Wednesday, January 07, 2009

John Piper on Impreccatory Psalms

During seminary, I studied the Psalms with a professor whose dissertation was on them. She was great fun to work with because you could count on her to fly off the handle if you mentioned a NT appropriation of the Psalmic material. Yeah... studying Psalm 22 with her was a riot.

(To her credit, she wanted us to appreciate them as Jewish religious artifacts...but I'm a Daily Office pray-er, so I'm forced to take them as Christian Scripture!)

The impreccatory psalms were clearly the hardest for my classmates to deal with. Most of them retreated into either the old stock German critic reply (elucidated by Dr. Piper) or talked about how it was a cry for justice from [fill in the blank oppressed group]. I didn't win any friends by reminding folks that God has no problem getting his hate on.

But a worship professor gave me a new avenue on approaching tough stuff like this in the psalms: "If you're going to bitch and moan, you're better off doing it to God. At least He can actually do something about it."

The Psalms let us know that it's okay to be fully human toward God. He can take it - He might even transform it! The Incarnation lets us know that our humanity is no barrier to true union with the Godhead. So pray a psalm (or 2 or 3) today!


Tim said...

Even most conservative/evangelical Christians have a tough time with the impreccatory psalms. I made a blog post many moons ago about this (it has since been gobbled, but I'll see if it's retrievable). Have you, perchance, read James Adams' War Psalms of the Prince of Peace?

Rev'd Chris Larimer said...

I haven't...but it sounds interesting. I once met a guy who contended that each Psalm was messianic. I'm not sure I go that far (except insofar as Israel itself is the type of Christ, the antitype), but it makes sense of a lot of them.

What's Adams' chief insight?

Tim said...

Essentially that the Psalms are indeed Messianic. However, they are very much war psalms "of the Prince of Peace." That is, the impreccatory psalms are announcements of the Lord's judgment upon His enemies. This is what happens if we do not kiss the Son lest He be angry.

I will see if I can dig up the old post, complete with quotes, and place it on my blog.

Landon Whitsitt said...

Oh man, I remember that class. That was a blast.