Psalm 139: The weird parts
We like to read Psalm 139 as a reminder of how God feels towards us. This famous passage talks about God’s heart for us. It paints a picture that brings theology alive and has been comforting to shamed souls for centuries. It is a beautiful piece of writing that is marked in our Bibles and quoted heavily in church literature and sermons alike.
But there is more to this Psalms then we like to admit. I bet you marker skipped over a few verses at the end, probably starting at verse 19 all the way to verse 22. It goes something like this:
For they speak against You in sin. Those who hate You use Your name in a wrong way.
And do I not hate those who rise up against You?
I hate them with the strongest hate. They have become men who hate me.
This doesn’t sound very Christian, don’t you think? It goes against everything we learn in church today and if we talk theology, we better skip this part. Killing our enemies is not on most churches agendas.
And yet it’s in the Bible. And it’s not hidden away in some of the minor prophets but it’s right under our favorite and most-quoted Psalm. It’s hard to ignore and a good reason to take a close look at why it’s there in the first place.
The Old Testament
We like to think of this passage as a remnant of the old covenant. David wrote it before the curtain of the ripped in half upon the death of Jesus (Matthew 27:51) and we entered a new covenant. We are now told to love our enemies instead of hating them, to embrace the Gentiles (which is most of us, I guess) and understand that our sins are taken care off on the cross.
This is a valid point. Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). But since the Bible is an integrated narrative, we now interpret the Old Testament through the eyes of the new covenant. We take the warfare strategies from the Old Testament and use them in the spirit (re: prayer). So when we look at hating our enemies, we have to understand who our enemies are. So in the world unseen, who would that be?
The devil has brought immense destruction to this earth. We see human trafficking, slavery, war and murder all across the globe; abhorrent sins that threaten the image of God in humanity. The works of darkness have messed up many parts of this world and left them unrecognizable from their purpose. Satan is our enemy and he does everything to not only get us down but sent us to a violent death.
Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord?
My wife started to pursue her hate for the devil with the same passion she pursued the Lord for many years. It was her who first got this revelation from the Lord and it is her who drills it into our kids.
Who do we love?
Who do we hate?
Just like our children, we need an outlet to passionately hate the enemy. He is the one we are fighting against and most of our prayers are directed to stop something he put into motion. We call him the enemy but we don’t treat him as such. He’s just the red dude hanging out in the background, serving as some mythological reminder that evil is not a concept.
But he is as real as the suffering he is responsible for. We say God lets evil happen but is it not the devil who planned it? It is him who celebrates when humanity takes a hit. We have to hate the devil to make sense of our Christian worldview. Only when we hate evil can we love what’s good.
And only if love what’s good can we bring the kingdom to this world.