This is another of the imprecatory psalms, where we see the psalmist calling for the judgment of God on those who have wronged him.
A lot of people, including myself, get disturbed reading these kinds of psalms, because it seems to go so against the spirit of Jesus and his call for us to forgive our enemies.
I’ve mentioned some of these points before in previous psalms, but they bear repeating.
As king, (or as one who was soon to become king depending on when this psalm was written), David knew the importance of justice. That evil cannot just be allowed to go on unchecked. And so he was essentially calling for the evil to reap what they sowed.
Whereas they falsely accused him, he asked that they may be put on trial and found guilty. When it says, “appoint an evil man to oppose him,” it’s hard to say whether he meant that he desired them to know what it’s like to be falsely accused by men, or if he just meant that the justice system is run by people who are no saints themselves.
Whereas they had made children into fatherless beggars, and wives into widows in poverty, he asked the same would come upon them. That may seem harsh, but it calls to mind the case of Aaron Hernandez, the football player who is accused of murdering a man. If it is true, he will be incarcerated leaving his daughter fatherless, and his fiancee without a husband. It would be wise to remember that our actions not only affect us, but the ones we love.
And where there is no repentance for sin, there can be no forgiveness from God. Their sin will always remain before him as a record against them.
But whereas we may call for justice, there can be no room for bitterness in our lives. Because bitterness does not destroy the person who hurt you so much as it hurts you. It’s interesting to note that the apostle Peter used this psalm to refer to Judas, who attacked Jesus without cause, repaid Jesus evil for good, and returned hatred for Jesus’ friendship. And ultimately, because he never repented, he found God’s justice. His days were few and another took his place of leadership.
But throughout it all, Jesus was never bitter against Judas. Instead, when he was at the last supper washing Judas’ feet (along with the other disciples’) and offering him bread, indeed, when he was at the garden and Judas came to betray him, we see no signs of bitterness in Jesus. Rather, we see compassion.
Jesus wasn’t naive. He knew the character of Judas and he didn’t deceive himself concerning Judas. Yet he still showed compassion and love towards Judas. In doing so, he poured burning coals over Judas’ head, and in his guilt, Judas hung himself. But Jesus remained unstained by bitterness.
And so did David. Only once do we ever see him consumed with bitterness because of another’s actions to the point he was willing to take revenge (the situation with Nabal). But when Nabal’s wife reminded him of what true justice was, he swiftly let go of his bitterness and showed mercy. And when he saw God’s justice finally come, he rejoiced, as he does at the end of this psalm.
With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lord; in the great throng I will praise him. For he stands at the right hand of the needy one to save his life from those who condemn him (30-31).
So let us let go of bitterness in our lives, but instead cling to mercy, forgiveness, and justice.