Provocative Devotion: Psalm 31

Posted: September 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
    let me never be put to shame;
    in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me;
    rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
    a strong fortress to save me!

For you are my rock and my fortress;
    and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
    for you are my refuge.
Into your hand I commit my spirit;
    you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols,
    but I trust in the Lord.
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
    because you have seen my affliction;
    you have known the distress of my soul,
and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
    you have set my feet in a broad place.    Psalm 31:1-8

This Psalm of David is not the most pleasant to read, at least that is the case for me with these first eight verses. The rest of the Psalm is much more positive and upbeat. But there is one phrase in the section that sets me back. It is verse 6. David says that he hates those who pay regard to worthless idols. Is this one of those Old Testament passages that we so easily disregard because the New Testament and Jesus are all about love?

So what I am to make of this? Does David really hate these people? If so does God approve? Why would God even want this to be in His Word? I am struck by the fact that what so infuriates David is idolatry. These people are worshipping the false gods of Palestine. That means they are worshipping the likes of Baal and Ashtaroth, gods to whom people sacrifice their children on altars of fire and to whom they engage in sexual orgies in their temples in order to convince these gods to give them a plentiful harvest. David hates them because their actions are disgusting in the sight of God. Who would not be angered to watch parents stab their children in the heart and then burn their bodies on an altar just so they could curry the favor the Baal? When David says he hates them it is not so much a statement of personal hatred directed at an individual but the language is a common Hebrew way of making a statement of moral rejection of what they do. It is an expression that David’s audience would have understood as a rejection of the ways of Idolatry.

What I get from this Psalm is that there are some things worth getting angry about. There are some actions that should disgust us. If you do not get angry about people who kidnap and enslave others in sex trafficking then there is something wrong with your heart. But here is the rub, how do you love your enemies, something both the Old and New Testaments call us to do, and at the same time hate what is going on in the world? It is not easy. It is much easier to either ignore the wickedness or to become so incensed that we pour out vitriol upon people. It is not easy to follow the scripture that tells to be careful that we do not commit sin in our anger. It doesn’t say that anger is sin, but that it is possible to be angry and not sin. We need to be angry about and hate the right things but do it in the right way. Jesus got angry about things. He got angry about the deception and hypocrisy of some religious leaders. He got angry when people were led astray from the truth. He hated and rejected such things. But He never sinned.

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