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Reading the Psalms can be very confusing and disheartening if one is expecting God to be as moral as our conscience guides. Some of the Psalms talk about breaking the arms of evildoers, smashing in their teeth, or for their eyes to be darkened and their backs bent forward. Many of the Psalms seem to condone praying for horrible judgments on others which seem to contradict God’s very character or Jesus advising us to love our enemies. There may be some reasonable explanations for the writers’ words and feelings though they claim to represent God.

The psalmists’ words may not be as harsh if we readers were living in their shoes or people today that are at the mercy of terrorists and dictators who cut off heads or rape women and children. We too may pour out our heart in the same way toward our enemies. The Psalms don’t talk about slow torture or abuse of women and children. Psalm 10:15 talks about breaking arms of evildoers, but why not so they can’t continue to murder the innocent (v.8). Psalm 53:5 speaks of the desire to scatter their bones, but why not when “they devour people as though eating bread” ( v. 4). Why not pray for their eyes to be darkened and backs bent forward (69:23) so they can no longer “wound and talk about the pain of those they hurt” (69:26).  Who doesn’t pray for the justice, death, or disarmament of those who kill them.

Paul Copan’s in Chapter 11 of When God Goes To Starbucks provides many additional insights. God is never going to deny one the right to express their feelings. Who is to say God doesn’t allow initial feelings but in time helps one to have less violent feelings. Besides, emotions and actions are two different things. God never condoned the torture of humans and God has always been willing to withhold judgment if people confess their evil ways and change. It seems to me the Psalmists are simply emoting their tremendous anguish.

I don’t always entertain the possibility of my enemies confessing their wrongdoings when emoting. David expressed strong emotions but it is also thought King David wrote Psalm 103 where he speaks of a God who forgives all sins, is slow to anger, and abounding in love. David in Psalm 51 begs for forgiveness after committing adultery with Bathsheba and planning her husband’s murder. David even says: “Then I will teach transgressors your ways; and sinners will turn about to you” (v. 13). Not even David is foolish enough to think God is of the character to forgive his sins, but David doesn’t have to forgive his enemies if they repent.

Relationships often don’t reach any depth because they either don’t admit or they ignore feelings for fear of the consequences. Relationships remain stagnant and don’t reach the depth of intimacy possible if unwilling to take risks. Working though hate in a real way can lead to taking more positive actions. When we refuse to admit hurt or confront someone, there is often no hope for healing. Jonah preferred the Ninevites not repent so God could not show mercy, but Jonah eventually came to God’s ways. The writers of the Psalms either as writing or over time may have come to accept the possibility of forgiveness and judgment withheld if change took place. 

The writers could have also been protecting God’s reputation. God’s enemies did vile things despite being created in God’s image. If you speak horrible things about the mother of my children, I may express wanting to cut your balls off too. That is how I would feel. I would not necessarily take such actions even if you did not admit lies about my wife. Emoting and acting are two different things. We can always pour our hearts out to God as He guides us what actions to take toward others who continue to harm us and others in their way.

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