The Pursuit of God

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Psalm 109: Learning from David’s Hatefest

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Psalm 109 was written by David when David was in a very angry, very hateful mood.  This is the carnal ranting of a hypocritical grudge holder.  As is typical for those wallowing in a victim mentality, David considers himself to be morally superior to the fellow who has stuck it to him.  Not only does he expect Yahweh to take his side in this matter, but he has already decided how God should handle this situation.  In this psalm, David is basically throwing a bratty tantrum and peppering Yahweh with a long list of demands.  David isn’t content to just see his enemy suffer—he is so consumed with hate that he wants to see the man’s relatives and descendants suffer as well.  Psalm 109 is a fabulous example of carnality run amuck, and to call such garbage “God breathed” is utterly absurd.  David was certainly not passing on the words of God when he wrote this hatefest.  Instead, he is grossly exaggerating his own importance by talking as if anyone who opposes him is deserving of unending suffering.  Well, no, the universe really doesn’t revolve around David, and David is totally out of line to boss Yahweh around like this.  Let’s now go through this psalm line by line and see what positive lessons we can learn from David’s terrible example.

My God, whom I praise, do not remain silent, for people who are wicked and deceitful have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken against me with lying tongues. With words of hatred they surround me; they attack me without cause. In return for my friendship they accuse me, but I am a man of prayer. They repay me evil for good, and hatred for my friendship. (Ps. 109:1-5)

While we can all identify with the frustrated cry of “Life’s not fair!” at some point we need to realize that God never said it would be.  Today many Christians think that God has promised a sweet life to all who obey Him.  But if we take a closer look at the Scriptures we’re using to support this theory, we’ll realize that God never promised any such thing.  Much of our support for this notion comes from the books of Psalms and Proverbs—both of which were written by humans, not God.  You see, there’s a big difference between someone quoting God and someone simply musing about the way he wishes God would operate.  In the prophetic books, in the four Gospels, and in Revelation, we find a lot of material in which God is being directly quoted.  Skim through the words of Yahweh and Jesus and you’ll quickly find that They talk quite a bit about the righteous suffering in this world.  Instead of talking as if this is some terrible crisis, Yahweh claims to be the Origin of all trials.  In the Gospels, Jesus tells His guys to expect persecution in life.  In Revelation 6, we come across that disturbing scene in which a bunch of martyred believers in Heaven are griping at God for letting His people suffer so terribly on earth.  When they cry out for God to put an end to the persecution of the righteous, what does God say?  Does He apologize and rush to fix everything?  Not hardly.  He tells them that they’ll just have to wait because He’s not done letting the bad guys hammer the good guys yet.

When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the people slaughtered because of God’s word and the testimony they had. They cried out with a loud voice: “Lord, the One who is holy and true, how long until You judge and avenge our blood from those who live on the earth?” So a white robe was given to each of them, and they were told to rest a little while longer until the number would be completed of their fellow slaves and their brothers, who were going to be killed just as they had been. (Rev. 6:9-11)

The imagery here is metaphorical—there aren’t really a bunch of angry martyrs crammed under a golden altar in God’s heavenly throne room.  But as is the case with much of Revelation, the point God is making here is not one that our egos want to hear.  This business about God being totally sovereign and the Origin of both good and evil—we really don’t like any of that.  We don’t want to face the fact that God is intentionally creating trials in our lives because we don’t want to face how much growing we personally need to do.

Maturing is work.  Ragging on everyone else is fun.  Facing the reality of our own flaws and failings is upsetting.  Pointing out the flaws and failings in everyone else while we pretend not to have any is very pleasing to our pride.  When other people stick it to us in life, God is going to use our reactions to them as material for teaching us new lessons.  God says things like: “Why do you feel so threatened by this person?  What fears and insecurities are they dredging up in you?  It’s your issues that I want to talk about, not what you think is wrong with them.  I’m already handling them, but I brought them into your life to help you grow closer to Me.  Are you on board or not?”

God is like a Counselor who keeps pushing us to wrestle with uncomfortable questions and deal with our own issues.  He doesn’t encourage us in slandering others, nor does He agree with our totally biased and very ignorant assessment of what is going on with other souls.  God intentionally brings irritating and aggressive people into our lives to provoke us and bother us.  The sooner we learn to see annoying people as teaching tools and the sooner we become receptive to changing something about ourselves instead of demanding that everyone else change to suit us, the better off we’ll be.

Well, here in Psalm 109, it’s quite clear that Yahweh has brought some really irritating person into David’s life to push David on to some new level of maturity.  But at the time he wrote this psalm, David was digging his stubborn little heels in and refusing to be receptive to what Yahweh wanted to teach him.  Instead, all David wants to talk about is what’s wrong with that other jerk.  David doesn’t want Yahweh to be his Teacher—he wants Yahweh to be his Avenger, and he has some very specific ideas about how he wants that vengeance to be exacted.

Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy; let an accuser stand at his right hand. When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him. (Ps. 109:6-7)

Under the Old Covenant, a man could end up executed based on the testimonies of only two witnesses.  Because so much weight was put on verbal testimonies, Yahweh ordered brutal punishments for those who intentionally gave false testimonies just to trash someone.  Well, here David is asking Yahweh to have his enemy get trashed by false testimony.  Notice how David prays for someone evil to oppose his enemy.  Clearly an evil man is not going to be long on scruples—instead he’s going to be up to shady things.  David sounds like he wants to see his enemy get hauled into court on some trumped up charge, then he wants God to make sure some lying witness takes him down.  Basically David wants his enemy to get the bitter experience of being falsely accused, because that’s what this guy has done to David. And while this psalm is a prayer request that David wants Yahweh to fulfill, notice how he is asking Yahweh not to fulfill the prayers of his enemy.  Clearly a man on trial will be asking God to spare his life.  Yet David wants Yahweh to respond to his enemy’s prayers with brutal punishment.  So much for David respecting Yahweh’s command for humans to be merciful towards each other.

May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership. May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes. (Ps. 109:8-10)

What a relief it is that we’re not having to answer to humans in eternity, for here David gives a great demonstration of how vicious humans are when they are angry.  Because of the way property was passed through male heirs, widows could find themselves in a serious economic crisis.  Here David is begging God to inflict the worst situations he can think of on both his enemy and his enemy’s family.  And yet why should a man’s children be reduced to homeless beggars just because their father was a creep?  Why should a woman be trashed just because her husband was choosing to do wrong?  In this psalm, David wants Yahweh to defend him as an individual, while condemning others in large groups.  David is being a total jerk, and refusing to show any regard for individual soul choices.  What if this man’s kids were sincerely seeking Yahweh? What if his wife totally disapproved of the way her husband was acting?  Does David want Yahweh to judge David based on the decisions David’s family members make? Of course not.  David wants to be judged according to his own soul choices.  He certainly doesn’t want to be blamed for what someone else does, and yet this is exactly what he’s asking Yahweh to do to others.  Talk about a bad role model.

May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor. May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children. May his descendants be cut off, their names blotted out from the next generation. May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before Yahweh; may the sin of his mother never be blotted out. May their sins always remain before Yahweh, that He may blot out their name from the earth. (Ps. 109:11-15)

David is so consumed with hate that he can’t stand the thought of his enemy or his enemies’ family members ever receiving one scrap of kindness from others.  This is an utterly immature attitude.  It’s like sitting down to a great meal when you’re hungry, seeing someone you hate eating on the other side of the restaurant, and saying, “I can’t enjoy my food as long as that jerk has food as well.”  What does that other guy have to do with you?  Eat your own food and be thankful for it: don’t try to control what’s on everyone else’s plate as well, because that’s none of your affair.  You see, when God tells us to focus on ourselves instead of on everyone else, He isn’t saying that our pain is irrelevant to Him.  Instead, He’s showing us the fastest way to stop being miserable.  God is never going to serve us, and He’s not going to share His power with us.  All humans are God’s property, and He will do what He wants with them.  It’s not our place to tell God what He ought to be doing with other people.  Instead, we need to be receptive to Him changing our own perspectives and priorities to be in greater alignment with His.

For he never thought of doing a kindness, but hounded to death the poor and the needy and the brokenhearted. He loved to pronounce a curse—may it come back on him. He found no pleasure in blessing—may it be far from him. He wore cursing as his garment; it entered into his body like water, into his bones like oil. May it be like a cloak wrapped about him, like a belt tied forever around him. (Ps. 109:16-19)

As David spews the curses onto this guy’s head, he’s hardly in a position to criticize his enemy for cursing others.  And yet this kind of hypocrisy is quite common to us all.  We all fall into the trap of deciding that sin is less sinful when we’re the ones committing it, but it’s totally unforgivable when that other fellow is committing it.

Now the folks you read about in the Bible were highly superstitious and huge fans of “the power of the spoken word.”  Both the Old and New Testament Jews really got into the notion that they were potent little sorcerers who could alter the courses of other people’s lives with mere spoken words.  Now of course this is total hooey.  You can command pickles to appear on your hamburger all day long, but you’re never going to get any pickles until you get off your duff and fetch the jar out of the fridge.  It turns out that the universe really doesn’t give a hoot about what we humans have to say.  You can’t speak traffic out of existence, you can’t speak the dead back from the grave, and you certainly can’t make other beings bow to your will just by commanding them.

Since Yahweh, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are sovereign Creators who reign with absolute Authority over all things, They are really the Ones who you’re trying to control with all of your rebuking, blessing and cursing.  Let’s take David’s situation.  Some guy has treated David badly.  Well who allowed that to happen? Yahweh did.  Yahweh wasn’t taking a nap while David was getting harassed.  Yahweh has been helping David’s enemy do whatever damage he did.  David heartily disapproves of Yahweh’s actions, but since Yahweh outranks David, David really needs to be asking Yahweh to help him submit to Yahweh’s will for his life and learn whatever positive lessons Yahweh wants to teach him through this trial.  That would be the mature response.  But instead, what we find is David calling curses down onto his enemy and his enemy’s family.  David is also declaring the way he wants countless other people to behave by saying that he doesn’t want any human to ever show this man’s family any kindness.  Who is it that has the power to make all of David’s malicious dreams come true?  Only Yahweh.  So it is really Yahweh who David is bossing around in this psalm.  It is Yahweh who David is trying to dominate with this long stream of curses.

Focusing on soul attitudes will go a long way towards helping you discern whether a sentiment is God honoring or not.  Domination is the opposite of submission, and submission is a critical soul attitude which Yahweh, Jesus and the Holy Spirit demand from us. Are you seeing the problem with calling Psalm 109 “God breathed” as the apostle Paul does?  It’s not “Divinely inspired” to reverse God’s value system and exalt soul attitudes which He says He hates. It is demons who are constantly urging us to do the opposite of what God says He wants, and if anyone “breathed” Psalm 109 through David, it would be a demon, not God.  We shouldn’t just be fluffing off these kinds of discrepancies.  The Church upholds the Bible as Divinely inspired today and discourages you from calling any part of it carnal rot.  And yet rot is all we’re finding in Psalm 109, as David chucks submission to God out the window and starts acting like he is Yahweh’s commander.

May this be Yahweh’s payment to my accusers, to those who speak evil of me. But You, Sovereign Yahweh, help me for Your Name’s sake.  Out of the goodness of Your love, deliver me. For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me. I fade away like an evening shadow; I am shaken off like a locust. My knees give way from fasting; my body is thin and gaunt. I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they shake their heads. Help me, Yahweh my God; save me according to Your unfailing love. Let them know that it is Your hand, and that You, Yahweh, have done it. While they curse, may You bless; may those who attack me be put to shame, but may Your servant rejoice. May my accusers be clothed with disgrace and wrapped in shame as in a cloak.

With my mouth I will greatly extol Yahweh; in the great throng of worshipers I will praise Him. For He stands at the right hand of the needy, to save their lives from those who would condemn them. (Ps. 109:20-31)

While David refuses to see any good in his enemies, he also refuses to see any bad in himself.  He paints a ridiculously simplistic view of the world for Yahweh which boils down to him being some poor trampled flower of righteousness while his enemies are a bunch of vile stinkweeds who have no redeeming qualities.  To expect Yahweh to accept such a view as accurate is quite an insult to God’s intelligence.

David concludes this psalm by describing himself as praising Yahweh while he basks in arrogant self-righteousness.  What an ironic moment for David to make the observation that Yahweh is the kind of God who “stands at the right hand of the needy, to save their lives from those who would condemn them.”  Indeed He is, and clearly David’s enemy and his enemy’s family members fall into the category of those who are being condemned.  David has done nothing but condemn those people, even though he probably knows very little about any of them.  So how is Yahweh going to respond to a prayer like this?  Is He going to say, “What’s that David?  You don’t like someone?  Let Me get out my lightning bolts”?  No, He’s really not.  The good news is that God doesn’t allow human opinion to factor in to His judgments of us, and realizing this helps us avoid two very common pitfalls.  The first is trying to control God through our prayers.  The second is believing that other humans can interfere with our personal relationships with God.

Are there humans in the world right now who are holding grudges against you?  Have other humans told you that you’re unlovable, unredeemable, and/or unforgivable?  God couldn’t care less what other humans say about you: He makes up His own mind about you, and there is no sin any Christian can list which God hasn’t forgiven at one time or another (see Understanding Unpardonable Sins: Lies vs. Truth).

Maybe Christians are trying to pray you down (see Understanding Prayer: Can Other Christians Turn God Against You?).  Maybe demon worshiping dingdongs are casting curses on you and poking pins into stupid looking dolls (see Witches & Warlocks vs. the Holy Spirit).  So what?  No matter what kinds of ridiculous rituals humans come up with, at the end of the day, none of them are worth anything because God doesn’t take orders from us.

As a soul who wants to please God, you need to learn the right lessons from Psalm 109, and that means recognizing how irreverent, merciless, and self-exalting David is being.  David was just a human, and no human is perfect.  We all have plenty of carnal moments in life.  We all wallow in self-pity and hate at times.  Perfection simply isn’t an option for humans but that’s alright, because we don’t have to be perfect in order to mature.  Aligning with God’s standards is far more important than being perfect.  When we’re being brats, we need to own it, not start calling it righteousness.  When we’re being snarky with God, we need to own that as well, and not start whitewashing our behavior as morally superior.  In Psalm 109, David gives us a great example of what not to do.  In him we see our own raging hypocrisy reflecting back in our faces and we’re reminded of just how petty and merciless we can be.

What a mess we would be in if our Gods were to actually let us control Them the way David is trying to control Yahweh in this psalm.  But happily for us, They do not.  When we try to make God focus on the flaws in someone else, He always pulls our focus back onto our own issues and challenges us to submit to His maturity program.  In your life, God is going to talk to you about you and He’s not going to let you have a vote in how He deals with anyone else.  The more we focus on our own walks, the better off we’ll be, the more mature we’ll become, and the less we’ll care about what anyone else is doing.  Life isn’t about controlling the way other humans treat us or punishing those who wrong us.  Life is about pleasing our three glorious Makers.  Our Gods bring antagonistic people into our lives to draw us closer to Themselves, so the next time you find yourself stewing over what some other human did to you, ask God to help you respond to your situation in a way that will draw you closer to Him.

FURTHER READING:
Praying Down Your Enemies
It’s Personal: Understanding the Divine Perspective of Trials
What To Do When People Won’t Forgive You
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (or, How many times should we forgive?)
Psalm 82: Asaph Wants Yahweh to Judge the Wicked
Psalm 51: David Pleads for a Clean Heart

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