Psalm 58 is troubling to many readers.
“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.” Psalm 58:6-8
I taught a Bible study in the Psalms at the beginning of this year. We encountered a couple Psalms like this that contain what are called imprecatory prayers. Most of them are written by David. The language is violent, calling down judgment on his enemies. But when you read about David’s life, you don’t see David taking vengeance on anyone. In yesterday’s reading David is fleeing Jerusalem as a result of Absalom’s conspiracy to take over the throne. A man named Shimei calls down curses on David and throws stones at him as he flees. David refuses to allow his men to take vengeance on Shimei. David goes so far as to say that maybe Shimei’s cursing is from the Lord.
So where do these prayers come from?
Walter Brueggemann helped me out as I researched this question. He speaks of this psalm in particular and says that godly people aren’t supposed to feel like this. But what if they do? What do you do with the emotions that roil within you? It’s helpful to remember that David was a man of war. He had many enemies, enemies that treated him unjustly, enemies that lived lives in defiance of God and God’s people.
Brueggemann’s point is that these psalms of imprecation are a way for David to take all the violent emotion he must be feeling and process it in prayer.
Take everything you feel and place it before the Lord in prayer. Prayer is a way to process it all, to remember that God is the only perfect judge.