Sunday, August 30, 2009

An overview of Mark’s teaching on persecution and discipleship

It is important to remember that each of the gospels was written at different times to a particular audience with a special emphasis due to circumstances of place and time. Tradition has it that Mark’s Gospel was written for the people in Rome under the influence of Peter. Mark’s was the first Gospel to develop, and was written about 30 years after the crucifixion of Jesus and around the time of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.

Mark’s gospel emphasizes discipleship and its cost. To believe in Jesus and to be found in his company means to take serious the words of Jesus to deny one’s very self, to take up the cross and follow Him (8:34). It means to realize how to save one’s life is to lose it and to lose one’s life for the sake of the gospel is to find it (8:35-37). In a Gospel where there is continual motion, the cross and resurrection are the climax of the story of Jesus. Everything Jesus said and did led up to His passion.

And just as for Jesus, so for His followers. The way of the cross is their path too. Its pain and trial is the only way to glory. Jesus leads His disciples to accept the demands of the cross. Jesus teaches the disciples how they are to differ radically from others in their society and culture. They are not to act on ambition and seek after power but, like Jesus, they are to be those who serve, attentive especially to those in misery and need. For Mark, there is no safe and easy way to be a follower of Jesus, the Crucified One.

Unlike Matthew or Luke, Mark does not provide us with "the euphoria of the infancy narratives."[1] He begins abruptly and bluntly with John the Baptist in the desert shouting that there is "one mightier than I in your midst who will baptize you in the Holy Spirit."

Then just as starkly, Jesus appears to be baptized (1:9-11) and immediately is sent into the wilderness to be tempted and to face the dangers of wild animals (1:12-13).

Almost immediately, the one who had prepared the way for Jesus is thrown into prison (1:14). Jesus picks up exactly where John left off except that His message is that the time has arrived what John said was on the horizon. Jesus appears in Galilee proclaiming the good news of God saying, "This is the time of fulfillment… The reign of God is at hand. Turn your lives around. Believe in the gospel." As the gospel develops we read how, just as John was faithful to his calling and arrested for it, so Jesus remains true to His calling and is crucified by those who oppose Him. Following His death, an angel appears to the women who visit His tomb after his resurrection and tells them "Go now and tell the disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee where you will see him as he told you.’" If one accepts the shorter ending of Mark, Jesus’ mission and ministry begins and ends in Galilee and ends with a degree of uncertainty.

There is considerable debate over the textual evidence regarding the ending of Mark. The earliest manuscripts of Mark end with 16:8 with the words "they were afraid." [2] The women fail to follow the instructions of the heavenly messenger, giving an ambiguous ending to the Gospel.[3] We are left to wonder, "What of the disciples? Will they obey His instructions?" If we accept the shorter ending as being the Mark's intended one, he ends at the brink of a new beginning, but we are left to wonder whether it will really happen. The Gospel had started with John the Baptist pointing the way to Jesus and ends with the women refusing to tell others about Him because of fear.

It should be noted that the discussion that follows is not dependent upon the reader accepting the "shorter" ending of Mark. As we shall discover below, the actions of the women in 16:8 are consistent with the way in which Mark depicts the disciples in his gospel. The descriptions of the disciples in the verses that appear in later manuscripts (16:9-20) are hardly more flattering. The fear that marked the women is matched by the doubt exhibited by the disciples. The disciples consistently do not believe (16:11, 13). Jesus rebukes them for their lack of faith and refusal to believe the testimonies of those who had witnessed His resurrection (16:14). It is worth noting that this is also consistent with how Christians throughout history (and even to the present day) respond to persecution. Some believe, others are afraid and say nothing, while others leave the Christian fellowship entirely.

Of all of the Gospel writers, Mark is, by far, the one who best reveals the failings of the disciples. Peter, for example, called Jesus the Messiah, but promptly revealed that he had no idea what that meant, having his own ideas about what it meant to the anointed one of God and how Jesus should live that out. He is rebuked as being "Satan", an adversary (8:33). Peter had to learn through experiences of failure, dismay and even denial the real meaning of Messiah.

The other disciples are likewise depicted rather poorly in Mark’s Gospel. They start off so well. At first the ones who oppose Him are His family (3:21, 31-34) and the teachers of the law (3:22-30). Jesus recognized that not everyone would accept His teaching (the Parable of the Soils in 4:1-24) and that some will fall away under persecution (4:17).

The disciples are viewed relatively positively until 6:30, even though there are difficulties (e.g. 4:13; 4:38; 5:31). But following each incident, Jesus instructs them and the problem appears to have been resolved. But as time goes on, it is clear that they do not understand who Jesus really is. Time and again they do not grasp the meaning of what He said (4:13; 6:51-52; 7:18; 8:18, 21; 8:32-33; 9:32).[4] They fail to cast out a demon because of their lack of faith and prayer (9:19, 29). They try to chase away those who try to bring children to Jesus (10:13-14). They treat Jesus as if He were naïve (4:38; 5:31; 6:37). They quarrel over who is the greatest (9:33-36) and jockey for position (10:35-41). They forbid others not in their group to use Jesus’ name (9:38). Jesus begins to see a hardness in their hearts not unlike that demonstrated by His enemies (compare 3:5-6 with 6:52 and 8:17). Jesus questions whether they are capable of seeing and hearing (8:18) in a context where He has healed a deaf and blind man (7:31-37, 8:22-26). The three boat scenes depict the disciples as fearful, distrustful of Jesus and self-concerned (4:40, 6:49-50, 8:14-16).[5] They fall asleep in the garden at the time of Jesus’ greatest need (14:37). Judas betrays Him, Peter denies Him and when Jesus is arrested, they all desert Him (14:50). This is direct disobedience to the call to follow Him in suffering in 8:34-37, making the disciples liable to the judgment announced in 8:38.[6] It is also an explicit failure to keep their promise in 14:31. The flight of the naked young man in 14:52 "dramatizes the shamefulness of the disciple’s flight and satirizes the pretensions of Christians who claim to be ready for martyrdom."[7] Tannehill notes:

This interpretation may be supported by the reference to the fine linen (sindon) worn by the young man. Elsewhere in the New Testament the word is only used of the cloth in which Jesus was buried (see 5:46 and par.). If this detail is significant, it suggests that this man was so sure of his loyalty that he comes dressed for death, but suddenly changes his mind when death is a real prospect. His nakedness emphasizes the shamefulness of his flight.[8]

The disciples’ failure is contrasted with the behaviour of others who do what they will not; Simon who must "take up"[9] Jesus’ cross (15:21), the centurion at the cross who makes the confession that Peter refused to make (15:39) and Joseph of Arimathea who cares for Jesus’ burial, a task one would expect His closest friends and family would care for (15:43-47).[10]

Even after the resurrection, as noted earlier, the fear that characterized the disciples remains (16:8). If one accepts the shorter ending of Mark, the story is left open-ended. Will they meet with Jesus? If one accepts the longer ending, the question is hardly different. Will they overcome their fear and doubt, and believe?

Tannehill comments:

While any positive qualities of story characters will attract, a reader will identify most easily and immediately with characters who seem to share the reader’s situation.  Assuming that the majority of the first readers of the Gospel were Christians, they would relate most easily and immediately to characters in the story who respond positively to Jesus. The disciples, including the twelve, are the primary continuing characters who, at least at first, seem to respond in this way and so share this essential quality of the Christian reader’s self-understanding. I believe that the author of Mark anticipated this response by his readers. He composed his story so as to make use of this initial tendency to identify with the disciples in order to speak indirectly to the reader through the disciples’ story. In doing so, he first reinforces the positive view of the disciples which he anticipates from his readers, thus strengthening the tendency to identify with them. Then he reveals the inadequacy of the disciples’ response to Jesus, presents the disciples in conflict with Jesus on important issues, and finally shows the disciples as disastrous failures. The surprisingly negative development of the disciples’ story requires the reader to distance himself from them and their behavior. But something of the initial identification remains, for there are similarities between the problems of the disciples and problems which the first readers faced. This tension between identification and repulsion can lead the sensitive reader beyond a naively positive view of himself to self-criticism and repentance. The composition of Mark strongly suggests that the author, by the way in which he tells the disciples’ story, intended to awaken his readers to their failures as disciples and call them to repentance. Allowing at first the comfortable assumption that Jesus and his disciples (and with them the Christian reader) are basically in concord, the story reveals points of essential conflict. The reader is left with a choice, a choice represented by the differing ways of Jesus and the disciples. In the light of what Jesus demands, this choice is not easy.[11]

The Christians in Rome at the time of Mark’s Gospel were experiencing persecution under the Emperor Titus. Some had abandoned their faith or even betrayed others. The Christians of Mark’s time could likely identify with the weakness, hesitation and unbelief of the disciples. Yet, they could also see these traits as a sign of the power of God’s grace of forgiveness and a means of hope to walk in the footsteps of Jesus even after failure. Borrell contends that Mark intended for Peter’s denial to cause his readers to question their own conduct and attitudes so that they might respond more appropriately to Jesus’ death than Peter and the other disciples did. Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial suggests, in Borrell’s view, that failure is not the last word to be associated with the disciples, that the disciples are not ultimately discredited.[12] Borrell points out that when Jesus speaks of his return to Galilee, preceding his disciples (14:28), this is to be understood as a patent link to 16:7 and is a clear invitation to reunification.[13] For those who, like Mark (cf. Acts 15:38) and Peter, failed in the face of opposition, this would have provided tremendous encouragement and hope.

In chapter 13, Jesus assumes a restored relationship with those He recognizes will fail Him. Looking ahead to the future, He warns them to "watch" (13:33-37), even though He knows that they will fail to watch in Gethsemane (14:37). He warns them that they will be handed over to "councils" (13:9) just as He will be. He warns them that they will appear before governors and kings (13:9) just as He will. Even though they ran from this possibility at His passion, Mark anticipates that each reader will decide for himself how he will respond to the persecution facing him. Will he flee or obey? Will he doubt God or trust Him? The reader is left with a choice. How will his story end?[14]

[1] Walter F. Sullivan, "The Gospel of Mark." The Catholic Virginian. January 17, 2003.

[2] Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament: Second Edition. United Bible Societies, 1994: 102-106. Metzger: 102-103 notes:

The last twelve verses of the commonly received text of Mark are absent from the two oldest Greek manuscripts (a and B), from the Old Latin codex Bobiensis (itk), the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript, about one hundred Armenian manuscripts, and the two oldest Georgian manuscripts (written A.D. 897 and A.D. 913). Clement of Alexandria and Origen show no knowledge of the existence of these verses; furthermore Eusebius and Jerome attest that the passage was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark known to them. The original form of the Eusebian sections (drawn up by Ammonius) makes no provision for numbering sections of the text after 16.8. Not a few manuscripts that contain the passage have scribal notes stating that older Greek copies lack it, and in other witnesses the passage is marked with asterisks or obeli, the conventional signs used by copyists to indicate a spurious addition to a document.

After examining the textual evidence for the fours possible endings of Mark, he concludes: 104, "On the basis of good external evidence and strong internal considerations it appears that the earliest ascertainable form of the Gospel of Mark ended with 16.8."

[3] Robert C. Tannehill, "The Disciples in Mark: The Function of a Narrative Role." Journal of Religion 57, 1977: 404

[4] This may be why Jesus instructed them not to tell anyone about Him after Peter’s confession in 8:29. Their lack of understanding would have made them inadequate messengers. "It is not as if the disciples had discerned the nature of Jesus but are prohibited from broadcasting it, but it is that the disciples have a wrong conception about his nature." - Joseph B. Tyson, The Blindness of the Disciples in Mark. Reprinted in The Messianic Secret, ed. Christopher Tuckett, Fortress, 1983: 36

[5] Tannehill: 400

[6] Ibid: 402

[7] Ibid: 403

[8] Ibid: footnote 38

[9] This verb is the same as in Jesus’ call to take up the cross and follow Him in 8:34.

[10] Ibid: 404-405

[11] Ibid: 392-393.

[12] Agustí Borrell, The Good News of Peter's Denial: A Narrative and Rhetorical Reading of Mark 14:54.66-72. trans. Sean Conlon. University of South Florida International Studies in Formative Christianity and Judaism 7. Scholars Press, 1998: 80-82.

[13] Ibid.

[14] It is significant, of course, to note that following the reception of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, the disciples became changed men. Whereas previously they had been characterized by fear, now they became bold witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is not to say that they did not still struggle with fear from time to time. Mark's desertion in Pamphylia (Acts 13:13) and Peter's withdrawal from the Gentiles because of fear (Galatians 2:11-14) stand as marked reminders of the disciple's continued need to choose obedience over disobedience, to live by faith rather than to allow fear to control one's life.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Blessed are the Persecuted?

Ever noticed how often what we say, even as Christians and what Jesus said are often so at odds. This is especially true as we consider the topic of persecution.

Isn't it ironic that whereas the early Christians expressed gratitude for the privilege of suffering for Christ, we often thank God for the privilege of not suffering for Him? We say that we are blessed for living in a country where we are not being persecuted. Yet, we fail to reconcile this with that Jesus said in Matthew 5 when He declared that blessed are those who are persecuted. It is the persecuted who gain the kingdom of heaven.

These latter words appear, of course, in Jesus' teaching of the disciples in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. He begins his teaching by listing characteristics that will be developed in His disciples - characteristics that society sees as weaknesses but which He says are signs of God's blessing, traits that people should be congratulated for possessing. When a man or woman accepts the demands of God's kingdom, having bowed before Jesus Christ and acknowledged Him as Lord, these characteristics begin to be developed. All true followers of Jesus possess them to a certain degree, and the call of Christ is to embrace them even deeper.

There is a call to exhibit these characteristics in the rest of the "sermon," but the Beatitudes are addressed to those who already are these things in some way. Jesus is speaking to those who have surrendered all by deciding to follow Him. In a sense one could say that these characteristics are the fruits of true repentance. All Christians are to be like these, not just mature or exceptional ones. These traits draw a line between those who are in the kingdom and those who are not.

Unfortunately, the Beatitudes are so familiar to many of us that I suspect they have lost their intended impact for many of us. We do not feel the sting that the early listeners must have felt when Jesus calls "blessed" those whom the world calls unfortunate or even cursed. He congratulates those whom the world would pity. He encourages attitudes and conduct that the world would discourage-the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers.
Now, conceivably, we might be able to see positive aspects to each of these first seven attitudes. But in verse 10, Jesus calls "blessed" those whom I would suspect almost no one would consider blessed - those who suffer for doing what is right.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)

In order to gain Jesus' perspective on the blessedness of persecution, it is essential that we understand what He is teaching in this central passage. Five principles regarding persecution stand out from this passage:

1. The most basic, but not to be overlooked, principle is that this suffering is "on my account." It is for Christ's cause. Men and women suffer in His service, for the fulfillment of His purposes in the world, because of their allegiance to His priorities and standards. Ultimately, God's people do not suffer for their faith; they suffer for Him.

2. Jesus directs their attention to the fate of the prophets, God's messengers in past generations. He means to instruct the disciples that they, like Him, are in the line of the prophets, in that they are God's messengers to the world of their time. They have been chosen specifically for this purpose - to be sent to preach God's message given to them by Jesus, just as He was. After Jesus was killed, they would take His place and continue His ministry. In Matthew 16, Jesus will shock them with the assertion that in order to accomplish the purposes of God, it was necessary for Him and for all who follow after Him to take up crosses. Suffering, sacrifice, and rejection are the norm for those who truly serve as God's messengers. Christ's cross will provide the means of salvation; the disciple's cross will provide the means by which this salvation is taken to the world. Christ's cross is for propitiation; the disciple's cross is for propagation. Both crosses are needed if the message of the kingdom is to be taken into a world in rebellion to its Creator.

3. The disciples are not only to stoically accept the evil done to them by others, but they are to rejoice and be glad. Later in verses 39,44,45, they are instructed to love those who persecute them. As witnesses, their role was to bring the persecutors to God and to salvation. The persecuted are to be in service to those who cause them the suffering. Just as the Father gives light and rain to those who revile Him and refuse to love Him, so are His children to bring blessings to those who curse them, seeking the good for those who seek only to do them harm.

4. There are tremendous past, present, and future promises that the persecuted can lay hold of. In verse 10, persecuted disciples are assured that they are possessors of the kingdom of heaven, just as the "poor in spirit" were (verse 3). The parallel between the two is not accidental. The "poor in spirit" are those to whom the message of the gospel has been preached by the Servant of God (see Isaiah 61:1).

In turn, like the Servant, they have been rejected and despised because they have taken up the Servant's mission: to proclaim the gospel to all nations. They have therefore become possessors of the kingdom of heaven, partakers in a sovereignty ruled by God. This kingdom is already partially present, experienced in part by those who, by faith, have submitted to God's kingly rule over their lives. Its final culmination is still in the future and it is that which the disciples anticipate. In the present, however, they experience ridicule, persecution, and slander (verse 11), as they actively seek to bring others into the kingdom. The additional promise of verse 12 differs from those in the preceding Beatitudes in that it is much more complex. The promise to the persecuted in verse 12 is declared in two causal clauses. The first looks forward to the reward in heaven; the second looks back to the pattern of suffering experienced by the prophets in God's redemptive plan. Disciples are assured that that they will be rewarded in heaven for their service for God. There is hope of better things because of the coming kingdom of God. They are also assured, as we noted earlier, that suffering for the sake of the kingdom is not unusual; indeed, it is the experience of all of God's messengers. The persecuted stand in good company and can be assured that God is present in their ministry. Because of these future and past promises, they can rejoice in the present (verse 12).

5. Persecution will be inevitable. The language used here depicts a situation where persecution is the expected norm for those who choose to follow Him. Jesus wants His disciples to understand right from the start that the path of Christ is not always an easy one. It is the right path, however, even though the world will sometimes move beyond ridicule, misunderstanding, and denunciation to violent rejection - seeking not only to silence the message of the gospel, but to remove the very presence of the messenger.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

What to do with the imprecatory psalms (part 2)

imprecatory-psalm-smashing-baby How are we to take Psalm 58 with its prayer to God to smash in the mouths of their enemies (verse 7), and the expressed wish of the psalmist to have the righteous bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked (verse 11)? Or of Psalm 109 with its prayer that God would make the children of the wicked man fatherless and his wife a widow (verse 9)? And what of the author of Psalm 137 rejoicing at the thought of the little ones of Babylon being dashed against the rocks (verse 9)? How are these psalms to be reconciled with the teachings of Jesus to love one’s enemies and to forgive them?

Several things need to be considered. First, it must be remembered that these are prayers for divine justice, not human grudges.[1] The petitioners are asking for God to take direct action; they do not ask for the power to take things into their own hands and to be able to personally punish their foes, nor is permission ever granted for them to do so.[2] In these petitions, the psalmists pour out their pain, anger and hurt. The tone is indicative of the horrors that they have faced.[3] They startle us into feeling something of the desperation that produced these words.[4] But the psalmists do not hide these less "noble" sentiments from us, and God, in His sovereignty, inspired them to record them for our good. Among the lessons we may learn from their inclusion in the canon is the fact that God is less shockable than we are, looks beyond the words to the heart of the supplicant and is afflicted in all our afflictions.[5] Hence, He is pleased when His people pour out their hearts to Him in their entirety.

Additionally, it should be noted that forgiveness of enemies and gaining God’s perspective is not found in concealing these emotions, but in acknowledging them to God, which is what these writers do.[6] As Bonhoeffer writes, "It would mean much if we would learn that we must earnestly pray to God in such distress and that whoever entrusts revenge to God dismisses any thought of ever taking revenge himself."[7]

To rejoice in the fall of our enemies is also not strictly an Old Testament sentiment. The fall of Babylon in Revelation 18, for example contains language reminiscent of the imprecatory psalms.[8] Jesus instructed His disciples to curse cities that did not receive them (Matt.10:14). He, Himself, called down judgment on Bethsaida and Capernaum (Matt. 11:21-24). Paul declared a curse on anyone who did not love the Lord (1 Cor. 16:22) and on anyone who preaches another Jesus (Galatians 1:8-9). The martyrs in heaven cry out for vengeance on those who killed them (Rev. 6:9-10). Hence, the desire to see justice is not strictly a reflection of a less graceful Old Testament disposition corrected in the revelation of Christ.

The imprecatory psalms also challenge the reader to identify with the oppressed and suffering, even though he, himself, may be quite comfortable.[9] They invite us to pray on behalf of others, as they evoke in us an awareness of the wickedness that is in the world. They may not, as Tate, reminds us, be our prayers, at the present moment, but they are the prayers of our brothers and sisters who are trampled down by persons and powers beyond their control.[10] The Christian church has long seen these psalms as the prayers of Christ on behalf of the suffering and needy. Bonhoeffer revived this old tradition in his small book Psalms: Prayer Book of the Bible[11] and his sermon on Psalm 58.[12] The incarnate Son of God, knowing all of our weakness, is able to stand in our place before God and pray these prayers on our behalf. Hence, they really truly are our prayers, as well as His.[13] As the perfect Son of God, He is able to pray these prayers without guilt, which we cannot do for we are liable to be reminded of our own guilt and how we often act as those against whom we are praying. Hence, these psalms may awake in us an acute awareness of our own violent sins and hatred for others, and of our need for confession and repentance.[14]

[1] Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, When Skeptics Ask. Victor Books, 1992: 242.
[2] Marvin E. Tate. Psalm 51-100. Word Biblical Commentary, Word, 1990: 88-89.
[3] Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72. InterVarsity Press, 1973: 27.
[4] Ibid.: 28
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid: 88.
[7] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "A Bonhoeffer Sermon." Theology Today 38, 1982: 469.
[8] It may also be helpful to note that God is mentioned as a God of love more often in the Old Testament than in the New (cf. Geisler and Howe: 242).
[9] Tate: 89.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Psalms: Prayer Book of the Bible. trans. James H. Burtness. Augsburg Publishing Co., 1970: 20-21.
[12] Bonhoeffer, "A Bonhoeffer Sermon"
[13] Bonhoeffer, Psalms: Prayer Book of the Bible: 21
[14] cf. Tate: 90

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What to do with the imprecatory psalms (part 1)

As part of my doctoral studies on suffering for righteousness in the book of Psalms (before I had to abandon them because of health issues), I had to wrestle through what biblical scholars call "The Imprecatory Psalms." These are the psalms that cry out to God for vengeance on their enemies. They call down curses on their foes and look forward to their destruction. Psalms like 137 that declares, "Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock! (verse 9)." Or Psalm 58:

O God, break the teeth in their mouths; tear out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord! Let them vanish like water that runs away; when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted. Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime, like the stillborn child who never sees the sun. Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns, whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away! The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked. (verses 6-10)

Many Christians are uncomfortable with these verses. The Anglican Church of Canada's Book of Common Prayer actually removes them from the Psalter as being inappropriate for Christians to pray such sentiments.

Recently, however, I came across an excellent discussion on the Imprecatory Psalms by John N. Bray, pastor of the Bellewood Presbyterian Church in Bellevue, Washington. Entitled, "Crying for Justice" (Kregel, 2005). In this concise exposition, Dr. Bray demonstrates conclusively, I believe, that these words are the prayers of God's people today as well as they face extreme suffering and oppression. In page 13, he summarizes his position with the following observations:

But the question may yet be asked, "How can it be right for Christians to cry out for divine vengeance and violence, as in the imprecatory psalms?" Four observations from Scripture address this question.

First, the vengeance appealed for is not personally enacted. Rather, God is called upon to be the Avenger.

Second, this appeal is based upon the covenant promises of God, most notable of which are "He who curses you, I will curse" (Gen. 12:3), and "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay" (Deut. 32:35). If God has so promised, then it would not seem wrong for his people to petition him (even passionately) to fulfill these promises!!

Third, both testaments record examples of God's people on earth calling down curses or crying for vengeance. Yet there is no literary or theological intimation of divine disapproval over such sentiments being expressed. Indeed, the implication is that, in its appropriate place, such utterances are commendable (cf. the imprecatory psalms and the Pauline and Petrine curses of Gal. 1:8-9 and Acts 8:20).
Fourth, Scripture further records an instance in which God's people in heaven, where there is no sin, cry out for divine vengeance and are comforted by the assurance of its impending enactment (Rev. 6:9-11). Since these martyred saints are perfected, their entreaty would presumably be "right."

Of course, Day develops his thought much more completely in the rest of the book. But I thought that I might just whet your appetite for more. I would highly recommend this valuable resource. You can order one from most online book stores like Chapters, Amazons or Abesbooks.

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