Psalm 94 is one of those sections of Scripture that you run across and wonder what to do with it. I mean, it starts with the address, “O LORD, the God of vengeance.”
That’s not usually how I begin my prayers. God of love? Sure. God of grace? Definitely. God of vengeance? Not so much.
Just a wild guess, but I’m thinking I’m not alone in that one.
So if you are like me, what do you do with Psalms like these? Psalms that feel prickly, archaic, and detached from the faith we practice day in and day out?
What do we do with vengeance Psalms? Here are a few things that come to mind as I read Psalm 94.
1. Pray their words.
Yup, I know it sounds crazy, but maybe we need to pray some words like these more often. In my middle class, comfortable, suburban American life, it’s easy for me to lose touch with the groaning of this tired and broken world.
But this world does groan, doesn’t it?
“all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.” –Romans 8:22-23
And if we are in touch with this reality, shouldn’t we groan, too? Shouldn’t we cry out to our Lord along with the Psalmist,
“How long, O LORD? How long will the wicked be allowed to gloat? How long will they speak with arrogance? How long will these evil people boast?” –Psalm 94:3-4
In crying out, we lean into our faith that God will one day make things right. And oh, how beautiful that day will be.
2. Wrestle with their words.
There are phrases in psalms like these that make my hair stand on end.
“He punishes the nations—won’t he also punish you? He knows everything—doesn’t he also know what you are doing? The LORD knows people’s thoughts; he knows they are worthless!” –Psalm 94:10-11
But instead of running away from that yucky feeling, what if we move towards it? What if we research what was going on at the time and place in which they were written? What if we looked for threads that could still be true today?
Maybe looking for answers would do more to strengthen our faith than to weaken it.
Most Psalms are not filled with only one emotion. In the midst of frustrated cries for justice and vengeance, the Psalmist still manages to cry out with words of hope.
“I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O LORD, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.” – Psalm 94:18-19
I love that picture of God supporting us while we slip. (In fact, it reminds me of what I wrote about last week!)
4. Find God in their words.
There’s an important characteristic of God shown throughout all the Psalms, perhaps vengeance Psalms more than any other:
God’s unconditional love for us can be trusted.
It is safe to bring our whole selves, our honest selves, and our hidden selves, before God.
This Psalm, and others like it, doesn’t clarify the theological accuracy or morality of its requests. But it does clarify the character of God hearing the requests.
God does not shy away from our human emotions, weakness, selfishness, frustration, or anger.
When we cry out, no matter how ugly the words, God leans in. He keeps listening. And He holds our hands. Maybe even tighter than before.
That was my reflection on Psalm 94. Link up with your own reflection below. Or stop back next week with your thoughts on Psalm 95.
We often forget that part. But the word itself even implies it. If something is comforting, it’s because something happened to us, and we needed to be comforted. Comfort is a word spelled with the letters of longing and need.
Comfort does not come easy.
Even the meals that are our comfort foods are often the ones that cook and simmer all day long before their flavors reach our mouths.
The relationships we are most comfortable with? They usually have gone through many uncomfortable and frustrating moments to get to that place. We worked through them, and built trust, and now we feel, on a different level than before, that we are known.
Because in the end what comforts us most is the feeling we are cared about. And care does not come through quick fixes and easy answers. Comfort comes slowly, through crockpots more than microwave ovens.
Most of all, comfort is found in our patient God, who is slow to anger, quick to love. Who sits with us in our discomfort and comforts us with His presence to us through all the days of our lives.
This post is linking up with Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday. A weekly prompt with strict instructions: write for 5 minutes and post. No over-editing. No do-overs. An practice of freedom. A way to let go of perfectionism. An exercise for some not often used writing muscles. Read more posts or link up over there. Today’s prompt was: COMFORT. (Full disclosure: I write the post in 5 minutes, but I take a little extra time to find and create a graphic to go with it. I think that's still okay according to the rules...)
I lay on the couch, eyes glued to the television, unable to move to the computer. How do I write an Advent post today? How do I wonder and marvel at the greatness of our God and His Story when I can’t turn off my shock and horror at the depravity of this world? Where do we go from here during this Christmas season?
Suddenly Advent wonder feels flat and thin and trite.
I watch as they countdown to the moment names of victims will be released. Names given thoughtfully by parents at their birth of their beloveds. Names bestowed to reflect a unique identity and future potential.
Names are special words that carry meaning and depth greater than the number of their syllables. They are representations of life and character and purpose.
And so I think about the names given to the baby we celebrate at this time of year.
You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. – Matthew 1:21
This baby’s name is Jesus, “Yahweh saves.”
It is easy to go through our days wearing blinders. We drop off our kids at school and head to our jobs blissfully unaware of the brokenness of the world. But then something tragic happens, and jolts us out of our idyllic stupor.
At times like this, how can there be any doubt that this world needs a savior? It was created with God’s perfect Shalom, but sin crashed through that peace and broke it. And so Yahweh came to save it.
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). – Matthew 1:23
This baby’s name is Immanuel, “God with us.”
God’s salvation was not given from a distance. It was and is and always will be personal. He walks along side us through this life and gives us the gift of His presence. Immanuel holds our hands and carries us and whispers that He has suffered too and it is safe to cry with Him.
And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6
This baby’s name is “Wonderful Counselor.”
He is a God who not only listens, but a God who helps. He guides us in how to put one foot in front of the other when we can’t seem to move or don’t know how to go on.
This baby’s name is “Mighty God.”
This actually feels like a difficult name right now, doesn’t it? We questions why. If He is really so mighty, why, why, why does He not stop tragedies from happening?
Honestly, I don’t know the answer. The interplay between God’s sovereign power and humanity’s free will to do evil has been the stuff of theological debates for centuries.
But here is what brings me comfort: Mighty God is not the name given to a Supreme Being who sits ruling on His throne from a distance. It is the name given to our Savior, to Jesus, the One who came to save. This world may seem beyond repair, but our Mighty God says otherwise.
This baby’s name is “Everlasting Father.”
He is a King who cares for his people the way a father cares for his children. He reaches His arms out wide and invites us to collapse into them. He will not leave. We can stay in His embrace as long as we need to be held.
This baby’s name is “Prince of Peace.”
He can and will restore shalom. He has brought shalom already by making a way for humanity to have peace with God. We can have his calming presence with us as we walk through times of turmoil.
And one day, this baby that was born and lived and died and rose again on this earth thousands of years ago will come back to this earth again. He will restore shalom for good, making all things right and perfect and beautiful.
As we walk around the rest of this season, as we see the nativity scenes on display in homes and stores, we can remember the names of this baby lying still in the manger.
This baby’s name is Jesus. Immanuel. Wonderful Counselor. Mighty God. Everlasting Father. Prince of Peace.
Wonder: Rediscover the Christmas Story is an Advent series designed to help us pause and reflect on how amazing the stories of Jesus’ birth really are. To break through the cluttered busyness of the season and touch our hearts with the awe of what God has done. Let’s make this a season of wonder and worship, marveling together at our great God.