“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, * ‘Raca’, is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, `You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” Matthew 5:21-22 NIV
* Also in the Old Testament Hebrew: “req”.
“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold, Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV
Anger is a normal human emotion we all feel from time to time. Jesus displayed a righteous anger against the moneychangers (Matthew 21:12-13), and against the Pharisees who had no compassion toward a man with a shriveled hand, in Mark 3:1-6. But Jesus was both fully man and fully God. What are we as fallible humans to do with our angry thoughts when our will is violated or when we witness injustice?
David and many other Old Testament writers turned their anger into prayers. These “Psalms of Vengeance” as they are sometimes known can be difficult to understand on the surface. It is important to keep several points in mind when reading and praying these vengeance Psalms.
- First, they ARE prayers; these writers were bringing the full scope of their emotions to God, expressing their feelings, frustrations, and distress to God. This is the correct way to deal with these complex and deep emotions – in prayer to God.
- Second, many of these Psalms express the desire for the wicked to be judged by God. It is important to remember that the curses and strong language used in these Psalms are directed at God’s enemies, those who have rejected God and who have failed to repent.
- Third, the Psalmists were not looking to avenge the wrongs done to them personally; instead, they were asking God to avenge His enemies.
Deuteronomy 32:35-43, Romans 12:19, Hebrews 10:30-31 also express that vengeance is God’s job, not ours.
So, the question confronting us is: what should we do with our anger? Perhaps praying one of these imprecatory Psalms is a good idea. Look at Psalm 55. Read it through and think about how you could pray through those verses and put words to your distress and anger, into a prayer. Phrases from verses 10-11 can be prayed against those who are acting as God’s enemies. Verse 22 implores people to turn to God, to cast their cares on Him, and 23 talks of the reality of what will happen to those who refuse to repent, and ends with an appeal for us all to trust in the Lord.
Other “vengeance” Psalms are 69, 109, 139:19-22, and Psalm 18. I found two articles that help to explain these Psalms and how to use them in prayer. I have included links if you would like to study further.
A blog about how to pray with these Psalms: https://abramkj.com/2019/08/27/psalms-of-vengeance/
An Article about vengeance Psalms from Ligonier Ministries: https://www.ligonier.org/podcasts/ask-ligonier/how-should-christians-view-the-imprecatory-psalms
Note. To access scripture links that don’t appear in the email version, read the web version in your browser.