9Help us God our Savior, because of your glorious reputation!
Rescue us and erase our sins because of your good name.
10Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?”
Let them know before our very eyes
When you avenge the spilled blood of your servants. — Psalm 79:9-10
Most of us, probably all of us, have resentments and regrets. There is probably somebody in your life whom you would like to have a little bit of vengeance on. Maybe it’s someone at work who doesn’t think you’re much of an asset to your company. Wouldn’t you just like to show them sometime how much better you are than they are?
It could even be in your spiritual life. Perhaps there is someone who thinks you don’t know your Bible very well. Wouldn’t you like to give the exact reference for some passage in front of a whole bunch of people and just show that person up? Or it could be spiritual. Wouldn’t you like to see some overwhelming manifestation of God’s presence in your life that would make everyone realize that God really is on your side?
Now some of you are busily denying that any such thoughts pass through your head. You see, we’ve gotten the sense in the church that such desires on a personal level are so far out there that we’re not really supposed to feel them, not if we’re spiritual at least. (We still seem to have an exception for vengeance at the national level which we treat differently from the personal level.)
We have detached ourselves so much that we tend to ignore parts of the Psalms that reflect that attitude. I was starting to read over the lectionary texts for next week, and one of them, for United Methodists at least, is Psalm 79. But not the whole Psalmâ€”just verses 1-9. Thus we get to hear the mourning at injustice and the prayer for God’s salvation, but when the prayer gets bloodthirsty, we don’t read that in church.
Isn’t it interesting that some people would prefer not to read one of the Bible prayers fully in church. It’s too violent and vengeful for us! But the fact is that a desire for justice is good and appropriate, and a desire for vengeance, though it is very dangerous, is a natural thing. What’s more, I don’t think we desire vengeance any less than those Israelites did in the time of this Psalm. We’re just better at pretending.
But I’m not calling for us to go on a crusade for vengeance. We’ve been talking about being sinners and finding grace. Resentment and the seeking of vengeance are sins, and they need grace. But we don’t get to the grace part until we acknowledge the sin part. Until we admit the hostility, resentment, anger, and even the inner violence, we cannot ask for grace and mercy to bring us into line with God’s gracious will.
How about ending the week by taking a lesson from the Psalmist? Acknowledge the things that have made you angry to God. Then ask for his grace to deal with those attitudes, and those people, as Jesus would. Your anger and resentment is natural. Grace is supernatural.