How Can I Pray This Psalm? A Response To Psalm 83

After the calm assurance of psalm 82, psalm 83 is, by contrast full of anger and enmity, a long rant calling down God’s vengeance on the enemies of Israel. How are we to pray it as Christians, knowing we are called on to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us?

In the end I felt it turned on the final verse which is about making known the name of God:

And they shall know that thou, whose Name is Jehovah: art only the most Highest over all the earth.

For the Christian the true name of God is not simply ‘Jehovah/Yahweh, but it is Jesus/Yeshuah which mean Yahweh Saves. Jesus absorbs all the wrath and righteous anger in this psalm and turns it into love, so that unlike the psalmist here we can proclaim peace, rather than war.

As always you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the play button or the title and you can find the other poems in this evolving series by putting the word ‘psalms’ into the search box on the right.

The full set of these poems has now been published as a book David’s Crown which you can buy from UK Amazon Here, or, in North America, it should soon be available from Amazon Here.

There is also going to be a launch event/webinar on Feb 11th at 7pm GMT it will be completely free and you can register for it Here.

LXXXIII Deus, quis similis?

As kindred in our father’s house at last

We will make peace with one another. Yet

We still make war; we still live in the past.

 

Even the psalmist here is filled with hate,

As gleefully he lists his enemies

And calls God’s wrath upon them: ‘let 

 

Them perish, let them burn in flame’ he cries,

And puts his curses in the mouth of God!

How can I pray this psalm? Give me the eyes

 

Of Jesus, help me see the iron rod

Which only crushes sin to free the sinful,

That I may know the holy name of God

 

Is not a name of wrath, but plentiful

Redemption: Jesus, Yeshuah

Yahweh saves, our God is merciful.

 

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “How Can I Pray This Psalm? A Response To Psalm 83

  1. This is *definitely* one psalm that sits with me at the metaphorical level. Some fragment of Augustine I read in a class once (if I’m remembering right) talks about viewing the “enemies” and “those who hate me” (all over the Psalms), as the INNER DEMONS, the interior war-mongers, the parts lured toward sin and evil.
    Even with that reading, all that vindictiveness seems harsh – in these days we talk more about *reconciling* – but at least it makes more sense to me.

  2. Jean Hall-Armstrong

    I love this poem. I look forward to your book being available in Canada. Thank you and God be with you always. Jean

  3. The imprecatory Psalms always left me, as a follower of Jesus, a bit ashamed when I’d read them. It was only Derek Kidner’s introduction in his “Psalms 1-72” that has helped me–“The passages on which we might be tempted to sit in judgment have the shocking immediacy of a scream, to startle us into feeling something of the desperation which produced them….Without [such passages] we should have less embarrassment but still less conception of the ‘dark places of the earth’ which are ‘full of the habitations of cruelty,’ a cruelty which can bring faithful men to the breaking point” (42, and see Ps. 74:20, AV)

  4. Grant

    Dr. Guite, may we not also see this as a prayer of the church (Old and New Testament) answered in Christ’s victory over the “heavenly powers” in His death and resurrection, and ultimately in His second coming? In my (Reformed) tradition, I think we’d be wary of attributing unbefitting motives to the Spirit-inspired Psalmist. Thank you!

    • malcolmguite

      Indeed. And you will see that that is how I’ve interpreted this psalm but it was certainly not what the original psalmist had in mind from a purely human pint of view though the Spirit was of course able to work with that

  5. Toby

    thank you for sharing your wrestling with this Psalm.

  6. St Paul's & St Mary's Harlow

    A very helpful, indeed, brilliant, way into this psalm. Thank you.Martin

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