Prayer of the Oppressed
Prayer of the Oppressed
We are in a series on the book of Psalms. This book of the Bible is a collection of songs, and these are the songs that would be sung in the temple service. We have seen several different types of psalms. If you are confused by the different ones we have looked at just remember the two basic kinds are those of praise and those of lament. Laments are when a complaint or problem is brought to the Lord. This particular lament the psalmist prays against an oppressor.
Psalm 109 may be the most helpful passage to me over the last six years of my life... We have seen in the Psalms the presence of evil and difficult people. Psalm 109 brings that reality home in a unique way.
Who is the hardest person to deal with in your life? Who is the person that has hurt you the most? Whose presence threatens you? Who is the person that is harming you? How are you praying for them? You may be surprised by that question. Pray for them? I don’t even like them. Why would I pray for them. I don’t even know what I would ask for.
This psalm teaches us to go to the Lord with all of our struggles and concerns. We are looking at a psalm and prayer for a person that is bringing great opposition. Here the author’s life is being threatened by an oppressor. He turns to the Lord in prayer for deliverance.
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. Be not silent, O God of my praise! 2 For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. 3 They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. 4 In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer. 5 So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love. 6 Appoint a wicked man against him; let an accuser stand at his right hand. 7 When he is tried, let him come forth guilty; let his prayer be counted as sin! 8 May his days be few; may another take his office! 9 May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow! 10 May his children wander about and beg, seeking food far from the ruins they inhabit! 11 May the creditor seize all that he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil! 12 Let there be none to extend kindness to him, nor any to pity his fatherless children! 13 May his posterity be cut off; may his name be blotted out in the second generation! 14 May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD, and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out! 15 Let them be before the LORD continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth! 16 For he did not remember to show kindness, but pursued the poor and needy and the brokenhearted, to put them to death. 17 He loved to curse; let curses come upon him! He did not delight in blessing; may it be far from him! 18 He clothed himself with cursing as his coat; may it soak into his body like water, like oil into his bones! 19 May it be like a garment that he wraps around him, like a belt that he puts on every day! 20 May this be the reward of my accusers from the LORD, of those who speak evil against my life! 21 But you, O GOD my Lord, deal on my behalf for your name's sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me! 22 For I am poor and needy, and my heart is stricken within me. 23 I am gone like a shadow at evening; I am shaken off like a locust. 24 My knees are weak through fasting; my body has become gaunt, with no fat. 25 I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they wag their heads. 26 Help me, O LORD my God! Save me according to your steadfast love! 27 Let them know that this is your hand; you, O LORD, have done it! 28 Let them curse, but you will bless! They arise and are put to shame, but your servant will be glad! 29 May my accusers be clothed with dishonor; may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a cloak! 30 With my mouth I will give great thanks to the LORD; I will praise him in the midst of the throng. 31 For he stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save him from those who condemn his soul to death. (Psalm 109:1-31 ESV)
Prop: When unjustly treated and tormented by enemies we go to God for help. Vengeance belongs to him and we trust him to deliver. When oppressed, people will resort to all kinds of actions. Sometimes it leads to depression and despondence. Sometimes it leads to rage and unbridled attempts to get out of danger. Scripture gives us a more helpful approach to such situations. Fight of Flight.
Verses 1-5 stand as a kind of summary of what is going on. He has been encircled by wicked and deceitful people who are plotting his ruin. Some psalms of this kind the author will admit his part in the problem or confess his sin (69:5). It does not happen in this psalm. In this situation he does not see that he has done anything wrong. This psalm shows us what to do when wrongly accused or oppressed.
He Turns to Prayer
If you have difficult people in your life then memorize v4.
*They accuse me, but I give myself to prayer.
This verse has been a refuge to me. When people are doing wrong things and it feels so unjust but you will not resort to the same things they are doing and you have exhausted your options for a just course of actions.
In times we feel constrained by oppression and unable to free ourselves. we can feel helpless and perhaps as though unfaithful. Anxiety. We have to see how important it is to pray. Here he prays, he fasts. Prayer is one of our great responsibilities. When we can't do something we ask the Lord to do it, and we wait on him.
It takes great strength to do this. To not retaliate and do the same things they are doing. To not lie, to not push back, to not slander. To not pressure or coerce or do the things the enemy is doing.
Stand strong. Go to God first. Get in the Bible first! Don’t look at your phone, do endless searches on internet for distraction. Don’t give in to fear, what others think, quiet yourself before God. Doesn't fall down and cry, doesn't start scrolling facebook, doesn't hit the bars or reach for a drink. Does something far better than all of those. He prays.
We have to remember the power of prayer. It should be the first thing we do all the time. But in cases of an enemy prevailing over us it feels like the only thing we can do.
Knew a guy working in a hard environment and others around him were lying and coercing, manipulating. He felt the pressure and gave in. He was fired. He was doing the same thing they were, He was just as guilty. We have to turn to pray to keep our eyes on God. Ask him for help and stand faithful as we wait for him. When others look at us we want them to see holiness of God, not the deceit of others.
Need to be reminded you are loved by God. that he is good. That you are more than having your five year goals achieved. Be still and know that he is God. Dwell on that and not on how to retaliate, get even, prove yourself.
He pursues God and he perseveres against their accusations. He Forebears.
V4. In return for my love they accuse me,
v5 So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love. (Psa 109:1 ESV)
His prayer is a reflection of trust in God. They are doing evil to him. He will not give into it. They speak against him. He does not do it to them. They plot evil but he trusts in God.
David would not lift his hand against the Lord (1 Sam 24:10). His frustration and hurt are taken to the Lord. And as he voices that he trusts the Lord to act. It is the the Lord who takes vengeance. He allows the Lord to enact vengeance - he will not do it.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." (Rom 12:19 ESV)
God is faithful. All the major issues I have experienced he got me through it. It was not the way I wanted but I can say he has been faithful.
He Prays for Justice.
Verse 6-20 the author turns to prayer. His prayer is not for the salvation of the person. It is not for his well being.
He prays for his oppressor to be opposed v6. He prays that he would be judged and found guilty (v7). He prays he would be removed from office v8. He prays for his posterity to be cut off. for his prayer to be counted as sin. He prays that just as he loved to curse that curses would come on his head v17 and that his cursing would soak in to his body like water, and that it would be like a garment that wraps around him.
The thing that may stand out to you the most in this psalm is the harsh rhetoric. Some see this psalm as an embarrassment. Others see it very contrary to Jesus teaching to:
*But I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matt 5:44).
*Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse (Rom 12:14).
But the New Testament is not embarrassed by it. Jesus didn’t condemn it. In fact it is quoted in the NT by the disciples as they saw it a fitting application of the fate of Judas and after his betrayal and death they read, “may another take his office” (Acts 1:20)
*CS Lewis “Where we find a difficulty we may always expect that a discovery awaits us."
He prays for justice. That is part of praying for God’s kingdom to come. His prayer is just. His enemy has cursed so let curses fall on his head (v17), let cursing soak into his body. This person never even thought of doing something good (v16) and hounded the vulnerable to death. He loved to curse people and found no pleasure in blessing others (v17).
I believe this psalm is surprising to those who don’t understand God is just. There is a fittingness to this prayer. And you have to remember that on the day of the Lord, the day that Jesus returns to judge the world, every sin, every thought, every careless word will be brought to account (Matt 12:36).
This is one reason we can rest when we are oppressed. We know that God will judge everything. Because God is just, this is one of the reasons we seek justice now. Seeking justice is a way to be like God.
This psalm is of David and he may have prayed things that he was unwilling to do. We have talked about how David was called to be king of Israel to replace Saul and Saul persecuted David because of that. David would not lift his hand against the Lord’s anointed (1 Sam 24:10). Sometimes when evil is in the world it is appropriate to pray for its removal even though we know it is not appropriate for us to do the actions. It is a reflection of praying for God’s will. “God I see this evil and I pray you would remove it. I pray you take him out. However, if it is not your will I pray…
CS Lewis said the appropriateness may be because they saw the holiness of God more.
“If the Jews cursed more bitterly than the pagans this was, I think, at least in part because they took right and wrong more seriously. For if we look at the railing we find they are usually angry not simply because these things have been done to them but because these things are manifestly wrong, are hateful to God as well as to the victims.”
This psalm is of David. Who might David have written this psalm about. Could it have been about King Saul who turned from the Lord, sought to pursue and kill David. Drove David from his home, his people. Even took David’s wife from him and gave her to another man. Could if have been about Doeg the Edomite who pursued David on Saul’s behalf and slaughtered the priests because they unknowingly aided David’s escape from Saul. Maybe it is all of them combined. This is not the prayer we pray when we are playing the other school's soccer team. It is not what we pray in rush hour traffic. They might show we are simply self serving prayers.
God is grieved by sin. It rouses his holy wrath. I think this psalm instructs us in not getting comfortable. If we are aligned with God then we are going to hate the things he hates. I think this psalm awakens us to not be complacent and complicit in sin. His language is too strong to gloss over it.
While in DC we went to the newly opened African American museum that George W Bush and Michelle Obama spearheaded. It was incredible to understand the history of slavery in the world and some of the atrocities committed by our nation. One that has haunted me is the story of Emmet Till a fourteen year old boy from Chicago who in the summer of 1955 went to Mississippi to visit family. While there he is said to have wolf whistled at a white lady in a store. That night two men showed up in his house around 2:00 am and took him from the house. Beat him relentlessly, striped, shot him, and tied him to cotton gin fan and dumped in the river with a wire tied around his neck. They assumed his body would never be discovered, but it was. And his face was so disfigured from the beatings that the only way the family could identify it was by a ring he was wearing. his face was indistinguishable. The two men who did this, the husband of the lady he whistled at were not convicted. This sent outrage through the country of how something so bad could be done to such a young boy.
It bewilders me how many people could be blind to the evil in this. It baffles me that many white Christians didn’t see this. It is a powerful display how easy it can be to grow complacent with sin. We need to be stirred for justice. We need to see evil in our day. We need to see that people need Jesus. They need a savior.
We need to lament the presence of evil. One of the signs of the deadness of Christianity in our nation is the indifference there is to evil in the world. People are so focused on earning their next dollar that they don’t even think about looking out for the well being of others. It's not my problem.
And let me say this. One of the greatest evils in the church is the indifference to sharing the good news of the gospel with others. If we really believe that in Christ our sins can be forgiven. If we really believe that apart from Christ we are destined for destruction then we should we share with others. The church is indifferent to the plight of others. It has no emotion to the wrong of failing to share the gospel. We think I haven’t had sex with, I haven't killed, I haven't … I m pretty good. All the while making no effort to take risks to share the love of Christ with others.
Jesus called down woe on people. It was not on the sinners, tax collectors, adulterers. Those people turned to him. His greatest condemnation was for the religious people who failed to do what he called them to (Matt 23:13-23). Their religious devotion was nothing more than a mask to hide behind.
This psalm awakens us to an appropriate response to the evil that others do. It is appropriate to pray for justice, to seek after justice.
He Prays for Mercy.
*V 21 But you, O GOD my Lord, deal on my behalf for your name's sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me! For I am poor and needy, and my heart is stricken within me. (Psalm 109:21-22 ESV)
There is a change in subject and content. He is not praying for his enemy but himself. He is not praying for justice but mercy.
He recognizes there is no real basis on which he can demand God to act for him. He asks God to save him for his names sake.
For your names sake. It's like if you get in a bind and you are about to lose everything and you go to dad/a wealthy friend and say, “I'm in a bind. I have messed up. Lost everything. I can't repay you. I can't give you a good reason to help me out. But will you deliver me for your name’s sake for your glory. He doesn't help you because of how good you are. He helps you because of how good he is. It is for his renown.
Not God, hear my prayer because I have been just in all my dealings and have never wronged anyone. Not God, hear my prayer because I have been virtuous in all that I have done.
He prays for mercy. Deal with me according to your name and not my actions. The only one who can appeal to God based on their virtue and goodness is Jesus.
You have to find it interesting that he begins praying for justice for others and ends in praying for mercy on himself. Sometimes justice is the path that leads to grace.
Partly this, kind of reminds me of the movie Up when Mr. Frederickson takes off in his balloon powered house and discovers Russel the young boy scout hiding on his front porch. Grumpy Mr. Frederickson just wants to be alone on his quest to fulfill a lifelong dream, so he has to find a way to get rid of Russel. The next scene pans to Mr. Frederickson in his house sailing over the skyscrapers of the city and lowering Russel down a rope onto a rooftop. As Kevin is reluctantly moving scooting the rope, suddenly he slips off and plummets to oblivion. Then Mr. Frederickson comes to his senses, wakes up from his daydream and says, “Well that won’t work.” He had to think through his idea, and sometimes working through those options is a bit therapeutic.
I think there is something to be said for openness in communication with God about our struggles and our disdain for the wrongs other people do.
But there is another side that justice is what causes us to see mercy, and sometimes our need for mercy. It is a dangerous thing for lawbreakers to pray for God’s glory to be vindicated against those who oppose him.
Jesus taught us to pray that we would forgive others just as we have been forgiven. He taught us to love our enemies. To love them and heap burning coals upon there head.
We pursue justice as those who have escaped the clutch of judgement by grace.
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34 ESV)
"Lord, do not hold this sin against them." (Acts 7:60 ESV)
This absolutely pushes us past mere justice. The cross changes everything, God’s justice takes us on the path to the cross, and prayers for justice take us to the place of praying for mercy.
Sometimes it is the full voicing of vengeance that move us to a full forgiveness.
Dylan Roof. June 17, 2015. killed nine people, all African Americans, including senior pastor and state senator Clementa C. Pinckney, and injured one other person.
Rev. Anthony Thompson
In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer (Psa 109:4 ESV)
How have you experienced another person attacking you? How did you respond?
Why is it important to go to the Lord in prayer?
Does it seem just for the psalmist to pray as he does? What do these prayers tell us about God’s justice?
How does the cross inform how we view people who do us wrong? How does this psalm point to that as well?