Mercy for Me, Judgment for You

The One Year® Chronology Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), May 14

imagesThe Bible is an unsanitized story about a real God, who has a real relationship with real people, who have real problems. Had the Author of the Bible sanitized its story, no man would have hope.
Every people group has a story of origins, but no story compares to the Bible’s narrative. It begins with God’s creative goodness, bringing all creation, including mankind, into being, His great wisdom in giving man a prohibition regarding the forbidden tree, His merciful promise to man regarding redemption (Gen. 3:15), and His marvelous picture of redemption (Gen. 3:21). This story is the greater context of David’s imprecatory prayer in Psalm 109.

David’s military exploits give Israel reason to boast. His moral and familial failures, however, provide fodder for his enemies to attack him, “They have spoken against me with a lying tongue. They have also surrounded me with words of hatred, and fought against me without a cause. In return for my love they are my accusers, but I give myself to prayer. Thus they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love” (Ps. 109:2-5). In response to their attacks David prays an imprecatory prayer asking “judgment for them, mercy for me.” He asks the LORD to:

  • Raise up enemies for his enemies (109:6-7).
  • Shorten the lives of his enemies (109:8).
  • Cut off the continuance of their lineage and make their children beggars (109:9-10, 13).
  • Take away their possessions (109:11).
  • Withhold forgiveness for their sins (109:14-15).
  • Curse them equal to their cursing of others (109:17-19).

David asks the LORD to be kind to him based on His covenantal relationship, “But You, O GOD the Lord, deal with me for Your name’s sake; because Your mercy is good, deliver me” (109:21). He appeals to God to answer this prayer to distinguish him from his enemies, “Help me, O LORD my God! Oh, save me according to Your mercy, that they may know that this is Your hand—that You, LORD, have done it!” (109:26-27).

Finally, David ends his prayer with gratitude toward God, “I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth; yes, I will praise Him among the multitude. For He shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those who condemn him” (109:30-31).

David’s imprecatory prayer reveals a number of encouraging truths:

  • God vindicates and blesses those with whom He has made a covenant.
  • Though David has the power to punish those who rise up against him, he trusts the Lord to vindicate him. Therefore, God’s people may ask the Lord to vindicate them and to punish those who rise up against them. Whether people today have the power to bring about vengeance, or they are powerless before men, they can hope in the God of the covenant, the Lord Jesus, to defend them ultimately.

Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Psalms 103, 108-110, 122, 124):
How does knowing Moses’ story and Israel’s history help David to develop a strong and correct view of God? (Psalm 103)
How does praying an imprecatory prayer in Psalm 109 enable David to gain God’s perspective and trust Him?
What do the Songs of Ascents teach about worship and worshippers?