Theme: Three Grounds for David’s Appeal
In this week’s lessons we are reminded that God will act justly and punish evildoers for their wrongs against the Lord and his people.
Scripture: Psalm 109:1-31
Today we continue our look at the curses of David, which are being spoken against one or more of his foes. Recall that in yesterday’s study we looked at satan, the accuser’s accuser.
2. Sin’s solidarity. The hardest part of the imprecatory section of the psalm is what comes next (in vv. 9-15). For here, the curses pronounced on the man who has been doing evil are extended forward into the future in the form of maledictions on his children, sideways in the present as curses on his wife, and backwards in time as judgments on his parents, his mother in particular being singled out. The best we can do with this is to see it as a reminder of the solidarity of humanity, whereby the sin of one person always harms others, especially those closest to him or her.
Why is this spelled out so clearly other than to warn us against doing wrong? It is not just in the imprecatory psalms that we find it. We have it in the Ten Commandments, to give one great example. For having warned us against worshiping idols in God’s place, the commandment continues: “For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to thousands who love me and keep my commandments” (Exod. 20:5, 6). Jesus also recognized the principle when he wept over Jerusalem, having foreseen the day when the city would be destroyed and its children dashed to the ground because of their fathers’ sins (cf. Luke 19:41-44).
3. No repentance. The last section of the imprecations makes clear that the person being spoken about is an incorrigible evildoer who shows no sign of repentance or remorse. In other words, this is not the case of a person who simply sins, as we all do. It is one who sins against God and others knowingly, deliberately and gleefully and who fully intends to keep on doing so. This person “never thought of doing a kindness” (v. 16). “He loved to pronounce a curse” and “found no pleasure in blessing” (v. 17). Alexander Maclaren acknowledges that Jesus’ prayer “‘Father, forgive them’ is the strongest conceivable contrast to these awful prayers.” But he also notes that David’s curses imply that the sins in question were “unrepented sins” and should rightly be punished by “the ‘cutting off the memory’ of such a brood of evil-doers ‘from the earth.’”1
The punishment asked for is with strict correspondence to the sins. Verses 16-20 explain the curses of verses 6-15, showing that the evil person will get exactly what he gave others. He cursed them, so he will be accursed.
I do not know why the New International Version has placed verse 21 at the end of the stanzas containing verses 6-20. This seems wrong to me, because the mood changes radically at this point, the thought shifting from the evil person or persons of verses 6-20 to God: “But you, O Sovereign LORD…” In my judgment, verse 21 actually begins the last section in which David makes an appeal for God to act on his behalf and save him. David has three grounds for his appeal.
1. God’s name and honor. This is what the words “deal well with me for your name’s sake” refer to. They mean, “Save me so that you might be known as a God who is on the side of the righteous and against evildoers.” When we remember that the problem in this psalm is that David’s enemies are slandering him, using words to attack and destroy his reputation, it is remarkable that he is concerned here not so much with his own reputation as with God’s. He wants God’s name to be vindicated most of all. Do we? Or do we actually care most about ourselves?
2. The psalmist’s weak condition. Scholars who do not want to assign the psalm to David argue that a king such as David could hardly refer to himself as “poor and needy.” But he could, of course, and did. All of us feel this way at times and rightly so, for we are all weak creatures at best, even the strongest of us. And the righteous are despised (v. 25). It is a powerful point for appealing for God’s help to confess our weak and helpless condition.
3. God’s steadfast love. The final appeal (vv. 26-29) is to God’s love and to what God is both willing and able to do to help the psalmist. David’s enemies may curse, but God, who loves to bless his people, will be sure to bless them and put their accusers to shame (vv. 28, 29).
1Alexander Maclaren, The Psalms, vol. 3 (New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1894), p. 179.
Why does David include the evildoer’s family in his curse?
How is the evildoer of this psalm different from other sinners?
Explain the mood shift that occurs at verse 21.
Reflection: Reflect on times you’ve been tempted to sin when you thought no one would know about it. What have you learned about the consequences of sin?
Application: What are your motives when you seek vindication?
Prayer: Pray for any evildoers you know, particularly those whose actions affect the lives of their children.