Thirsty Thursday- Toothless? Psalm 58

 splash water

splash water

Break off their fangs, O God! Smash the jaws of these lions, O LordMay they disappear like water into thirsty ground. Make their weapons useless in their hands. (Psalm 58:6-7, NLT)


This week we once again remembered the horrific events of 9-11, now 18 years behind us…but never really behind us. This week we also read the terrible news of another prominent figure who had taken his own life by suicide. Jarrid Wilson was a 30-year-old pastor at the large Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, CA.  He was a husband and father of two young boys. He was also an author and advocate for mental health advocacy and suicide prevention, having founded an outreach organization called “Anthem of Hope.” His death came, unbelievably, during the midst of National Suicide Prevention week.

Here at home, in our humble little church, we are also reeling from the reality of this epidemic of suicide, having had two such tragedies touch our community within the past month. It makes me deeply sad, profoundly confused, and red-hot angry all at once. I just have a hard time knowing what or whom to be angry with right now.

Of course, all of these tragedies underscore loudly the difficulties and dangers of our world. And they remind us that we Christians are not somehow insulated from all the pain and suffering. We too can be blindsided, deceived, lured away by it…we can even lose our lives in the wake of it. We are not exempt.

But thank God…we are also not alone in this world.

Today’s psalm is what Bible scholars label an “imprecatory” psalm—songs that invoke judgment, calamity or curses on the songwriter’s own enemies or those perceived to be the enemies of God. There are more than 20 such prayer-songs in the book of Psalms. Now, I have to admit I’ve always had a problem with praying along with these imprecatory psalms; after all, didn’t Jesus tell us to love our enemies and to pray for (not against) those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-44). Of course, I also have to confess, sadly, that I don’t do very much of that kind of prayer either! But this week, with all the reminders of suffering and death, Psalm 58 has managed to find its imprecatory way into my daily prayers. I am red-hot angry…and I am having a devil of a time—literally—focusing that anger through prayer.

In this psalm David is angry as well. He is frustrated by the lies, injustice and violence that is being handed out by the rulers and judges (vs. 1-3). After all, these imposters are the very people who are supposed to be the trustworthy truth-tellers, advocates and protectors for their people. Instead, they are like venomous Cobras who refuse to listen or obey the tune of the snake charmer—presumably a reference to God (vs. 4-5). These “snakes” are real people in David’s world. They are creating real problems for David’s people. And so, he offers his imprecatory prayer to God:

Break off their fangs, O God! Smash the jaws of these lions, O Lord! May they disappear like water into thirsty ground. Make their weapons useless in their hands. (Psalm 58:6-7, NLT)

Imposters, snakes, lions…David is red-hot with anger! Interestingly, however, he doesn’t specifically call for their death and destruction; rather, he asks God to expose them for the fraud they are and to render them impotent, harmless, irrelevant—snakes without fangs, lions without power, judges without a bench, rulers without influence.

What or who is the focus of my anger today? What or who should be the focus? Yes, there are people and situations in our lives that pose genuine physical or emotional threats, that’s clearly evident all around us. But the Bible tells us that ultimately, our real enemies are “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). What do we do with that?

Our true enemy has several names—Satan, the Devil, Lucifer, the Evil One, the Accuser—just to name a few. Sometimes he comes to us like a serpent, masquerading as the voice of wisdom and reason (Genesis 3:1-7); sometimes he appears like a roaring lion, posturing and intimidating his victims with fear and false strength (1 Peter 5:8-9); sometimes he even looks like an “angel of light,” but one that exchanges God’s truth for lies (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

Satan’s game is to offer us a substitute version of God—an alternative voice of wisdom, truth and strength–and he is pretty good at the game. His purpose is to separate us (from each other and from God), to isolate us, intimidate us, lie to us, and ultimately to destroy us. And sadly, all too often it seems…he succeeds.

But the good news is this: at the cross, Christ triumphed over the Enemy, rendering him “toothless” and impotent. At the same time, his victory means that we have now been called and empowered to speak God’s truth to Satan’s lies and to speak Jesus’ words of life in the face of death. We are called to offer grace and peace to those who are hurting; to bring love and compassion and friendship to those who are alone and afraid; to use every resource available to address the real problems facing real people in our lives…AND we are called to pray: “Break off Satan’s fangs, O God! Smash the jaws of that roaring lion, O Lord! Make the Enemy’s weapons of lies, intimidation, shame, and hopelessness useless in his hands!”  

Then people will say,  “Surely the righteous still are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges the earth.” (Psalm 58:11)

Always stays thirsty for Him, my friends.

Pastor Philip

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