My take on the ferocious prayers of the Psalms is that Christians shouldn’t skip over them, nor should we pray them exactly as they stand.  My reasoning is summed up in one word: Jesus.  The gospel of Jesus is the supreme fact of the universe, and so we must learn to interpret all things in light of the gospel.  And by all things I mean all things, including the world around us, the Bible, that big book called Psalms in the middle of the Bible, and all the imprecations therein.

So, you find yourself on the receiving end of terrible evil.  Or you’re grieved and angered upon seeing how others are oppressed.  You turn to the Psalms to find a voice for your anguish.  And there they are—a short outburst here, sustained smoldering there—cries to God to do violence to his enemies.  I gave examples of these prayers here, and I argued that it’s okay to pray these prayers, provided we pray them in light of the gospel, here.  So what does that look like?  How are you, as a Christian, to pray these prayers? Read the rest of this entry »

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The most likely explanation for why the Psalms have never made a person uncomfortable is that the person has never read all of them.  Woven throughout the beautiful prayers of praise and thanksgiving, of lament and confession, are appeals to God to do violence to his enemies.  I gave some examples of these prayers yesterday.

The Psalms include ferocious prayers, more commonly called prayers of imprecation.  Should Christians pray these prayers?  If so, how are we to pray them?  Those are the questions I want to answer. Read the rest of this entry »

How do you pray for the young man who date-raped your daughter?  How do you pray for the terrorist?  How do you pray for the kids at school who are pressuring your son to try drugs?  How do you pray for the uncle who is abusing you?  How do you pray for those unreached people who tortured and killed your missionary husband?  How do you pray for government officials who authorize the persecution of Christians?  When you suffer evil, how do you pray? Read the rest of this entry »

[One of our church members, John Bates, wrote a meditation on Psalm 22 following the sermon last Sunday. I asked John if I could post it, and he gave me permission. May God use it to inspire your worship of Christ. – Pastor David ]

Seldom do we look at the psalms to lead our meditations through the passion of the Christ. The words that dripped from Christ’s lips, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” were not just a mere utterance of the sacrifice receiving the weight of the sin of His people. These were the words of King David in his prophetic psalm written 1000 years earlier.

The psalm that the dying Christ spoke, directing the bystanders to be witnesses, paints a picture of pure suffering and humiliation with such vivid details that mirrored the event unfolding at the cross. The scoffers, as they shook their heads and proclaimed, “He trusts in the Lord, let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” were written by David but played out on Golgotha. Those bulls of Bashan with gaping mouth like a raging and roaring lion were the children of Israel calling for His death. David said they would divide His garments and cast lots for them, and so the soldiers did. How strange were David’s words as he talked about piercing hands and feet, long before the morbid minds devised this means of execution. Who would suffer these pains of death far beyond David’s imagination, who would be the one poured out and dried up, broken and frail? Christ was proclaiming, “It is I! I am fulfilling the prophecy of David.”

Yet David’s psalm does not end with the echos of the suffering. For if one is astonished by the accurate description of the sufferings, then one would have to explode in exuberance in the hope of the resurrection. Through Christ’s suffering and death comes life in salvation through the resurrection. For David said, “He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted.” Oh, there is HOPE! “The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord!” In his resurrection He has inherited the Kingdom, and we become the subjects and the children of the righteous King. David said, “Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.”

So another 2000 years from the fulfillment of the suffering, I urge you to be witnesses and partakers in the hope of the resurrection and prepare to proclaim to the next generation the hope we have in Christ. His suffering had to be incredibly horrid, in order for His salvation to be ever so glorious.

Jesus prayed the Psalms, of that we are sure.  But in what way did Jesus pray those Psalms in which the psalmist confesses guilt and cries out for forgiveness?  Bonhoeffer’s answer to the question has stirred my affection for Christ.  Here are a few relevant quotations:

It is the incarnate Son of God, who has borne every human weakness in his own flesh, who here pours out the heart of all humanity before God and who stands in our place and prays for us….

Christ speaks of the guilt of all men, also about the guilt of David and my own guilt which he has taken upon himself, and borne, and for which he now suffers the wrath of the Father….

How can the sinless one ask for forgiveness?  In no way other than he can, as the sinless one, bear the sins of the world and be made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Not for the sake of his sins, but for the sake of our sins, which he has taken upon himself and for which he suffers, does Jesus pray for the forgiveness of sins.  He positions himself entirely for us.  He wants to be a man before God as we are.  So he prays the most human of all prayers with us and thereby demonstrates precisely that he is the true Son of God.

Bonhoeffer, Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, 20-21, 37, 51-52

Christ Jesus, in taking upon himself our sin, also took upon himself our guilt and need for forgiveness.  Jesus prays in our place as the true man.