Lately I’ve been loving me some Psalms.
The Psalms are so personal, so intimate, so passionate, so full of emotion and intensity. They soothe and encourage and uplift the soul.
Man, when I read about my Shepherd walking with me through the Valley of Death that is some seriously good, seriously sacred stuff. When I read about finding fullness of joy in God’s presence forevermore that is right in my wheelhouse. When I read about God being my portion I am treading on holy ground.
But there are certain things which make my relationship with the Psalms … complicated. For example, Psalm 10:15 reads, “Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none.”
Awww man. What am I supposed to do with this verse? Am I supposed to pray God would break the arms of wicked people? What about all the stuff Jesus says in the New Testament about loving your enemies and doing good to those who mistreat you? How do arm breaking and loving your enemies fit together?
Then there are verses like Psalms 15:1-2, which read:
O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart …
How can I possibly embrace this Psalm? Only the blameless can dwell with God on his holy hill. Only the one who does what is right and speaks the truth in his heart can sojourn with God. Am I blameless? Do I always do what is right and speak truth in my heart? Uhh, hardly. And David, who wrote this Psalm, wasn’t exactly blameless either. He had murder and adultery on his rap sheet.
So what are we supposed to do with the violent prayers scattered throughout the Psalms? And how should we interpret the Psalms in which the author proclaims his righteousness?
In Sunday School the answer to every question is “Jesus” or “The Bible”. In this case the SundaySchool answer is the correct answer.
Jesus is the key to unlocking all the Psalms.
Almost all the Psalms were written by David, God’s appointed king over Israel. When the wicked threatened and attacked David they weren’t only attacking David, they were also attacking God himself.
As God’s appointed king David represented God’s rule and reign on the earth. To rebel against God’s appointed king was to rebel against God himself. Therefore it was just and right for David to pray God’s punishment upon the wicked. David was praying that God would destroy those who sought to destroy God.
Of course, David participated in his fair share of wickedness. Ultimately he failed to represent the rule and reign of God upon the earth. But Jesus succeeded in every area David failed. Jesus is God’s ultimate appointed king.
While he was on the earth he walked in perfect righteousness and obedience. He didn’t steal anyone’s wife, didn’t orchestrate any black ops murder plots. He perfectly represented God’s righteousness.
Now he has been exalted to the highest place in heaven. He is the true, reigning king, and those who commit wicked deeds are waging war against Jesus himself.
People who create porn are waging war against Jesus. People who cheat on their spouses are waging war against Jesus. People who promote impurity and unrighteousness wage war against Jesus. People who love money more than Jesus are actually waging war against Jesus. People who teach heresy wage war against Jesus. People who abuse their children are waging war against Jesus.
It is absolutely right for us to pray that God’s justice will be done to the wicked. When God’s justice is done it upholds the dignity and righteousness of King Jesus.
God’s justice will be done to the wicked in one of two ways. Either they will repent of their sins and allow Jesus to bear justice for them or they will bear God’s justice themselves. Either way the justice of God is executed and the righteousness of the King is upheld.
We pray the wicked will repent and turn to Jesus for forgiveness. We also pray God will bring justice down upon them if they refuse to repent. We pray God will destroy those who refuse to repent and continue to traffic young girls, corrupt political systems, abuse their children, live for money, relish porn, cuss out their coworkers and spread rumors.
And when it comes to the “righteousness” Psalms our approach is the same. Only one person is sufficiently righteous to dwell upon God’s holy hill: Jesus. But Jesus doesn’t hoard His righteousness!
Rather, He gives us all his righteousness and holiness when we place our trust in Him. I can ascend the holy hill of the Lord because Jesus has ascended the hill ahead of me. He has cleared a path for me to follow. I can fully embrace the Psalms of righteousness because I am clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
If the Psalms begin to feel confusing read them through the lens of Christ. Read them as if Christ Himself were speaking them. Jesus is the key to unlocking the Psalms. He shines light upon all the dark and confusing places. He is the reigning king who shares his righteousness with those who don’t deserve it.