Appealing to God’s justice – Psalm 109

Appealing to God’s justice is something people do more than they realise. Whenever you think something is unfair or unjust, you wonder if there’s justice in the world.

Most of us have, at some time, come up against people in our lives who have bullied us, pressured us, accused us wrongly or, for some, abused us. As Christians, we know in our heads that we’re to pray for our enemies, and for those who persecute us. But we know in our hearts and in our bones that that’s often hard. We wouldn’t mind if those people got a taste of their own medicine. We’d quite like God to turn the tables and let them see how they like it.

Psalm 109 is a difficult psalm. It’s difficult because we see those feelings written down; it’s difficult because we don’t know if we should say these things ourselves to God.

These notes accompany a sermon on YouTube. You can find more in the series in our Sermon Index.

God judges truly and punishes justly

There’s a lot of courtroom language in this psalm. David (the writer) gives the impression that he is surrounded by people he has loved and they are accusing him falsely: Read Psalm 109:1-5.

It’s a grim place: He’s loved people, and they’ve turned on him. They’re slandering him – what they say isn’t even true. This psalm comes from a place of painful treachery. 

Verses 6-19 are shocking. They’re vindictive. It reads in the New Living Translation as the charge against him. Just read Psalm 109:6-10 as a sample.

That’s pretty rough, coming from people you have known and loved. If you’ve ever felt betrayed by someone you trusted, you’ll know how David is feeling. And yet, at the end of it all, David says something startling. Read Psalm 109:20.

As strong as all those words were, David actually prays that they would bounce back on his accusers!

  • May their years be few
  • May their children be fatherless etc

In fact, it’s entirely likely that the strong words of v6-19 are actually from David in the first place.

  • “They say” at the start of v6 isn’t in the Hebrew.
  • A number of translations add “They say” because v6-19 aimed at “him”, not “them”.
  • Other translations leave the “They say” out and just give all those strong words to David, the king – wishing awful things on his enemies.

Whether they’re his words directly or not, he takes them. In v20 he absolutely wishes all those curses on his accusers.

Is that a bit awkward? Do we need to explain it away? The New Testament says he’s right to say what he did.

Awkward or normal?

  • Jesus was, of course, falsely accused by many.
  • Worse, he was betrayed by one of his closest followers – Judas heard Jesus’ great sermons first-hand; he saw Jesus’ miracles with his own eyes.
  • But Judas handed Jesus over for money.
  • Jesus had loved Judas, but Judas betrayed him.
  • Where there had been 12 disciples, now there were 11.
  • In Acts 1, Peter and the other disciples take it on themselves to replace Judas. They quote v11 here: “Let someone else take his position.”
  • Judas, the ultimate betrayer, was indeed judged, condemned, replaced. He had no descendants.

David’s prayer about the downfall and punishment of his accusers is not a prayer for vengeance. That’s hugely important. It’s a prayer for justice. A prayer for God’s honour.

Remember that writers in the Old Testament had very little understanding of life after death – our understanding leapt because Jesus rose from the dead, firstfruits of everyone rising. So Old Testament calls for justice are often limited to things God might do in this life. And if those things seem a bit strong to your ears, it’s because you have too low a view of sin, and too low a regard for God’s honour. Hell is far worse than v6-19.

For David, he felt that God’s honour was at stake in seeing injustice go unchecked. But here’s the thing: The God of all the earth is just. He knows everything you’ve ever done. He will punish your every sin – secret stuff, public stuff. David ends the psalm saying that God “stands beside the needy” – he stands closer even than any accuser.

But if God knows your actual sin (not just the ones your falsely accused of) who can stop him judging and condemning you?

Who then can be saved?

David was unjustly accused, and he prays that that injustice would be turned back on his accusers – justice done. But God knows all your sin. There is one who would love to stand and accuse you: Satan.

“Satan” actually means “accuser”.

  • Imagine being in court yourself.
  • God is judge; he already knows you and everything you’ve ever done.
  • Satan is the accuser, reading out the charge sheet.
  • “On February 7th, 2019, at approximately 8:15pm…”

The judge knows you’re guilty already. You know it; your conscience condemns you. The judge can’t let you off, if he knows you’re guilty, can he? Is that really justice? Even if you say you’re really, really sorry, there has to be justice in the world, doesn’t there?

The New Testament book of Romans looks into this for us and explains that the Judge of us all can indeed forgive and be just at the same time.

  • Read Romans 3:24-26.
    • So yes, the Judge of all the world knows everything you’ve ever done.
    • But by sending Jesus, the son of God, to take the punishment you deserve he can forgive and be just (punishment taken, fine paid, sentence served)
  • Romans 4:25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.
  • Romans 8:1 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

Satan himself can shout and scream and point the finger all day long. He can accuse you of things you’ve actually done, but by faith you say “Christ died for me, in my place.” And Christ himself will answer, “There is no condemnation for all who are in me.”

The cross vindicates God’s justice and forgiveness

And still, where David was concerned that God punish his accusers so that God’s justice would be seen to be done, the cross of Christ is actually God’s great declaration and vindication.

  • He takes the sin of every man, woman and child seriously.
  • He punishes every sin, without exception.
  • For all who trust in Christ, punishment is counted at the cross.
  • But woe to everyone else:
    • Everyone who denies Jesus, 
    • Those who won’t confess or repent of their sin
    • The religious types who won’t trust in Jesus’ sacrifice but actually try to impress God with their own works – whether good works of love, or stinking false religion like Roman Catholic mass.

Every sin is known to God; every one is an offence to him. All sin will be punished by him. But the Good News of the Bible is that God loves you. So much so, that he sent Jesus from eternal glory to be a human to die, to take the punishment your sins deserve.

Every sin will be punished. But any sinner can be saved.

Every sin will be punished. But any sinner can be saved.

  • He calls you to himself. Go to God in prayer. Confess your wrong, trust that Jesus’ death is your punishment.
  • Turn to God in life – a life of repentance, turning to him.
  • And he will take you and cherish you as his own special possession, along with all his people, all his children.
  • And you will be with him today, tomorrow, and forever.
  • That’s Good News.

But we still have some unanswered questions from Psalm 109. In particular, when abused or accused unjustly, is this a psalm you can pray?

Can we pray psalm 109?

David was praying that God would right the wrong; David was being unjustly accused and that injustice dishonoured God. Certainly, we can pray that God’s name will be honoured in the world.

Jesus taught us to pray that: “Hallowed be your name” – a prayer for God’s honour and reputation to be regarded as holy in the world. Can we pray for help from unjust accusation? Yes, of course.

  • David had a band of accusers – “satans” if you like
  • His accuser stood by to read the charge sheet.
  • But Jesus stands closer still.

He is your advocate; he is your help. The Holy Spirit of God is within you, stronger than anything or anyone in the world. As Christians, we are to do right and put right wherever we can. That means sometimes sticking your neck out in the face of unjust accusation and speaking truth into their lies.

Can we pray for God’s judgment against false religions, evil influences and powers? Yes, of course. Ephesians 6 makes the very point that as humans we’re hopelessly unequipped for that kind of spiritual battle – but with God’s spiritual armour and a heart of prayer, we pray for him to go out and bring defeat to lies, and bring truth and life to the world.

Revenge is not yours to seek

But what about the bully, the abuser, the exploiter, thief, and leech? The Judge of all the earth will do right. Revenge is not for you to seek.

Read Romans 12:14-21.

If someone has hurt you, abused you, damaged you, it’s hard to think of loving them or doing good to them. But we’re all sinful before God and deserve no good thing from him. By his grace, you have been saved because Jesus has been punished in your place. If God saves the person who has hurt you, then they are as loved by him as you. They are forgiven by God; Jesus has been punished for the wrong they did to you.

If they’re not Christian, pray for them anyway.

God will do right; you have no need to worry about that. But don’t let evil conquer you. Conquer evil by doing good. And the greatest good is to pray for someone that they come to know Christ. God’s justice will always be done.

And if you have been an abuser, a hurter, a bully, and your own conscience stands against you accusing you, you need to remember: There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Repent of your sin, cry out to God, and you will find a heavenly Father ready to forgive. Every day. Every time.