|April 10, 2019
By Tom McCrossan
21 But you, O Lord my Lord,
act 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 pierced within me. …
27 Let them know that this is your hand;
you, O Lord, have done it.
28 Let them curse, but you will bless.
Let my assailants be put to shame;
may your servant be glad.
Read the full psalm.
We’re four days from Holy Week. Jesus clearly knew the psalms. Did this one come to mind in the next week and a half? Did he empathize with the psalmist? Jesus was human. Would he have felt this way?
The psalmist is facing false accusation and cries out to God for vindication. Leave out verses 6-20 and there’d be no problem. But if these verses are directed at his chief accuser, we shake our heads and think, “How un-Christ-like and unforgiving.”
Consider, though, forgiveness says that in spite of the wrong done me, I’ll not hold it against them. I will cancel the debt and not try to collect. I will leave debt collecting to God. He is the master I serve and the one to whom all debts against me are owed, since I am his.
But forgiveness does not involve letting the wrong behavior continue—either to me or to others. What is wrong must stop. Thus the same person can—even must—pray both prayers: forgive them, and turn them from their wicked ways.
That the psalmist is so specific in the ways he asks God to stop injustice seems over the top to us. But what are we asking God to do when we pray for the end to evil? End wars, and many will still die in the process. Bring down evil rulers, and nations will be in turmoil. The unjust rich will be sent away empty along with their dependents.
“O Lord, act on my behalf for your name’s sake. … Let them know that this is your hand; you, O Lord, have done it” (v. 21, 27). The Lord is the debt collector. Like the psalmist, even if we make suggestions, we leave it to God to save and judge in his perfect wisdom.