Week 4, Day 1
READ: Psalm 5 & Psalm 6
BACKGROUND: Psalm 5 is one where imprecatory prayers are offered – that is, prayers and curses against enemies or the wicked for their downfall. These imprecatory Psalms sometimes make people uncomfortable, especially those of us who have a real sense of the incredible mercy of God that sent Jesus to the cross. Praying against someone just seems wrong. But, these Psalms can take on a whole new meaning for us if we understand them correctly. Imprecatory Psalms are not prayed out of anger or bitterness. They aren’t prayers of hatred or malice, and they are not self-centered. When King David, or other writers of the Psalms, pray these things they are praying for justice to be accomplished. God very clearly told his people (Deuteronomy 25:1-3) that he was in charge of making sure that justice was done and that he was in charge of punishing and handing out consequences for wrongs. So, these imprecations are holy prayers seeking God’s justice. They are prayers where the one who has been offended is yielding his or her right to seek revenge and allowing God to take control. And they are, ultimately, prayers that God would bring about the consequences the Law demands for the particular sins. This understanding not only allows us to be more comfortable as we read these things in the Psalms, but it also gives us an amazing example to follow when someone hurts us. We ought not seek revenge on our own. We need not dole out justice as we see fit. Justice is the job of a just and holy God. We can simply relinquish control to him – which is a very liberating thing to do – and trust that he works all things out for our good (Romans 8:28) and that, in the end, his justice rolls on like a mighty river and his righteousness like a never-ending stream (Amos 5:24).
THINK: When you think about the way that God relates to us and the attitude he has towards his people what is the first word that comes to mind? Is it loving-kindness? Maybe it should be. 🙂 Hesed or chesed is a Hebrew word that doesn’t have an exact equivalent in English. It’s often translated as loving-kindness, faithfulness, mercy, or love in our Bibles. It is all of those things and more! Ultimately, hesed is God’s incredible, merciful, unbreakable, saving, covenant love for his people. Isn’t that amazing! It sounds too good to be true – like this is an April Fools joke or something. But it isn’t a joke. That’s the kind of love God has for us. And this is the love that King David is calling upon in Psalm 6:4. “Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me according to your hesed.” And David has confidence that God will do so because his hesed never fails.
For the nation of Israel in Old Testament times, understanding God’s hesed was a source of strength and hope, freedom and identity. They knew that they weren’t deserving of it. Nothing about who they were or what they had accomplished earned this outrageous and unbreakable merciful love. But, instead, they received it because hesed is an integral part of the character of God, and he chose to extend it to them. Despite all of their faults and failings, God was never going to let them go because he had made a covenant with them.
We are participants in the New Covenant, ushered in for all people by the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross. Putting our faith in Christ, then, means that we receive and participate in the hesed of God. He loves us with an incredible and abiding love. He extends mercy and grace to us despite our constant failings. In every situation, we can be confident that he is present and he is working on our behalf. He is faithful to us and he will never forsake us or let us go. We belong to him and his banner over us is love. We are his children and we are covered by his hesed!
ASK: How does God’s hesed give me hope in the storms and brokenness of life? How does being loved unconditionally and incredibly by God define my identity?