Reading: Psalm 139
If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
As much as I love the psalms of the Bible, there are some psalms, or verses within psalms that I would just like to skip. I wish they weren’t there. Today’s reading from Psalm 139 is a prime example. The author’s words are filled with venom. Why are they even in the Bible? (Please bear with me.)Passages like today’s reading are particularly troubling in light of Jesus’ teaching in the New Testament. In his great Sermon on the Mount, he gave us this teaching: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:43-45).
Reconciling today’s reading from Psalm 139 with Jesus’ words makes my head hurt. Jesus calls us to an incredibly high standard—God’s standard. God shows kindness and love even to the unrighteous. They like us receive both sunshine and rain. Let’s face it, when someone hurts me, my default position is to hurt them back. That’s the natural human response. That’s the way it has been since the beginning, and the world is full of lasting scars—intergenerational scars because of it. Wounded people have been busy hurting other wounded people as hate builds on hate in the home, at work and internationally.
But Jesus came to interrupt that corrosive cycle. He asks us to counter that hurt—that slight—that injury with love. Now that’s truly revolutionary. It’s a revolt against the status quo of hatred that has poisoned human relations in our country and the world. Has someone gone out of their way to hurt you? Retaliate with an act of love. That’s what Jesus is saying.
Is that hard? Absolutely. It’s much easier to respond like the author of today’s reading from Psalm 139. So why is this portion of Psalm 139 in the Bible? Maybe it should be redacted—blacked over like a secret government file.
In reality, Psalm 139 like all the psalms, began as someone’s personal prayer—their personal interaction with God. They are pouring out their heart before God. It’s a heart that has been wounded by others. Should they bottle up those feelings and never express them to God? Of course not. We need to pour out our hurts to God. He alone can heal and change that wounded heart.
Response: LORD God, you know all my hurts. I bring them before you. Pour your love into me, so I can love my enemies. Show me the way forward. Jesus, you forgave even those who killed you. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you changed your default position from hate to love?
Reading: Psalm 109
But you, Sovereign LORD, 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, LORD my God; save me according to your unfailing love.
Let them know that it is your hand, that you, LORD, 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 the LORD;
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 (NIV).
Post-traumatic stress disorder—PTSD—its effects are real. Soldiers are returning from theatres of war looking fit and healthy, but in reality they are deeply wounded by what they have seen or participated in. Of course one does not need to go to the battle field to experience the devastating effects of PTSD. First responders and witnesses to horrific events here at home can also become wounded and scarred.
In this concluding portion of Psalm 109, David makes this confession: I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.
Our world is full of wounded people. Keep this in mind the next time you see someone in a fit of rage or self-medicating with a bottle of booze or pills or a hypodermic needle. The wounds are real. The way back to social and emotional health is often long, difficult and fraught with pain.
David, the wounded warrior, does two things that are vital for anyone who wants to recover from PTSD or any form of spiritual wounding. He admits his need. Rather than tough it out, he confesses that he is in a desperate state. I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.
Secondly, David called out to the LORD. Help me, LORD my God; save me according to your unfailing love. The LORD’s ears are always open to that kind of prayer—the prayer of the wounded.
Response: LORD, I confess events in my life have left me wounded. Heal me on the inside. Today I turn to you. I can’t do this by myself. Help me, LORD my God; save me according to your unfailing love. Amen.
Your Turn: Are there wounded people in your life? Have you been wounded?