There is something of a tendency today to look back into history and impose 21st century values on previous ages. Without question some of the attitudes that passed for orthodox then were profoundly wrong and wildly racist. Part of that is when nations or individuals within them call on other nations to apologise for wrongs and injustices of past generations. You can understand why but is any apology meaningful when a trade deal is at stake? For example, so far as I know no nation wants to set up a trading partnership with the Cherokee nation and no European nation, to the best of my knowledge, has ever apologised to the native Americans for taking their land by force and stealing its vast wealth.
We cannot avoid looking at the past through the lens of our own values but the best way to make amends is to go the extra mile to ensure that such attitudes that were offensive then have no place in our society or in our relations with other peoples today.
When we read Psalm 35:4-10 it makes us very uncomfortable because we see it through the lens of New Testament teaching and it doesn’t seem quite right that David prays for disaster to fall on his enemies. Is that not to ask for revenge? What about Jesus teaching to pray for our enemies and those who abuse us? Well read the following carefully.......
4 May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin
be turned back in dismay. 5 May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them away; 6 may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them. 7 Since they hid their net for me without cause and without cause dug a pit for me, 8 may ruin overtake them by surprise – may the net they hid entangle them, may they fall into the pit, to their ruin. 9 Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation. 10 My whole being will exclaim, ‘Who is like you, Lord? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.’
I’d contend that David is not asking for revenge but justice and he is not planning to take it himself but appealing to the righteous judge the merits of his case. Yes he is praying that God would deal with his enemies who have plotted his harm, but in doing so he is giving over judgement to God. How do we know this is so? Look especially at verse 9 & 10 his confidence is in God and he looks for his salvation. We see that very narrowly but in biblical terms it’s the entire blessing of God. The most telling thing is that he trusts in God as one who rescues the poor from the injustice of the strong, and the needy from those who rob them. Sometimes we have so narrowed the focus of salvation to our personal relationship with Jesus that we forget the outworking of that is to live well, to be concerned that the poor and the needy receive justice and are cared for. Think I’m kidding? Take a look at Micah 6:8.