Monday, April 23, 2012

Psalm 109 and imprecations

Structure of Psalm 109

  • vv. 1-5: Trials of David
  • vv. 6-20: Call for judgment upon wicked men
  • vv. 21-26: Call to YHWH for help
  • vv. 27-29: Call to YHWH for salvation and vindication
  • vv. 30-31: I will praise YHWH for my salvation

יִֽהְיֽוּ־יָמָ֥יו מְעַטִּ֑ים פְּ֜קֻדָּת֗וֹ יִקַּ֥ח אַחֵֽר׃ (v. 8)

Let his days be few, and let another take his office

γενηθήτωσαν αἱ ἡμέραι αὐτοῦ ὀλίγαι καὶ τὴν ἐπισκοπὴν αὐτοῦ λάβοι ἕτερος (v. 8 LXX)

Let his days be few and may another take his office

τὴν ἐπισκοπὴν αὐτοῦ λαβέτω ἕτερος (Act 1:20ff)

let another take his office

Psalms 109 is an interesting psalm which I had the opportunity to teach this Lord's Day. It is a psalm of trials, call for justice, help and salvation, and ending with praise for the Lord's salvation. As a psalm, it gives us the manner to call unto God in times of trial for His help, salvation and vindication.

If as we believe that the psalms are the inspired songs of praise in the Bible, and thus we are to sing them, then Psalm 109 should be sung. The problem however comes when we approach verses 6-20. Should we sing these verses? Perhaps some people would sing it with gusto, but would you think it is proper to sing verses such as the following?

Let his sons be orphans, and his wife a widow (v. 6)

Let his posterity be cut-off, in another generation wipe out their name (v. 13)

Imprecations are found in other psalms as well, so the question before us is how to deal with them.

In Psalms 109, we can see how a redemptive historical reading of the psalm could shed light in the issue. Verse 8 of Ps. 109 is cited by Peter in Acts 1: 20 in choosing a replacement for Judas Iscariot into the Apostolate. Peter applied the verse, and thus by synecdoche apply the entire section to Judas Iscariot as the cursed wicked man, a type of the one who oppress the godly (in his betrayal of our Lord Jesus Christ).

Imprecations are therefore directed against the reprobates, not our personal enemies, of which Judas Iscariot is foremost (Jn. 17: 12). Redemptive historically, the wicked in David's psalm are the type of the reprobates in eternity.

In David's time, the wicked are dealt with by strict justice, thus the Church in the form of Israel yielded the sword against evildoers. In our time, the Gospel is being proclaimed and the execution of God's judgment is held back. Yet, such restrain will be removed in the last day when Christ comes again, and God's justice at the Eschaton will be meted out.

The imprecations for us therefore is eschatological in nature, as opposed to the present reality under the Mosaic economy. The singing of the imprecations is meant to proclaim God's justice in the eschatological judgment against the reprobates, those who manifest their wickedness in rejection of God and Christ.

It is therefore not surprising that the modern effeminate churches do not sing the imprecations, but that is for another day.


Joel Tay said...

Well written.

The modern day church is weaken in its theology and practice because it avoids teaching imprecatory psalms and their role in the kingdom of God.

PuritanReformed said...