Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Although King David is called a man after God’s own heart, his heart and the Lord’s did not always line up. In Psalm 109, like many of his Psalms, David calls down curses upon the wicked. He says some pretty strong words in his requests to the Lord. For example, we read,
May his children be fatherless
And his wife a widow.
May his children be wandering beggars;
May they be driven from their ruined homes.
May a creditor seize all he has;
May strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.
May no one extend kindness to him
Or take pity on his fatherless children.
May his descendants be cut off,
Their names blotted out from the next generation.
May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the Lord;
May the sin of his mother never be blotted out.
May their sins always remain before the Lord,
That he may cut off the memory of them from the earth (Psalms 109:9-15).
Pretty hardcore stuff, right? The whole Psalm (which is 31 verses long) is basically comprised of curses toward nonbelievers. Probably the worse curse though comes right at the beginning; David asks God,
Appoint the Evil One to oppose him;
Let Satan stand at his right hand.
When he is tried, let him be found guilty,
And may his prayers condemn him (Psalms 109:6-7).
That’s right; David summons the devil to accuse all those who are not followers of the Lord (at least in some translations, for my NIV Bible notes alternate translations for this set of verses as well). Summoning the devil is serious business, Dave!
Such rage toward unbelievers should not be surprising though. Countless times in the Bible we are told to hate what is evil. The writer of Psalm 97 instructs us,
Let those who love the Lord hate evil,
For he guards the lives of his faithful ones
And delivers them from the hand of the wicked (Psalms 97:10).
Not only that, but we are told straight up by the Lord in Amos 5:15,
Hate evil, love good;
Maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy
On the remnant of Joseph.
We are to hate evil. God hates it too, he says in Hosea 9:15 about Israel,
Because of all their wickedness in Gilgal,
I hated them there.
Because of their sinful deeds,
I will drive them out of my house.
I will no longer love them;
All their leaders are rebellious.
So make no bones about it, the Lord hates evil. And why shouldn’t he? Our God is perfect; any corruption of perfection should be detestable to him. We are even told by Jesus, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). So in the hatred of evil, David and God are in agreement.
However, as much as he hates wickedness, God is not a God of curses and wrath. He doesn’t wish ill on anyone. The Lord explains in Ezekiel 18:32, “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!” Our God hates evil and unbelief, therefore he loves to forgive. In Isaiah 43:25, this is actually how the Lord identifies himself; he says,
I, even I, am he who blots out
Your transgressions, for my own sake,
And remembers your sins no more.
Job’s friend Zophar, even while condemning Job makes note of the Lord’s forgiveness, suggesting that even when not asked, the Lord will forgive some wrongs. He states,
Oh, how I wish that God would speak,
That he would open his lips against you
And disclose to you the secrets of wisdom,
For true wisdom has two sides.
Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin (Job 11:5-6).
Our God loves to forgive, something which we humans are a bit more stubborn about doing.
Anyway, back to David and his summoning of Satan to accuse the wicked. What David asked for actually does happen later in the Bible. The prophet Zechariah is given a vision of the devil accusing someone before God in heaven. He writes in Zechariah 3:1-4,
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”
Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”
Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.”
After the exile, the priesthood was in shambles and even before the Lord sent his people away; sin was rampant within the priesthood. Clearly Joshua was no different. However, as Satan stood accusing him, what did the Lord do? He rebuked the devil, forgave Joshua, and restored his position. Why would God (who hates sin) do this? The Lord actually had already promised to forgive his people in Ezekiel 36:24-28,
For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.
Why would God make such a promise to such an ungodly people? Our Lord believes in second chances. We read in Zechariah 3:6-7,
The angel of the Lord gave this charge to Joshua: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here.’”
Not only does the Lord believe in second chances, but he is able to show his immense glory in his ability to forgive. After all, if David, good man that he was couldn’t forgive, how could perfection look past evil? But our Lord does forgive, and at the cross, God (through Jesus), delivered forgiveness to everyone who would believe on his son. The Lord tells Joshua about his plan of universal redemption in Zechariah 3:9,
“See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,” says the Lord Almighty, “and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.”
Don’t let non-believers get you down. Jesus says, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18). Those who deny the truth of our Lord stand condemned already. However, you and I should hope that is not always the case. Unlike David and his curses, the Lord is constantly reaching out to those who are away from him. God says in Isaiah 1:18 to those he wants to come to him,
“Come now, let us reason together,”
Says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red as crimson,
They shall be like wool.”
The Lord wants to cleanse everybody of their sins, that is why he came down in the form of his son; “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17). Not only that, but our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ died a horrible death in order that we may not only have a way to reclaim the lost souls, but the way is so easy. Jesus reminds us how simple it is to accept the gift of forgiveness (and with that, eternal life) from the Lord when he says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). So, next time you’re ready to drop some David-esq curses down on somebody; ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?”