A Victim’s Angry Cry
LONGING FOR GOD:
STUDIES IN THE PSALMS
A VICTIM’S ANGRY CRY
Text for This Study: Psalm 137
1. What is the background to the writing of Psalm 137? How had Jerusalem been devastated by the Babylonians? By the Edomites?
2. Rubel made the statement: “God’s wrath is as holy as his love.” Do you agree? Is “wrath” as punishment for evil unworthy of God? Human courts? What is the lex talionis – and how does v.8 summarize it?
3. Verse 9 is the problem verse of this text. It reflects what the Babylonians did to Jewish infants in 587 BC, may reflect knowledge of the prophecy against Babylon at Isaiah 13:16, and uses hyperbole that is common to Jewish speech/literature (2 Chron 1:15; Matt 5:29-30; John 12:19, etc.). How does this information help put this troublesome verse in perspective?
4. What circumstance(s) of your own life has/have made you the angriest? How did you handle your anger? Is it sinful to articulate your anger at being harmed to God and to ask him to redress that harm? See Rev 6:9-11.
5. One writer says: “[Are we] afraid these harsh words will provide ammunition for those who would say that the Bible is untrue? If anything, these words should do the opposite. If they say anything about the Scriptures, they testify to its stunning truthfulness. . . . The Psalmist’s cry is our cry too, whenever we find we have been cheated, when we are slandered, when the boss takes credit for our work or blames us for his failure, when our spouse squanders the love that is owed to us on someone else. This is our heart’s cry.” What is your reaction to this perspective on the imprecatory Psalms?
What are we to make of the imprecations? Are they the sinful expressions of angry human beings never to be repeated by God’s people, especially living in the light of Christ’s redeeming love? Should they be excised from our prayers and from the liturgy of the church?
In our opinion, such a move would be a grave mistake. . . . [T]he Psalms mirror every human emotion and help us articulate them in prayer to God. God invites our honest prayers. When we are deeply harmed and our anger boils, it would be both fruitless (God reads our hearts) and dangerous to suppress those emotions rather than turning them over to God.
And that is the important point: the imprecations are not just expressions of anger; they allow us to turn our anger over to God for him to act as he sees fit. These prayers do not ask God for the resources and opportunity to take vengeance on our enemies; they ask God to do so and acknowledge his freedom to act or not act as he sees fit.
[Tremper Longman III, Psalms: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2014), p.52.]