Psalm 94

The psalm give us a vocabulary of prayer for everything we feel in life. When we were in the midst of recording Psalm 94 there was a surge of terrible persecution of Christians in Northern Iraq. When I heard about the evils that were being inflicted on men, women and children I found myself at a loss to know how to respond. Then one day as I was listening to our evolving recording of Psalm 94 I suddenly felt that this psalm was expressing everything that I wanted to say to God but didn’t really know how. I felt that I really understood the sentiment of this prayer.
Psalm 94 is a prayer for the vengeance of God upon those who do evil. Are we allowed to pray for this? Aren’t we forbidden from taking vengeance? Yes we are, and Paul explains why: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Romans 12:19). The prohibition against personal vengeance is not a ‘new covenant’ thing, it was always part of God’s law. We are not the judge of others, God is. The writer of the psalm knew that, and he affirms it throughout this psalm. But he wants to see God do what he says he will do. Every supplication in the psalms, in fact, is doing just this: asking God to do what he promised he will do. They are all based on the covenant promises, in this case one of very basic ones: “whoever curses you I will curse” (Gen. 12:3). This is what it means to pray in faith: to pray on the basis of and with an appeal to the covenant promises of God. And in Christ we have full access to the whole favour of God expressed in the covenant.
One of the most anticipated events in the bible is the final day of judgement when justice will finally be done. Prayers like that of Psalm 94 are powerful expressions of anticipation for the very thing that God has promised to do. It is right that we should anticipate this and even long for it. It is our consolation in the face of a continual barrage of gross injustices in this world. God does not want us to respond complacently to evil and injustice. He is angry about it and it is natural that we should be too. The reason that we should not take the position of judgement is simply because we are far from perfect ourselves and therefore in no position to ‘throw stones.’ We must treat others with the same grace as we would have others treat us. But our grief and disturbance needs expression. Psalm 94 is not an expression of a desire for personal vengeance but a desire for things to be put right once and for all by God. Psalms like this give us a valid way of responding to evil and injustice. Against the backdrop of the evil and injustice we see in our world today it makes perfect sense.

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