Today we’re continuing our message series “Praying the Psalms.” In this series, we’re learning to use the Psalms to expand and enrich our prayer lives.
Our message today is entitled “Prayers for Justice.” There is a lot of talk about justice today. What is justice? If you look justice up in the dictionary it says “justice is just behavior or treatment.” Real helpful, right. So, what does the word just mean?
Just is behavior according to what is morally right and fair. Now we are getting closer to the real meaning. We see in English and in the biblical usage of the word justice the close correlation between justice and righteousness.
The big question is then how do we determine what justice or righteousness is? Justice or righteousness is not determined by how I feel about a behavior. Justice is determined by the ultimate righteous judge, God Himself. God has revealed to us what justice and righteousness is in His Word.
Deuteronomy 32:4 (ESV) “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.
This verse is spoken in some of the last words of Moses before he died, giving instruction to the nation of Israel. Moses speaks of God as The Rock, there is no one like Him. He is perfect, incapable of error. Everything He does is just and promotes justice. God is upright or righteous and a God of faithfulness.
Isaiah 33:22 (ESV) For the LORD is our judge; the LORD is our lawgiver; the LORD is our king; he will save us.
This verse from the prophet Isaiah says that the Lord God is the judge of the whole earth. He is the lawgiver and He is the King. Since God is the judge, He is the King, we can appeal or pray to Him to bring about justice. In Luke 18 Jesus tells of a widow who came to a judge to receive justice and defense against an adversary. Jesus concludes the story as follows:
Luke 18:7-8a (ESV) And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.
Jesus expects believers to cry out to Him for justice and He promises to give those who ask for it, justice. So, God and His Word set the standard for justice. We, as believers, as part of the church of the Judge of the world, ought to pray for justice for ourselves and for others in our world. Unfortunately, much of what we hear today about justice is not about righteous justice at all, but about injustice.
Today we’re going to be looking at three psalms. These psalms are part of a category of psalms called the imprecatory psalms. There are around 21 psalms in this category. An imprecatory psalm is a psalm that calls on God to bring about judgement upon enemies, that is to bring about justice. The imprecatory psalms that we’re going to be looking at today were written by David.
Why would the psalmist David call on the Lord to bring judgement on his enemies? David is calling on God for justice. He is calling on God as a righteous judge to defend and rescue him from being attacked by enemies. The enemies of David were the enemies of God, seeking to bring about evil. David was not calling for personal vengeance, but for divine judgement.
We see the calls for justice and judgement on God’s enemies throughout the New Testament as well. God is a god of love and justice. All too often, we overemphasize God’s love and minimize God’s justice. We should be people of love and justice. Showing God’s love and bringing God’s justice and righteousness into our world. So, let’s learn how to …
Psalm 35:1 (ESV) Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me!
David begins this psalm of prayer by asking the Lord to defend him against those who were attacking him. We know from David’s story that he had many adversaries who sought to kill him at various times in his life. David has faith that God is fully able to fight against those who sought to harm him.
Psalm 35:4-5 (ESV) Let them be put to shame and dishonor who seek after my life! Let them be turned back and disappointed who devise evil against me! Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them away!
As the psalm goes on, David calls on the Lord to put the attackers to shame and dishonor. He prays that their plans against him would be defeated. Next he prays that those who plot evil would be blown like chaff before the wind. This image was used in Psalm 1 to describe the fate of the unrighteous. David requests that the powerful angel of the Lord would drive them away.
Psalm 35:7-8 (ESV) For without cause they hid their net for me; without cause they dug a pit for my life. Let destruction come upon him when he does not know it! And let the net that he hid ensnare him; let him fall into it—to his destruction!
In verses 7-8, David makes clear that these attacks on himself are without cause. These enemies were seeking to destroy him and he appealed to the Lord for destruction to come upon them. That the evil they were plotting when be turned against them. This appeal for his defense was prayed with faith that God would answer his prayer.
Psalm 35:9-10 (ESV) Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD, exulting in his salvation. All my bones shall say, “O LORD, who is like you, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, the poor and needy from him who robs him?”
David considered himself poor and needy. He had faith that the Lord would deliver him from the strong and those who sought to rob him. When God’s defeated the enemies, David committed to rejoicing in the Lord and who God had saved him. In this psalm we see a wonderful example of an appeal for God’s defense. I encourage you to read the entire psalm this week in your time with God.
Some have trouble with these type of imprecatory psalms and say they are not for today. They reason that Jesus told us to love and pray for our enemies, not pray for their destruction. And yes, that should be our first response when dealing with attacks. The best defense is to turn the enemy into a friend. Yet, we see in the ministry of Jesus and the rest of the New Testament a time comes when we are to appeal to God to defend His children by destroying our enemies.
In the last days in which we live, we know that we have two types of enemies who are fighting against us. The underlying and most powerful enemies are those of evil spiritual forces that we call on God to defeat. The second type of enemies of those called the enemies of the cross, who are following the ways of the evil one. These also, we are to appeal to God to defeat.
Evil has always existed in our world since the garden of Eden. And in the last days, evil will become more blatant and more pervasive. We must learn how to appeal to an all-powerful God to come to our defense in our fight against evil on many levels and in many places. In our next Psalm, we going to learn more about …
Psalm 109:1 (ESV) Be not silent, O God of my praise!
This psalm begins with a call for God not to be silent. David is crying to God, whom He praises to speak and take action. The next verses describe the attacks against David.
Psalm 109:2-3 (ESV) For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause.
David’s enemies are wicked and have been lying about him. Their attack with hateful words, even though they have no just cause. In the next verses, David says that he has shown them love, but they have responded with evil and hatred.
Psalm 109:6-7 (ESV) Appoint a wicked man against him; let an accuser stand at his right hand. When he is tried, let him come forth guilty; let his prayer be counted as sin!
David then calls on the God and judge to try these enemies in the courts of justice, so they will be declared guilty. In the next verses of this lengthy psalm, David calls on God to take his enemies’ life and bring judgement on his family. It is significant that a section of this psalm is quoted in Acts 1 in reference to God’s judgement on the betrayer of Jesus, Judas.
There is a time when repentance is no longer available, as a person’s heart has become hardened against God irreversibly. The only thing left for that person is God’s judgement to prevent the evil that they bring into the world.
Psalm 109:26-27 (ESV) Help me, O LORD my God! Save me according to your steadfast love! Let them know that this is your hand; you, O LORD, have done it!
This psalm, as many others of the imprecatory psalms ends with thanks and praise to God. David believes that the Lord will help him and save him because of God’s great love. He asks that the judgements of God would be known to all those so that God would receive the glory. The psalm is a great example of crying for help to the Lord when being attacked by other’s words without cause.
To follow this example in this psalm is not to speak to another person and call down God’s judgement upon them. We see that this psalm, as are the other imprecatory psalms, are a prayer to God. This cry for help comes from a believer in right standing before God. That is they are not in known sin, but have repented of any and all sin. We call to God for help in response to evil and ungodly attacks on us from our and God’s enemies.
Our cries for help are not to get even with someone who is giving us trouble. We cry for help for God to bring justice into our situation and into our world. We can cry out to God to bring justice into the lives of others around us who are being attacked as well. We cry out to God with the faith that He will hear and bring about justice. Some of God’s justice comes in this life but is made complete in eternity.
Psalm 140:1-2 (ESV) Deliver me, O LORD, from evil men; preserve me from violent men, who plan evil things in their heart and stir up wars continually.
In this final psalm we’re going to look at today, David prays for deliverance from evil men who plot evil and stir up violence. In the next verses, he goes on to describe what these enemies were doing to him.
Psalm 140:6-7 (ESV) I say to the LORD, You are my God; give ear to the voice of my pleas for mercy, O LORD! O LORD, my Lord, the strength of my salvation, you have covered my head in the day of battle.
The psalmist now shifts his focus to the Lord, whom he calls my God. He prays for God to hear him, to be his strength and to protect his head in battle. We’ll talk more about this in a minute, but throughout the psalms we’ve looked at this morning, we see that David is involved in a battle with evil. He prays for the Lord to come, protect and deliver him from these enemies.
Psalm 140:9-10 (ESV) As for the head of those who surround me, let the mischief of their lips overwhelm them! Let burning coals fall upon them! Let them be cast into fire, into miry pits, no more to rise!
In verses 9-10, the prayer is for God’s judgement, God’s justice to fall upon these enemies. In fact, he calls on these enemies to reap the evil that they have sown with their lives. Finally, the psalm once again ends in praise and thanksgiving.
Psalm 140:12-13 (ESV) I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy. Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall dwell in your presence.
What is behind these prayers? We see this clearly in verse 12. David has faith that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted and will execute justice for the needy. The Lord is the judge of all the earth and the psalmist calls on him to render justice. Those who are righteous will give thanks for God’s judgments and will dwell in His presence. Pray for deliverance.
Let me speak for minute at some of the differences between emphasis in the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, we see the primary focus of the enemies of God are on people and nations. We see some teaching on the role of Satan and evil spirits, but this is not widely developed. In the New Testament, the primary focus of the enemies of God is on evil spiritual forces that we wrestle against. But we also see how these evil spirits can influence people to carry out their evil plans.
So, in the New Testament era, the last days, in which we live, our use of these psalms in prayer should be primarily against the evil spiritual forces that are behind all injustice and attacks on people. Yet, there is a time and place, as the Lord guides, to pray against people who are being used by these evil spirits to bring about harm particularly to God’s people in His church. Our first response to being attacked should always be love and prayer for those who are evil to be saved and go from being an enemy to being a brother or sister in the Lord. Yet, there is a place to pray against evil people, that God would bring them to justice.
Some theologians go so far as to say that these psalms should not be in the Bible and some pastors will not preach from them. However, I believe that they are part of God’s Word for a reason and when we use them to guide our prayers under the Spirit’s leading, justice will prevail.
Today, we’ve looked at three of the imprecatory psalms that call on God’s judgement against His and our enemies. God’s judgments as the judge of the earth will bring justice. We’ve looked at how we can pray and appeal to God for defense against evil. We’ve seen how to cry to God for help to receive justice in unfair situations.
Finally, we can pray for deliverance from attacks of evil spirits and evil people against us or others. The church in America and indeed our country America needs believers who will stand up against evil in prayer and call out to God for true justice. As we have the courage to do that, calling on God as both the divine judge and divine warrior, He will answer our prayers and bring deliverance and salvation.