From the perspective of our westernized view of Christianity, David’s desperate cry for deliverance from his enemies does not resonate with Christ’s directive to love God with all of our heart and our neighbors as ourselves. Yet, when read in context, this prayer is completely in line with not only the Old Testament but the New Testament as well.
First, David was not a Christian, he was Hebrew. And though it may seem extreme for David to have prayed for his enemies to be punished for their sins, his prayer is part and parcel how he was taught to worship and pray in the Hebraic culture.
Upon further examination of imprecatory (to invoke evil upon or curse one’s enemies) prayers, we have to look at who the enemy is. God said that the sins of the fathers would be visited on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate God (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9). Furthermore, in the Law of Moses God warned that certain sins would bring consequences on the families of the sinner. The first five verses of the Psalm declare David’s innocence and the iniquity of his enemies are established. The prayer is to God for good to overcome evil.
Beverly Mattox, Word Alive International Outreach
Context, culture of the day must be considered
One of the best gifts the Bible offers us is the truth without spin. A sales brochure will highlight the best and focus on the beautiful. The Bible reaches down into the very heart of a person, stirs up the muck, clouds the water and then offers God’s remedy: Grace, undeserved and unchained.
This Psalm causes us to shy away and not want to read it.
We could talk about the scholarly types of prayer — even how this Psalm was written with a couple of qualifications. The writer is the innocent victim of truly wicked people and is suffering because of his righteousness.
The Psalm sang in the congregation is no different than the martyrs who cry out to God in the New Testament for God’s judgment to avenge their blood in Revelation 6:9-10. We need to see this Psalm in the perspective of the time and culture. This Psalm was probably penned in the late Bronze Age. The culture then was just a little bit different. Our culture has changed in our lifetime, for instance, violent video games. A film of this Psalm today would be rated PG.
There is so much more that needs to be said, the nuance, the theological aspects of this Psalm. However, what I take away from this Psalm is not that it is offensive to us today or not, but this is a reflection of the human condition that needs the grace of Christ to transform
Peter Hawker, First United Methodist Church, Anniston