Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Prayer of David and the Son of David

They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer. So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love.
Psalm 109:3-5
When David's enemies attack him with hatred and accusations and evil from all sides despite the love that he has shown them, his response is to give himself to prayer. Oh, that we would learn from him simply on this front! What does he pray for?
Let there be none to extend kindness to him, nor any to pity his fatherless children! May his posterity be cut off; may his name be blotted out in the second generation! May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD, and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out! Let them be before the LORD continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth!
Psalm 109:12-15
This is just a small sampling of curses that David gave himself to praying down on those who were against him.

When the Son of David's enemies attack Him with hatred and accusations and evil from all sides despite the love that He has shown them, His response is to give Himself to prayer. What does He pray for?
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
Luke 23:34
No doubt, this is just a small sampling of blessings that Jesus gave Himself to praying down on those who were against Him.

It is a mind-blowing thing to ponder that the hatred that Jesus met with in response to the life of love that He lived towards all those He came into contact with in the gospels overflowed with the fullest expression of love at the moment it should have overflowed with the fullest expression of hatred. This is the difference between David and the Son of David. This is the difference between being a man after God's own heart and being a man having God's own heart.
You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of Your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:43-45
Need we ask whether Jesus would want us to model our prayers after David or the Son of David?


Justin said...

Amen. So often I look at David and other people in the bible and I think that they are perfect because they are full of the Spirit or they are people that are anointed by God. But when you compare them to Jesus, we see the truth and that everyone is not at His standards and that they all still have flaws. I like how you are making the emphasis about Jesus and He is, ultimately, who we should model our lives around.

Lee said...

I agree, Justin! Another great post full of insight. Thanks, Chris!

Ripley said...

I agree with this post, in theory. I don't believe that Jesus prayed that prayer because he "ought to have", but rather because it was genuinely what he felt in his heart. Often we, if we're honest with ourselves, feel a lot more like David.

To put a band-aid over these feelings and pray something that is entirely counter to where we are in our hearts because we "should", I feel, is utter hypocrisy, and I don't doubt that God loathes this. I prayed the latter prayer (the "good" one) all my life growing up, and it wasn't until I humbly and painfully revealed to God what I was actually feeling in my heart, rather than what I "should" feel, that I actually started growing and maturing in my relationship with Him. This is also when He was actually able to take how I felt and mold me and change me. Before, it was ME doing the work of "righteousness", and my Christian act was a potent and disgusting reminder to my non-Christian friends that "Christians" are no different from everyone else in the world.

Apparently, if I become a Christian I will never again feel hatred or lust or.... whatever. Does God want to know (and mold) our hearts to be more like Him? Or does He want us to learn how to act more like Him?

This is a great post, and I entirely agree that we should long to have the heart of Christ in response to our enemies... but I'm not interested in "short-cuts".

Excellent post! Excellent insights! Love reading your blog, Chris.

pilgriminconflict said...

Hey John,

Thanks for your comments and thoughts! I completely agree with you. It made me think of an article that John Piper wrote where he distinguished between asking whether it is right to be angry with God and whether it is right to express that anger to God. Respectively, no and yes. No to the former because God is just in all His dealings. Yes to the latter because to not do so would make us hypocrites if we really are angry. So we express the anger and then repent for not feeling the way we should.

In this case, I would say that the parallel is distinguishing between whether it is right to curse our enemies and whether it is right to express our desire to curse them. Again, no and yes. No to the former because Jesus commands otherwise. Yes to the latter because to not do so would make us hypocrites if we really do want to curse them. So we express our true desires and then repent for not desiring what we should.

Let's always remember that God can and does demand of us what we cannot do (this is where Erasmus and Pelagius got it wrong). This is the entire Christian life and the reason why we should continually be in repentance, always praying as St. Augustine did: "Give me the grace to do what you command and command what you will. O Holy God, when we obey your commands, it is from you that we receive the power to obey them!"

I'm not interested in shortcuts, either. I'm interested in gazing upon Jesus to see and enjoy how beautiful and lovely He is because beholding His image we are transformed into the same image, from one degree of glory to another. And this comes from the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18).

May He do it in us for His glory.

Ripley said...

Amen!!! You nailed it! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and convictions about this topic - you said it much more eloquently than I could have! :)

Lee said...

More good thoughts!

David may not have always (ever?) revealed his confession for his anger towards his enemies (and sometimes towards God Himself), but I can't think of a Psalm where he does not turn from his anger to praising God for His provision and protection in spite of his circumstances (which doesn't mean that such a Psalm doesn't exist, of course!)...

Nathan Wells said...

I think there is a big problem if we say that David's psalms are not inspired, or "God breathed."

If you take it that David was wrong, you can make it that ALL the writers of the Bible could be or were wrong in EVERYTHING they wrote.

Does that make sense?

The Bible was written by men. Yes. But men who were inspired by God.

There is no error. There is nothing in the Psalms that is sin.

I am not sure if that is what you were trying to point out (that David was sinning in his attitude), but it seems like someone could get there from what was said...

The imprecatory psalms are difficult, but writing them off as man's sin is not an option.

Lee said...

Nathan - are you equating "David sinned by being angry with God" with "David's Psalms are not inspired"? I'm not sure why, if so. Certainly there is much described across the Bible which is sin... Even actions recorded by inspired writers who are describing their own actions (Moses striking the rock a second time in anger being a prime example).

pilgriminconflict said...

Hey Nathan,

Thanks for your thoughts. You bring up a great point that really makes me think. I completely agree with you that there is no error in the Bible. I love the Word of God and believe that all of it is breathed by God.

I never saw how questioning David's heart posture could undermine the inerrancy of Scripture but I think I see exactly what you are getting at.

My intention definitely wasn't to write off the imprecatory psalms as sin. I don't think it's as simple as that. I actually never thought that myself as I meditated on these verses.

But in light of Jesus' (Matt. 5:43-44) and Paul's (Romans 12:14) commands to Christians, and if we do believe that all of Scripture is God-breathed, how do we preach and teach the God-breathed imprecatory psalms as Christian Scriptures? How do we exalt Christ in them? That is what the purpose of my meditations on this psalm was (and is for every other passage of Scripture).

You're right. The imprecatory psalms are difficult. It seems like part of the reality of dual authorship does make David justified in saying what he says because it's really God speaking through him and God can and does curse whomever He wants because He does whatever He pleases.

But could the other part of the reality of dual authorship make David wrong in saying what he says since only God has the prerogative to curse His enemies and not David?

Might I draw a parallel to Acts 2:23 where Peter describes the co-accountability, if you will, of Jesus' death? Jesus was delivered up by the definite plan and foreknowledge of God and yet He was crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. Men did this and sinned in doing so. But we would never question whether this was the will of God (will of decree, of course) since Scripture is clear that it was also God who did this and did not sin in doing so.

It's the will of God (will of decree) but it's not the will of God (will of command). David is in error (in his judgment and desires) but he's not in error (in his decree).

Just trying to think this through. But at the end of the day, regardless of whether it is sin or not for David to curse his enemies in this psalm, are we in agreement that it is sin for Christians to curse their enemies?

Thanks again Nathan,

Nathan Wells said...

Hi Chris,

Like I said before I don't question your heart in this :)

This is a good practical conversation, because the observations about the differences between some of David's prayers and Jesus' do bring up some difficulties. It helps us because we need to know how to interact with God’s word, and to know how, or in what fashion our lives should be conformed to it.

Sorry I am late with this - school is coming to a close so I am quite busy!

To your questions:
“How do we preach and teach the God-breathed imprecatory psalms as Christian Scriptures?”
As we look in Scripture there are basically two “types” (this is an over simplification, but for illustrating my point I think it will be ok) of Scripture: description, and prescription.
The issue of imprecatory psalms falls into this discussion.
When David wrote/prayed in Psalm 69 that his enemies be “blotted out of the book of life” (Psalm 69:28) I do not believe that his prayer was just description.
For example, in Job we have the different opinions of many men. They all say things about God, and about men. But is what they say God’s perspective? Obviously not (we know that from the context – the end of the book!). Therefore, when teaching Job, we must be very careful as we deal with all Job and his friends say.
But with the Psalms – in the context there is absolutely no indication that what was said is not in accordance with God (or a lie), therefore it is to be taken as prescription. Now obviously there is a time difference and so we must find that which is timeless within the Psalm (example: boiling a goat kid in its mother’s milk is prohibited – now, we don’t live under the law, but there is a timeless principal within that revelation) in order to apply it to our lives.
Here’s where I would go with the principal behind the imprecatory psalms: God has enemies, and David aligns himself with God to have the same enemies, therefore God’s enemies should be our enemies. Application: Are your enemies the enemies of God, or just your own personal enemies?
We deal with the imprecatory psalms in the same way we deal with the rest of Scripture. We are not the rule that Scripture is to be measured by. I don’t decide what God agrees with, Scripture tells me. Therefore, when David prays that his enemies go to hell, I do not judge that he is in sin (unless something explicitly tells me, as in it is obvious). It is the same when reading the NT. When Paul writes, I don’t wonder if what he is saying is true. I know it is true because it is God’s word. Do you see where it leads if we judge David? It means we would have to go through all of Scripture and find out what was REALLY God’s and what part was just a man’s idea.
I hope that helps, or at least moves in the right direction…
“But could the other part of the reality of dual authorship make David wrong in saying what he says since only God has the prerogative to curse His enemies and not David?”
You assume only God has the right to curse His enemies. In regard to Jesus, you also forget his zeal for His Father’s house and the cleansing of the temple (a quote from the Psalm 69 in John 2:17). You also forget that he pronounce woe (Matthew 23:13 and following). Now, yes, Jesus was God. But Jude pronounced woe as well (Jude 11). What of shaking the dust off our feet (Luke 10:11)? Or Paul’s “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” in Galatians 1:8? There is more, but I do believe there is something to be thought about in all of this.
“at the end of the day, regardless of whether it is sin or not for David to curse his enemies in this psalm, are we in agreement that it is sin for Christians to curse their enemies?”
Yes, but David did not curse his enemies, he cursed God’s. And I believe from Scripture it seems there is room for Christians to do the same. It is a difficult matter. But as we study more, may the Lord grant us light through His Spirit.
Because He lives,

Lee said...

Very interesting, Nathan! Much food for thought...

pilgriminconflict said...

very helpful, Nathan.

thank you,