Wednesday, November 18, 2009

They may curse, but you will bless, Psalm 109, first thoughts - Psalm 109:8






27
They may curse, but you will bless; *
let those who rise up against me be put to shame,
and your servant will rejoice.


28
Let my accusers be clothed with disgrace *
and wrap themselves in their shame as in a cloak.


29
I will give great thanks to the LORD with my mouth; *
in the midst of the multitude will I praise him;


30
Because he stands at the right hand of the needy, *
to save his life from those who would condemn him.



Interestingly, Psalm 109 came up in the daily office lectionary this morning.  I had already spent some time exegeting this scripture and reflecting on it.  In the lectionary, the verses from 5-19 are left out, because of their hateful, cursing, and violent language.  I see why they are left out, but I think that if they were left in, we might be able to better see that this psalm is far more interesting and complex than some might think it is.

The verse that has become well-known on bumper stickers is 109:8 (or 109:7, depending on your counting of verses - there were no little numbers in the original Hebrew, of course).  "May his days be few; may another take his office." 


For those who take scripture seriously, it seems to me that it is important to see it in its entirety, and in reading one of the Psalms it is most helpful to look at an entire psalm.  While I am no scholar of the Hebrew Scriptures, I do have a few thoughts on this particular psalm.


First, it seems to me that there are three sections of the psalm.  There is a section from verses 1-4 that are an opening statement from a ruler or leader who has been unjustly accused by some who:
... repay evil for good, *


and hatred for my love.
The ruler / leader has been accused of all sorts of evil, and this psalm begins with him praying to God about this situation.  After the opening, the speaker recounts what has been said about him, what the accusers have said about him, and this is hateful talk, indeed.  From verse 5-19 there are a string of curses and threats and hopes for his destruction and the destruction of his family.  Finally, in the last verses, the voice of the ruler returns, and an affirmation is given that God will judge fairly, even if the accusers do not.  An affirmation that God will stand on the side of the all-too-human ruler, who has come under attack but who is striving to walk in the way of the Lord.


27
They may curse, but you will bless; *
let those who rise up against me be put to shame,
and your servant will rejoice.
28
Let my accusers be clothed with disgrace *
and wrap themselves in their shame as in a cloak.
29
I will give great thanks to the LORD with my mouth; *
in the midst of the multitude will I praise him;




Second, I love the fact that people are reading scripture and even using it to express themselves.  If people are unhappy about one or another earthly leader, praying that the leader have a short time in office is certainly open to them.  Praying for the death of a leader or destruction of the leader's family seems a bit much, however.  As I said, I think we all have our views about leaders, and certainly get enraged by actions by them, and also, at times, support them.  


Thirdly,  I think taking one line out of scripture and using it to justify a previously-held position is problematic on several levels.  When this particular verse, Psalm 109:8 is used, I wonder if people realize that this is an accusation that is quoted by a just ruler who is praying to God and recounting the unjust accusation against him?  


Fourthly,  I would love to hear what you have to say.  But, please, read the entire psalm a few times first.  What do you think about it?


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