Imprecation: Biblical? Christian?

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Feb 10, 2009 No Comments ›› John Eidsmoe

Imprecation: Biblical? Christian?

Dr. Robert E. Fugate, an Omaha pastor who holds a Ph.D in Christian Intellectual Thought and a Master of Divinity, has written a fascinating book called BIBLICAL IMPRECATIONS: CHRISTIANS’ SECRET WEAPON.
Wait a minute! Imprecation? “Imprecate” is defined as “invoking a curse upon” someone or something. It brings to mind the picture of a fanatical priest on a mountaintop calling upon the gods to rain down plagues and catastrophes upon anyone who has offended the priest. Surely that sort of madness can’t have anything to do with a religion based on love.
But as Dr. Fugate carefully establishes, the imprecatory Psalms are numerous, and they are part of the Bible that Christian call the Word of God. We must therefore think carefully before dismissing them as not appropriate for the Christian era.
Furthermore, Dr. Fugate says, the New Testament is replete with citations and allusions to the Old Testament imprecatory Psalms: Psalm 68:8 (Hebrews 12:26, Ephesians 4:8); 68:18 (Ephesians 4:8); 69:4 (John 15:25); 69:9a (John 2:17); 69:9b (Romans 15:3); 69:21 (Matthew 27:34, 48, Mark 15:23, 36, Luke 23’36, John 19:28f); 69:22-23 (Romans 11:9f; 69:25 (Acts 1:20); 79:1 (Luke 21:24, Rev. 11:2); 79:3 (Rev. 16:6); 69:25 (Acts 1:20); 79:1 (Luke 21:24, Rev. 11:2), 79:3 (Rev. 16:6), 79:6 (I Thess. 4:5, II Thess. 1:8; 79:10 (Rev. 6:10, 19:2); 109:4f, 7f (John 17:12); 109:8 (Acts 1:20b); 109:25 (Matthew 27:39, Mark 15:29); 109:28 (I Cor. 4:12); 137:8 (Rev. 18:6); 137:9 (Luke 19:44); 139:1 (Romans 8:27; 139:14 (Rev. 15:3); 139:21 (Rev. 2:6). Clearly, God included these imprecatory Psalms in His Word for a purpose, and we should attempt to discern that purpose. Yet, how many times have you used the imprecatory Psalms? How many sermons have you heard preached on the imprecatory Psalms? Is something missing here.
You may be thinking, “Great! My neighbor’s kids keep running through my flower garden, and they play loud music that keeps me up at night. Now, where are those imprecatory Psalms? I’ll get ‘em!”
If so, you’ve missed the point. Dr. Fugate demonstrates that the imprecatory Psalms are directed at God’s enemies, not at our personal enemies. The motivation for imprecatory Psalms is zeal for God’s Name, His glory, and His kingdom, not our personal vindication. The imprecatory Psalm does not seek to punish the wicked but commends them to God’s judgment. And the first hope of the imprecatory Psalm is that God will so move the hearts of His enemies that they turn from their evil ways.
Nice guy that I am, I have not been in the habit of praying imprecatory prayers and Psalms. But maybe that has been my failure. Paul wrote, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness..” (II Timothy 3:16). He didn’t say “All Scripture except the imprecatory Psalms.” The imprecatory Psalms are one more weapon in God’s arsenal for combatting evil. All of us should devote more time, study, and prayer to the role imprecatory Psalms should play in our lives.
I thank Dr. Fugate for bringng the imprecatory Psalms to my attention. Those who would like his book, as well as other books he has written, may contact Thy Word Is Truth Publishers, P.O. Box 641592, Omaha, NE 68164

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