Read psalm 109 Aloud
A Guide to Understanding Psalm 109
(1) The Reality of Our Anger – The Psalms give us the full expression of human emotions. They take us into the sublime – to feelings of awe and joy. They also help us explore the parts of our soul we’d rather ignore; stuff like depression, anxiety, shame, and rage. A spirituality that didn’t help us deal with the hard parts of reality would be deficient. So the psalms speak to us. Here. Now. Right where we are. Not where we want to be or think we should be, but where we are. Many people will spend a lot of effort trying to make theological sense of why poems like this are in the Bible when the bigger theological problem is not that anger is in the Bible – it’s here among us, in our hearts.
(2) The Reason for Our Anger – Everyone is angry. Your anger may manifest in a variety of ways. For some, anger is like a nuclear bomb: hot, explosive, incinerating. For others, anger is a cold war. We withdraw, brood, nurse a critical attitude. It may be more aggressive or more passive. But it’s there. In all of us. A lot of the time. So what is anger? Anger could be described as a release of energy towards a perceived threat. It’s a destructive force. That might sound bad. But Scripture is full of passages that describe God’s anger. So how do we make sense of anger? Anger actually is a God-given capacity to humanity. Anger and getting angry is part of what it means to be made in God’s image. When God created Adam and Eve in Genesis, He made them with a sense of justice, right and wrong, good and evil. Anger is our capacity to get upset, to speak and act forcefully against problems, wrongs, and injustice. The problem is: rather than use our God-given ability to obliterate evil, Adam and Eve gave in to evil and so now our sense of justice is warped, skewed, and directed towards selfish purposes. So anger is rooted in God himself. We are made in God’s image with the capacity to release destructive energy to defend something good and destroy something evil. This might still make us uncomfortable but that probably says more about our social or economic position. The oppressed and the abused find the anger of God a comfort. Rather than a problem or theological conundrum, God’s anger makes him worthy of worship.
(3) The Resources in Our Anger – Psalm 109 gives us at least three resources in anger. First, it invites us to be angry. Paul actually commands Christians to “be angry” in Ephesians 4. Why? Because anger is rooted in God’s holiness. An absence of appropriate outrage in the face of evil is just as big of an ‘anger problem’ as expressing anger sinfully. Second, Psalm 109 calls us to pray angry. Look at v. 1. This is a prayer. David is not cursing his opponent to their face or insulting them in person. He’s talking to God. Praying your rage and your fury is an act of deep-seated trust. Third, Psalm 109 teaches us to limit our anger. In this psalm and in the historical record, David never takes vengeance into his own hands. We limit our anger by handing vengeance and retribution over to God.
(4) The Resolution to Our Anger – Psalm 109 offers a resolution to anger in the case of David. See first that the setting is a law court (vv. 6-7). It’s a public trial. The problem is that David’s accusers have committed a personal act of betrayal and are slandering David maliciously. He’s been betrayed by a close ally. But it’s not merely interpersonal, it’s also social. The betrayer has not shown kindness to the needy and suffering (v. 16). Note too that David is merely drawing on other parts of the Bible to inform his anger. Passages like Exodus 22:22-24 almost seem echoed here in Psalm 109. So how does David’s anger get resolved? Ultimately, David looks to the blessing of God in the face of human cursing (109:28). Where others’ condemn, God vindicates. In between Jesus’ ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit, Psalm 109 was a passage the church gave deep consideration. It shows us that even in the worst betrayal and false accusations, Jesus chose to take a curse on himself for the sake of his enemies. He received the just condemnation and absorbed God’s curse, so we could gain free vindication and hear God’s blessing.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?
2. Everyone is angry. How would you describe your experience with anger? Are you hot and explosive or cold and brooding? How has anger been modeled to you? How does Scripture help inform our anger?
3. Anger happens when things go wrong. Describe what happens when things ‘go wrong’ for you? Maybe its someone else’s anger coming at you? What resources does Jesus give you?
4. Anger is a destructive energy. How does it relate to our identity as image-bearers of a God who gets angry?
5. Often times are anger goes wrong. Have you ever experienced anger going right? Describe what happened. What did you feel, think, or do? What was the outcome? What can constructive anger look like?
6. Are there any “But-What-Abouts” rattling around in your thinking on anger? Share.