Wednesday, 8 March 2017
The Maledictory Psalms
4. Maledictory Psalms
These Psalms as call down the curse and wrath of Almighty God upon the enemies of the Psalms. Among these Psalms are 34, 51, 53, 55, 57, 68, and 108. Such Psalm indeed show us both the just retribution that awaits the wicked and also that the sanctity and perfection of the saints of the New Law of grace is not to be found in the Old Law. In the Hebrew mode of thought the sinner was identified with his wickedness and so it was only fitting that he should perish if he persisted in his perversity.
These Psalms nevertheless are to be understood in the classical Christian manner, in that, we must always love the sinner but hate the sin. And so in as much as sinners by their sins stand in opposition to God, we are to desire that they be punished but ultimately for their correction and conversion (Ezechiel 33:11). In this sense the Psalms are in harmony with the New Testament (Apoc 14:10). The underlying idea is found in Psalm 138 “Have I not hated them, O Lord that hated thee?” The Psalmist is simply telling us that our “enemies” should be those who hate God and His Church and who work to undermine it (i.e. The Freemasons of Today). The Church has incorporated this understanding into her worship when she prays “Ut inimicos Ecclesiae humiliare digneris”.
Many authors have sought to omit such texts or simply explain them away by saying they are exclusive to the old dispensation. However this is not totally true since God continues to punish the wicked, just as he continues to reward the just. It is clear that God’s Kingdom must come not only in grace but also in judgment. Love (no less than justice) demands that there be an ultimate distinction between the good and the wicked, and that those who have refused to submit to the laws of God’s kingdom should be banished from it (Mk 13; 49, Jn 5:29).
These maledictory Psalms show us that the Psalmist had a deep sense of great conflict that was constantly being waged between good and evil, between God and His enemies. This is nothing but the battle of salvation history. This battle however (at the time of the Psalmists) was being waged between the Israelites (the “People of God”) and those nations that sort their destruction. These maledictory Psalms seem to give vent to a legitimate desire for God’s victory over his enemies since the enemies of Israel were the enemies Israel’s God; Israel’s defeat would have been a reproach to His name and so the cause at stake was not merely the existence of the nation, but the cause of divine truth and righteousness.
Within the nation of Israel this same conflict was being waged on a smaller scale between the godly and the ungodly. When the righteous were oppressed and the wicked triumphant, it seemed as though God’s was being ignored. The Psalmist who took indignation at the violation of the rights of God thus saw it as a duty to pray fro the triumph of God’s law which involved the destruction of the wicked who persisted in their iniquity. Zeal for the cause of God inspired the Psalmist to call out to God for retribution to be given to be handed out to the wicked who despised his laws. The Psalmist understood well that with God their must be no half hearted compromise. In hatred as in love the man who fears God must be wholly on His side (Ps 138:22, Ps 100:6-8).