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)
This past Sunday we once again remembered the horrific events of 9-11, now 21 years behind us…but never really behind us. And we could add a lot more horrific memories to the list: mass murders that seem to happen almost daily, suicides and drug overdoses, wars and famine and disease, human trafficking and slavery. The list goes on and on, until we are almost numb to the news. Of course, all of these tragedies underscore the difficulties and dangers of our sinful world. And they remind us that Christians are not somehow insulated from all this 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. I have to admit I’ve always had a problem 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)? That said, I confess that I don’t often pray for my enemies either. But with all the constant reminders of suffering and death and sin in the world I sometimes have a devil of a time—literally—focusing my anger through prayer.
In Psalm 58 David isn’t shy about his anger. 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 or 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 and lions 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 & 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, it’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)
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 exchanging God’s truth for a lie (2 Cor. 11:14-15). Satan’s game is to offer us a substitute version of God—an alternative voice of wisdom, truth and strength. His purpose is to separate us (from each other & God), isolate us, intimidate us, lie to us, and ultimately to destroy us. And sadly, too often it seems…he succeeds.
And so, we must seek to use our spiritual authority to speak grace and truth to those who are hurting; we offer love and compassion and friendship to those who are alone and afraid; we use every resource at our disposal to address the real problems facing real people in our lives…AND we pray: “Break off Satan’s fangs, O God! Smash the jaws of that roaring lion, O Lord! Make the weapons of lies, intimidation, shame, and hopeless useless in in the Devil’s hands!”
Then people will say, “Surely the righteous still are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges the earth.” (Psalm 58:11)
Let your prayers and praise be the weapons you use to silence the Enemy, and always stay thirsty for Him, my friends.