In Psalm 35:3 David asked God to speak his promise of salvation to his inner self, his ‘me.’ In verses 4-10 David turns his words toward his enemies and pronounces a curse or malediction upon them.
4 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! 5 Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them away! 6 Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them! 7 For without cause they hid their net for me; without cause they dug a pit for my life. 8 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! 9 Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD, exulting in his salvation. 10All 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?” (Psalm 35:4-10–ESV)
We are familiar with the word benediction which is the pronouncement of a blessing upon a congregation or a person. We are probably familiar with the concept of a curse as well, but probably are prone to figure it is something that evil people or witches do. Some fear the curses of others and some discard them as useless superstitions.
Since a curse is a bit of a loaded word I sought out other words that are in the same category and malediction and imprecation are those which I found. To imprecate is to call down an evil upon another person. A malediction is essentially an antonym of a benediction.
Is this appropriate?
Aren’t Christians to be forgiving and kind and types that turn the other cheek? If so why does David curse his enemies? Should we be doing this? A deeper inspection and consideration of what David is saying can help to answer this type of question.
The beginning of an answer to this is found by looking to see whom David was calling down the curses upon. Life is God’s gift and God’s providence to remove. Murder is unacceptable to God and a thing shameful and disgraceful to commit. There were those who were pursing David with an intent to murder and it was those that David calls a curse down upon. David pronounces an anti-blessing upon them.
There were those who were seeking David to exercise and injustice upon him. Those were living in sin. They were not living godly lives, but were rather living decidedly ungodly lives. That is shameful and upon them David invokes disgrace and shame.
It is appropriate to call out those who are pursuing injustice and ungodliness.
Who is to be the arm of the law?
Not David. David does not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong.” Vengeance is not for man to exercise, but God. In verse 5 we see that David’s pronouncement is that the angel of the Lord be the agent of the shame. David invokes a curse of dark and slippery paths that the worker of rebellion might face as they run before the angel of God.
In verse 7 David speaks of traps and deceits laid to catch David by surprise. He seeks similar ruin to overtake them. He calls out for their own traps to be their demise.
A proper rejoicing
It is natural to rejoice at the downfall of others, e.g. when the police catch that person who was speeding by us or when the person who was taunting your driving ends up wrecking his truck right in front of you. Those reflexes are to be put aside for happiness at the downfall of another is ungodly.
David, though, is not to be hum-drum about the demise of those who were out to kill him. The proper response though is a rejoicing in God. We are never to gloat over our enemies, but glory in our God. In the post “Say to my soul” I made the point that we should call out to God to come alongside and be the solution for our ups and downs and concerns. A parallel can be drawn here. Here we see that David is rejoicing in the arm of the Lord for his own rescue rather than in the destruction of his enemies. David brings God to the point of his happiness continuing to draw strength from that rather than to sip on the straw of vengeance.
David will proclaim the glory of God in response to the rescue of God. David will proclaim God’s uniqueness. David will rejoice in David’s own weakness before his enemies and exult in God’s strength before those enemies. The downtrodden would be rescued from the hand of the oppressor.
To exult over the oppressor is to be like the oppressor. You in that situation are becoming like your enemy. You are acting as if you had a stronger weapon, a mystery strength at your command.
Cursing for Christians
So, yes, Christians can curse others, but the motives must be pure. No vengeance or fist shaking is to be part of it. We need to change the “I’ll pay you back for this wrong” to “May God take care of this wrong.” The rejoicing is to be in God not the demise of others. David prayed against his enemies, but was not praying that personal agendas be victorious.
Key points from this passage:
- Seek safety in the Lord
- Vengeance is God’s
- Do not rejoice in the downfall of your enemy
- Rejoice in the salvation of the Lord
- After proclaiming demise over injustice celebrate God’s goodness
- Be very, very careful in these matters for there is but a short step from celebration to sin