’em pay” — or at least that the “enemies” quit making my life more difficult.  But it typically isn’t “kill ’em” (partly because I’d rather die than be shamed; when I want someone to feel shame, it’s bad).  The verses Piper used led me back to Psalm 35 to see that that language can be viewed as harsh, too. 
    Take-away:  Oh my, this was another one of those weeks in which God worked through His word to change my life.  This past year has been difficult; last night and this morning I faced 2-3 hard situations — and my mind went immediately to Ps 35.  I know that one or two of the situations may come back to “bother” me, but before, they would have destroyed my health — and the Lord will rescue me.   “All my bones shall say,’O Lord, who is like you'”   (particularly encouraging since this week I found out that the bone density in my hips is low  —  means I need to do more weight bearing exercise and get off the computer 😉   )

  17. 9. What is your take-a-way and why?
     
    It took a little longer for the psalm to penetrate my heart this week,as I read through it in the MSG version, it hit deeper. But what brings it to my core is seeing Christ in this psalm, crying out for our sake. He fights for our salvation.He is Holy and prays for God’s rightful vengeance over evil. I love Dee’s example of how we too can join Christ in praying against those who are evil, not for our personal vengeance, but for the sake of the Gospel. And I pray to Him also for deliverance from my enemies-my fear, my idols of success, approval. So often my mind is my greatest battle field. Doubts, worry, “what if”’s. There is an Enemy who feeds me lies, he whispers and sometimes I listen just a little too long. I believe I am not good enough, I am not strong enough.
     
    Today, when I listened to the Keller sermon from John, “The Lord of the Storm”, it really helped me see the angle I most love of Psalm 35–the magnification of God’s power. He comes to us in the storm and doesn’t say ‘this too shall pass’ or ‘it’s going to be OK because it’ll clear up soon’. NO. He says “I AM.” That’s it. He is LORD. And so I cry out to my King, armed with all the power to fight every lie, every fear. I love how this psalm reminds us of His power, His righteous vengeance against evil. What safety I have in Him. He fills this hole within me that longs for a perfect, strong leader to rescue and protect me—He is the Ultimate King. And forgive the simplicity of this statement—but no matter what it looks like right now, we are on the winning team!

    1. I see beauty in simplicity, Elizabeth…”no matter what it looks like right now, we are on the the winning team!”…this is what gives hope in those dark, troublesome days; Jesus has won the battle and praise God, we are on His team. 

  18. Comment about Piper’s message:    I think there’s a lot of good clarification here and I appreciate the points he makes and will save this as reference for future questions about the imprecatory psalms.  I am, however, uncomfortable with this statement:

      There is a kind of hate for the sinner (viewed as morally corrupt and hostile to God) that may coexist with pity and even a desire for their salvation. You may hate spinach without opposing its good use.

    Maybe it’s because I live close to Minneapolis and have seen the fall out in the local (and broader) media when Piper has tweeted or declared some sweeping statements about God’s judgement on local situations.  I was embarrassed by a gaffe made by Piper a few years ago and found it divisive at best.  I’m not convinced that we are given license to hate a sinner under any circumstance.  
     
     
     

    1. That section kinda confused me… just couldn’t wrap my brain around it enough to even understand what he was saying — or else I was resistant to believing it & ignored it, which I tend to do.  (Oh yeah, I remember at least one of his proclamations that was picked up by the media)

  19. Wanda – I had to consider the way Piper wrapped up the entire message…..”We would do well to leave such final assessments to God, and realize our own corrupt inability to hate as we ought.”  That tempers the other statement. I’m curious where you fall on Bonhoeffer’s part in the plot to kill Hitler.  I remember years ago reading that for the first time and being absolutely astonished…..and not knowing how to process that!  I’ve come to peace with that now….but not easily!

    1. Jackie:   Challenging question!   Well, I didn’t actually even see Piper’s statement as correlated to something such as the Hitler assassination plot….maybe because God’s judgement that he stated over a local situation was nothing of the sort.  But ya….I suppose the plotters against Hitler couldn’t do it with an intense hatred.  How I came to peace with that (and not easily either) was that Bonhoeffer and the others in the Resistance, especially those in the Confessing Church, through intense soul searching,  began to realize that Hitler WAS evil incarnate.  Also, Bonhoeffer’s quote that Dee shared recently…regarding ‘wrestling the steering wheel from the madman instead of watching the madman drive into a crowd and then try to bind the wounds and comfort the bereaved afterward’  (my paraphrase) was a game changer for me in coming to terms with the plot. Also, in the year long process of reading Bonhoeffer by Metaxas, my friend and I had a lot of discussion about many points that were made and conclusions that were drawn.  I can’t remember all of them now, but reading the entire story and seeing the climate and the players made me come to a place of acceptance of the assassination attempts.   I guess when I read the Piper quote, past memories of statements he’s made that I strongly disagreed with surfaced.  I DO really like the point he made at the end (which you quoted) and very much agree with it.  But as I see it now, if it were me, I would have left out the statement I highlighted in my earlier comment.

      1. Addendum:  I guess there’s a difference in hating and declaring God’s judgement….but the unfortunate thing was that what looked like a ‘glib’ statement coming from someone outside the situation did some serious damage to unity amongst believers.  Whatever it did, it did not appear to exhibit love.  Perhaps hating sinners is reserved for something very different, but I do find the whole point confusing.

        1. A concern I have with the love the sinner hate the sin approach is that the loving is rarely done as well as the hating, so the sinner feels the hate before they feel the love. The same-sex marriage debate is big here, and there is a lot of hate thrown around. Not too much love, from either side of the debate. I think this article is one that approaches a balance… http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2014/04/02/where-i-stand

  20. 8. Share your notes and comments from the above. 
     
     Do I Not Hate Those Who Hate You, O Lord
    Psalm 139:19-22
    by John Piper
     
    1. These verses are in the category of “imprecatory psalms.  They call down divine curses and express hatred for the enemies of God.
     
    2. Consider that, in some of these psalms, love for the enemy has been pursued for a long time.  Though unexpressed, this may be the case for all the psalms. The wickedness in view has resisted love.
     
    3.  Though unexpressed, this may be the case for all the psalms. The wickedness in view has resisted love.
     
    4.  This imprecation is like the Psalms, and assumes that there comes a point of such extended, hardened, high-handed lovelessness toward God that it may be appropriate to call down anathema on it.
     
    5.  There were times when Jesus referenced the imprecatory psalms. 
     
    6.  Paul regarded the very words of imprecation as inspired and not sinful, personal words of vengeance.
     
    7. Paul read the imprecatory Psalms as the words of Christ, spoken prophetically by David, the type of Christ. 
     
    CONCLUSION: The psalmist/David speaks under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and  as the foreshadowed Messiah and Judge.  He assumes the right to call down judgment on the enemies of God. This is not personal vindictiveness. It is a prophetic execution of what will happen at the last day when God casts all his enemies into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). We would do well to leave such final assessments to God, and realize our own corrupt inability to hate as we ought.
     
    PERSONAL THOUGHTS:    I think it is a narrow path and a delicate balance involved in learning to “hate” in the right way.   I really hadn’t given this a lot of thought before, so obviously I have probably been doing it wrong.    Looking at Piper’s paragraph #7, it appears that there is a type of hate that is inspired, if it is calling down judgment on the enemies of God (not my enemies necessarily).     This brings to mind a  passage in Romans 15: 17-21:
     
    “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.   Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.   Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written:   ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.   On the contrary:   If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him  something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’   Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” 

    1. I like your ‘personal thoughts’ Deanna.  The scripture in Romans 15 does make for quite a counterbalance to the imprecation of many verses. Right now, I’m seeing how finite my mind is in understanding this, although I didn’t put in the amount of time on this lesson that so many of you did.

  21. just read this article…..can’t necessarily recommend the author of this blog, as I know nothing about him.  Nonetheless, it’s an interesting read….and the comments are interesting as well.  As one of the responders pointed out, there’s a long history of the teaching of “hating the sinner” (that God does, that is)…..Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Jonathon Edwards…..and backed up by many, many scripture passages (albeit perhaps difficult to interpret).  this is the site:   theoryofthephil.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/god-hates-sinners/#comments.  take a look!

    1. Hmm… I think we could find verses to ‘prove’ either proposition. Just a few examples…
      Romans 5:8  God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
      1 John 4:8-10  God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

    1. Thanks, Dee.  I appreciate and value your perspective.

    2. Yes, thanks for the comments on Piper, Dee. Much of what I read of Piper’s I really like, but there are some things that I have concerns about. I appreciated your words of caution on his early stuff but your sense of his “growing humility” as he ages. Interesting!

  22. SCHEMING
    3. Read Psalm 35:1-10
    A. What lament, and what feelings do you see honestly expressed to God on the part of David?
    David’s complaint is about people who want to harm him. He expresses his feelings of fear and betrayal to God.
    B. What is particularly grievous about the scheming of the enemies, according to verse 7?
    David is particularly grieved because this is undeserved. They have no cause or reason to pursue him.
    C. Jesus quotes this psalm concerning himself in John 15:25. What is the context?
    Jesus is letting his disciples know that they can expect to be persecuted, just as he is persecuted. In quoting the psalms ‘They hated me without reason’, Jesus highlights that this is a pattern. David was persecuted; the prophets were persecuted; he is persecuted and they will be persecuted.
    D. Though Jesus might have felt what David felt, how does He actually respond when the scheming enemies come against him in John 18:4-11? What do you learn from this?
    Jesus did not lash out at those who came to arrest him, even rebuking the disicples who came to his defence. One application could be to rely more on God to defend me… I am quick to defend myself if I think I have been judged harshly. Balance and discernement needed though – I wouldn’t want to rebuke a defender God had sent to my aid.
    E.  How do you see victory at the end of this section? (Psalm 35:9-10) How did this happen for David? For Jesus? How will it happen for you, no matter what life holds?
    David anticipates victory when his enemies are defeated. Jesus’ enemies appeared to defeat him, but their victory was overrturned when God raised him to life. Whatever my life on earth may hold, my life in Christ is eternal and cannot be taken. I have been buried with Christ and resurrected with him.

  23. MOBBING
    4. Read Psalm 35:11-18
    A. What lament, what particular pain, do you see honestly expressed to God?
    David complains that even people he has loved have turned against him. These are not just enemies; they are friends turned enemies.
    B. How did Jesus experience the betrayal of friends, of those whom He had loved?
    His disciples turned their backs when he was arrested. Peter denied knowing him. Judas accepted money to betray him with a kiss.
    C. What victory do you see at the close of this section? (verse 18)
    David looks forward to the time when he will give thanks and praise God publicly for his rescue.

  24. GLOATING
    5. Read Psalm 35:19-28
    A. What feelings do you see here? Can you identify in any way?
    The feelings I see are shame – being put down. I don’t identify so much with being openly ridiculed, but more with being overlooked or ignored. I think the feelings are similar but at a lower level. Most of my life, I have worked in male-dominated roles, and have definitely encountered the glass ceiling. I have now worked in my current position for 6 yrs. The previous mgr valued my role and frequently consulted. The current mgr would never say that my role is irrelevant, but it is said that actions speak louder than words! The contrast is marked, and highlights what is possible… I remind myself that the clients value my role even if management does not.
    B. How did the enemies of Christ gloat at the cross?
    They mocked him by putting a robe and crown of thorns on him. They taunted him as he hung on the cross.
    C. What victory do you see at the end of this psalm?
    David has won a victory over his emotions, and is again praising God.
     
     

  25. Just pondering the “Piper debate” (I didn’t realize he was so controversial!).  I read the article again – when I read his conclusion, I saw no room for hate whatsoever.  Basically, he says we should all be in fear and trembling before God, let Him be the One who judges how to hate and live to bless others.  If that long paragraph would have been all we had been assigned to read, I doubt there would have been any controversy!   I guess it’s a great reminder that NO TEACHER – not even Tim Keller! 🙂 is going to get it “right” 100% of the time!  

  26. Sisters-Christy and I are with Dee at her home in Wisconsin.. I am SO GRATEFUL God has me here at a time such as this for I just heard the news that my sister in law-the one I had you pray for last time-has indeed committed suicide. My niece found her in her car deceased. I haven’t had anyone this close to me die and especially so in this way. My heart is aching for my brother, her mom and my nieces-pray for them. I am up early and getting ready to spend time with Him in the word. Pray for my time. I have conflicting feelings..Some things are coming to the surface-pray for clarification from Him. Pray He would meet me right now.

    1. Oh Rebecca…I am so sorry…I will be praying for the Lord to provide extra strength and comfort for you all…especially your brother, her mother, and your nieces…so very sad… 

    2. Rebecca, I am so sorry.  Prayed when I saw this earlier, and praying and crying for you and them right now.  Thankful you are there and in the word.  I’m praying for everyone’s protection and comfort.

    3. So sorry to hear this, Rebecca. Praying for you and your brother and nieces – especially the niece who found her.

  27. Hello
    I hope this topic is still alive..
    This subject intrigues me for a long time. 
    I did pronounce the imprecatory psalms, when teachers (2) really mistreated my child, verbally abused, and drawn the hairs so my child fell on the ground. When I went to speak to them, they lied in my face. And they wanted to make my child a lyer. 
    Well, enough is enough. (!) 
    It is harmfull behaviour, children are still in development. This was darkness, and evil behaviour.
    So I pronounced wholehearted some psalms from nr. 50-60. Some things I left out, cause I don’t want anyones destruction. I do want destruction of behaviour. 
    In a short period of time, the two teachers became burned out. That was my question to the Lord: take them away from their profession, they are not suitable. They were absense for a period of time. One returned, but went to another school (she is still a teacher, but that is in the Lord’s hand) and the other one was sooo burned out that he decided to retire earlier. A win-win situation for everyone, including him, and he can enjoy God’s mercy if he wants, God gives that time, I think.
    Further: in our church were there was a lot of misbehaviour plus pride. That is a bad combination: the pride prevents repentness. and that closes doors. I did not pray the imprecatory psalms, but asked God ‘to shake that church firmly. To break it off to the ground. To reveal!!’  Cause things were unacceptable. He did. Also within a very short time. He showed me step by step, what was going to happen too! Like He kept me informed of the process. Isn’t that remarkable?  I assumed, that He was not amused as well about the things that were happening in that church.
    It is behaviour which we may condemn, right? I think so. That CANNOT/MAY NOT be fruitful. His Word says it to! Blessings on the house of the righteousness, dryness on the house of the wickedness. We must be so alert (but innocent as a dove at the same time) that this is not going to be the other way around! Our image (after His image) will be corrupted if we don’t stand up, and that can’t be so.
    And in the bible it says : ‘because there is not any change in them’  (sorry I don’t know the verse right now) 
    We have a choice: curse or blessing, but………the ‘wicked ones’ have a choice too! We can pray, that they change their ways, choose the right way to walk on, His way, bless them. But ofcourse we do’nt bless evil behaviour. Oh, we pray for their ways, that they become good. But sometimes: there is not any change in them. Must they continue their robbery? Robbery of our identity, which is HIS (property, we are His property) And if this is not stopped, more victims will be made. The Lord says He hates robbery by fire sacrifise (jes 61:8) and He loves justice.
    So it is double sometimes. God is love, He has mercy, expects of us to bless and pray for people who are not good for us. 
    And on the other hand: where was the mercy on ananias and zafira?
    He teaches us, every individual differently, and we see more ways of Him than love and mercy only. I learned for example that I could ask that, concering the teachers and church, but I haven’t told anybody: they would convict this and…it is not a doctrine, not always something anybody should always do. And if I tell this, maybe they think: oh, I will do that to. But it must speak in the heart, I think. Sometimes you feel divine anger.
    I hope somuch to read response(s) on my comment, although it is an old topic! I want so much feedback on this! I am concerned too, what if I am wrong and I understood what was in my heart, wrongly?
     
     
     
     

  28. Hello, here I am again, I would like to add two links about this subject.
    I watched John Piper too, but somehow I found this better:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDfzzJD8IpI From a man called Walter Brueggemann, gives a good explanation.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94sIQEU8VQ8 From a man called Rohan Perry. He gives a also clear, and sincere explanation in my view.
     
     

  29. Hi my name is Marilyn and I am dealing with some terrible spirits at my place of employment.  I work in a predominantly male job and the Chief and Capatain took on a dislike to me dor unknown reasons and they have treated me awful for pretty much the duration of my employment there. I am a easy going gently soul and most of the  time people take advantage of that.  I refuse ro be mean and dishonest to there people I serve.  I believe that is the reason for their dislike and hatered toward me.  I juat recently started reading Psalms 35 over them. That their hearts be changed or God move them from their positions.

  30. How are you brethren? I thought psalms 35 used only to work during the old testament era, but thank you so much I’ve leant a lot from the above story.