So God shows grace in funny ways sometimes. I was reading Psalm 69 out loud yesterday with my wife and we were shaking our heads at some of the irony in the words of this Scripture. First of all it is to be sung to the tune of “Lilies”, which is not a tune we may know but definitely brings to mind some sort of slow, lilting string music with flowery words. Which is why the first words “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck” may seem a little out of place. But the part that was most interesting to us was as we got to all these curses that David was calling down on his enemies (vs. 22-28).
Let their eyes be darkened.
Let your burning anger overtake them.
Let them be blotted out of the book of the living.
I mean can you really say these things about people. And to think this was a song to be sung in church! Can you imagine if one of the people he wrote this Psalm about came to that service and heard that song? I can’t imagine that bringing much harmony.
But then I started looking over the notes in the ESV Study Bible (check out a review of this really neat Bible from my buddy Nathan here), and it began to paint a different picture. First of all, it points out that the writer of this Psalm is not claiming to be perfect. In verse 5 he says, “O God, you know how foolish I am; my sins cannot be hidden from you.” (NLT) It goes on to point out how many times this Psalm is used in reference to Jesus:
“Those who hate me without cause” (Ps 69:4 & John 15:25); “For zeal for your house has consumed me” (Ps 69:9 & John 2:17); “for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink” (Ps 69:21 & John 19:28-29).
Now, if these words are used according to Jesus, does that mean that He also wants to bring these curses down on sinners, of which I am one? The notes go on to show how the apostle Paul used many verses from this Psalm as well, by which he shows how many of his fellow Israelites have rejected Christ and had their hearts hardened (Romans 11:9-10). But then Paul says this most interesting thing. In Romans 11:25, he says: “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”
And suddenly it all came rushing to me. We are those with hard hearts. We are the sinners. I was immediately convicted of ways that I had been disobedient to God this week – through ways I had spent money foolishly that God had blessed me with after praying for Him to help with my finances; through having a whiny, selfish attitude rather than recognizing how God is working; through being critical of others rather than being obedient to who God is calling me to be. So I prayed and repented and found God’s mercy and refreshing through a better understanding of these curses in Psalm 69.
I was reminded of words of one of the speakers at our CIY conference a couple weeks ago. He said that when we read the Bible we usually associate ourselves with the voice of God’s chosen, but he said if we are not being obedient to God then we are the other side – the oppressors, the hard of heart, the evildoers. The writers of the ESV Study Bible notes summed it up for me this way: “These words could prove to be a mercy to the evildoers, should any of them be present at worship when the congregation sings them, and they heed the warning.” So, let us continue to sing of God’s mercy, even if it comes in the form of curses.
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