Theme: Praying When We Are Slandered
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
Although Psalm 109 is going to be filled with terrible imprecations on his enemies, David begins mildly enough, merely asking God not to remain silent, which means to act against his foes (vv. 1-5). Why should God act? What troubles David is his enemies’ words, for they speak against him “with lying tongues” and with “words of hatred” (vv. 2, 3). It is by what they say that they repay “evil for good” and “hatred” for “friendship” (v. 5). These opening verses caused Martin Luther to see the psalm as being directed almost entirely “against those who disparage another’s reputation.”1
None of this should be new or surprising for those who have studied the other psalms by David. As I have pointed out several times earlier, there is hardly a psalm by David that does not refer to his enemies. He had many of them. And many of these psalms indicate that what David feared most was how his enemies were using words against him. We do not usually take words with great seriousness. “You can’t hurt me by words,” we say. But people can hurt other people by words. In fact, words have probably done more serious and lasting damage to other people than any amount of specifically evil acts or violence. David knew this and so asks God for protection from lies, innuendo, slander and false accusations.
What is David’s reaction while all this is going on? The key to his attitude is verse 4, which says, “But I am a man of prayer.” The Hebrew text is more abrupt and therefore even stronger. It says, “But I prayer.” That is, “I am all prayer or characterized by prayer. While my enemies are uttering false words about me to other people, trying to do me harm, I am speaking to God. I am praying to God always.”
Is that how you and I respond when people say something bad about us? Are we men and women of prayer? Do we see everything that happens in light of God and his sovereignty over life and thus bring everything to God and leave it there? Many bad things happened to the Apostle Paul, but he said, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Phil. 4:12). What was his secret? He made it clear just a few verses before this: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (vv. 6, 7).
1Martin Luther, First Lectures on the Psalms II, Psalms 76-126, in Luther’s Works, vol. 11, ed. Hilton C. Oswald (Saint Louis: Concordia, 1976), p. 353.
What is bothering David? Toward whom is his anger directed?
Explain the Hebrew text, “But I prayer.”
Reflection: When have you been hurt by words spoken against God? What was your attitude toward the person who said it?
Application: Meditate on Phil. 4:6, 7. Think of this passage the next time you are upset or angry.
Prayer: Ask God to protect you from lies, innuendo, slander, and false accusation. Also, remember to pray for your enemies.