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Lecture Notes on the Imprecatory Psalms

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  • Peter

    Some questions – How would the people of Israel before Jesus have known that “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” was wrong? It sounds like your method is to reinterpret the Old Testament in light of some of Jesus’ words. But this wouldn’t have helped them because, as you say, there’s nothing in the context or the intent of the author to indicate that the text was intended by God to be read ironically.

    And this seems to go against what Jesus said earlier in Matt5 when he says that he didn’t come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them.

    How can God love good, and not hate evil? And if God (who is holy) does hate evil shouldn’t his people reflect this? “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths (Ps25)”

    • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

      Peter, thanks for your questions.

      “How would the people of Israel before Jesus have known that “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” was wrong?”

      First of all there are many OT passages that advocate love for the outsider. Think about the living witness in the inclusion of outsiders like Ruth and Rahab.

      Second, general revelation reflects the natural law writteon on our heart (Rom. 2:14-15).

      Third, Jesus embodies the principle of “progressive revelation” and the very concept entails later peoples receiving insight not available to earlier peoples. Each is judged relative to the light they’ve been given.

      “It sounds like your method is to reinterpret the Old Testament in light of some of Jesus’ words.”

      Indeed, Jesus IS the hermeneutic for the OT. He himself taught this as he identified himself as the Resurrection, the Temple, the Priest, the Prophet and so on.

      “And this seems to go against what Jesus said earlier in Matt5 when he says that he didn’t come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them.”

      If you are proposing that Jesus fulfilled the mandate to hate one’s enemies, how do you propose he did that?

      “How can God love good, and not hate evil?”

      Nobody said God doesn’t hate evil. Of course he does. But the imprecatory psalmist envisions God hating some individuals and loving others. Moreover, those individuals God hates he looks forward to punishing. I believe God loves all people so I cant agree with the imprecatory psalmist.

      And keep in mind that the imprecatory psalmist is no less sinful than those he hates (Rom. 3:23). So if God hates people because of their sinful nature then we’re all in trouble.

      • Peter

        Apologies for the delay in responding.I am not convinced. The OT definitely presents a God of mercy and love (eg Hosea 11), but these attributes of his character are meaningless unless they’re understood next to his justice and holiness. There is a consistency throughout God’s revelation (which is by the Holy Spirit working through people) in the outworking of these characteristics – God’s holiness and righteousness, seen when he judges individuals, families and nations, and his mercy and love when he saves those who deserve judgement. Nowhere is God’s love, justice, mercy and holiness seen more clearly than in the cross of Jesus Christ.

        Your interpretation of “progressive revelation” doesn’t just expand on existing OT ideas but requires the re-definition of existing revelation. I don’t see this as biblical – the OT people would have no authoritative indication of what was right (and I reject the idea that the human heart is capable of providing a reliable moral analysis, given it’s fallen nature) and the NT authors and Jesus appeal to the OT as the authoritative word of God and hold people accountable to it.

        I agree that God loves all people – but I disagree that he only has one undifferentiated love for all. God loves all people because he created them, but clearly this is different to the love he has for his Son. As Christians we have been adopted into God’s family as Sons in Christ and are known and loved by our Father intimately with a love that is unknown by those who reject him (and who are rejected by Him).

        With the biblical writers we all long for justice to be handed down – we balk at the evil in our world and look forward to the day when it is dealt with. I pray for justice to be done and think that the punishing of sinners is to the glory of God’s righteousness, but I also pray that those who deserve God’s judgement will turn to Christ. I believe that this is also to God’s glory, holds together all aspects of his nature and presents a consistent and biblical view of scripture.

        • http://www.randalrauser.com/ Randal Rauser

          If you believe that God loves all people then you disagree with the imprecatory psalmist. He is quite clear that God hates some people. You can’t have it both ways.

          • Peter

            I would say first of all that hate and love are not mutually exclusive – the opposite of both love and hate being apathy. God is love, but if the object of his love is wronged what should his response be? God hates sin because it destroys the good that he loves. Secondly, yes I believe that God, as creator, loves all people, but he by no means loves all people evenly. Clearly Israel were specially loved, repeatedly being called a treasured possession. Likewise, those who trust in Christ are loved as sons, once again Ephesians 2 – “because of the great love with which he loved us”. This has nothing to do with merit on the part of the people of God, but is entirely up to God’s choice.

            God is able to differentiate his love in the same way I can between my wife, brother, friends and neighbours. That’s how he can execute justice on the Amorites and at the same time save his people.

        • tikhon

          I think part of the conflict comes from our understanding of God’s holiness and righteousness in relation to God’s grace. When we think that grace is somehow an exception to his justice, then it becomes easier to think of God acting in the ways you expect him to act with regard the treatment of enemies. If, however, we see grace not as the exception but the proper working out of his justice, then I believe things change. God’s justice results in him sacrificing his Son. If he is to be just, this is what he must do. He doesn’t become just by blighting out his enemies. It is the punishment of the wicked that is the exception to his justice, not the other way around.

          • Peter

            God’s grace acts in harmony with his justice but they’re not the same thing. God’s holiness and justice results in the condemnation of sin (seen in the cross and in the destruction of the Amorites); by his grace and mercy he chooses to send his son to the cross, that the just penalty of sin could be met for the elect who are, by faith, in Christ. Eg: Ephesians 2:1-10 (we are dead objects of wrath, but God was merciful, making us alive in Christ.

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