There are many places in the Bible people are just not comfortable with. They either don’t like what it means or are not sure what it means, so they just avoid it. We don’t have the option to only believe or deal with parts of the Bible that we personally like. “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim. 3:16). Even the parts we don’t like.
Many Christians try to ignore Psalm 139:19-22 because they don’t understand it. David goes from praising God for his amazing thoughts and how vast and deep God’s knowledge is to asking God to punish the wicked. Check out the strong words David uses:
“Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies” (vv. 19, 21-22).
Wait a minute, did he just say what I think he said? Did David really just say he hates people with complete hatred? Help me double check…Yep, he said it! Why would David say this? Why would he want his enemies to be killed? Why does he hate these people? Is it a good thing? Is that something we should do?
When we approach difficult passage like this, we are tempted to spiritualize or theologize them away. We try to come to the Bible’s defense. We don’t expect to read what we just read, so we try to make it into something it doesn’t say. The problem is, we don’t have the authority to create our own meaning of difficult Bible passages just because we are uncomfortable with what they say. Instead of skating around difficult texts we must face them head on if we are to understand what they actually mean. The goal of Bible study is not to understand Scripture according to your own preferences or cultural hermeneutics.
The goal of Bible study is to discern the original meaning of the author by faithfully and diligently digging into the context of the passage. Though we can come up with many principles and theological truths from a tough passage like Psalm 139:19-22, we are misguided if those principles and truths don’t deal honestly with the passage itself. We can’t place meaning on a text. Rather, we must draw out the meaning that is already there.
So, for Psalm 139:19-22, we need to consider a few important contextual matters.
First, we need to remember is that the Psalms are songs, or prayers set to music. They also express so many different human emotions. In this one psalm, David expresses thanksgiving, praise, adoration, and anger. If nothing else, this psalm teaches us that it is okay to come to God with our emotions. It is good to express how you are feeling to God in prayer. God is not looking for you to be fake in your prayers. If you feel confused, tell God you feel confused! If you don’t understand how God could allow something to happen, tell him! Honesty with God in prayer is a sign of intimacy with God.
Second, we need to remember that God knows and sees everything. Why does David move from talking about God’s amazing knowledge to asking him to slay the wicked? Because David saw something in the knowledge of God that we need to see. God knows and sees everything. No one, not even the world’s most cunning criminal, can ultimately get away with evil. There are many injustices in the world. But with God there is no injustice, only justice. Because he knows all things and see all things, his power to judge is real and just as big as his knowledge. No one can get away with evil with God.
There will be a day of judgment. So, we should do two things.
Pray for God to judge evil (slay the wicked) and for him to show mercy (save the wicked). Praise God that he does both in Christ. You don’t have to seek revenge, because God will judge all sin for every person (including you and me), either in hell or in Christ.