Question: I notice that you put a lot of emphasis on singing the Old Testament Psalms. Why?
And aren’t some of these Psalms out of place in this New Testament period?
Pastor Bill responds (pt. 5):
When people ask if “some of the Psalms are out of place for the New Testament period”, in most cases I think they are wondering about the “Imprecatory Psalms” - the Psalms that call for judgment on God’s enemies.
• Let their own table before them become a snare; and when they are at peace, let it become a
trap…Pour out your indignation upon them, and let your burning anger overtake them. (Psalm
• He loved to curse, let curses come upon him. He did not delight in blessing. May it be far
from him. (Psalm 109:17)
• O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed, blessed shall he be who repays you with
what you have done to us. Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them
against the rock. (Psalm 137:8,9).
Are these, in fact, suitable for the New Testament period? Didn’t Jesus himself say that he did not come into the world to condemn it, but to save it (John 3:17)? Isn’t this Gospel age a time of the grace of God rather than the wrath of God?
The first thing to keep in mind is that God is a God of justice as well as mercy. So many New Testament texts speak of God’s wrath that comes on those who disobey the Gospel, e.g. Romans 1:18-32; Colossians 3:6, II Thessalonians 1:5-12, 2:8-12, much of the book of Revelation. And Jesus himself pronounced serious woes, i.e God’s judgments, on religious hypocrites, e.g. Matthew 23. One of the reasons people take the Gospel so lightly in our day is because God’s holiness and justice are barely spoken of. The Psalms (and singing them) helps correct that.
Second, note carefully that most of the Imprecatory Psalms include specific references to Christ, to his ministry, and to his Kingdom. For example, Psalm 69:1-21 are specific references to Christ’s sufferings. Psalm 69:21 is quoted in all four of the Gospels. Psalm 109:8 is a reference to Judas (Acts 1:20). Psalm 137:8 is developed in Revelation 18. And the very hard words of Psalm 137:9 are in view in Luke 19:44 and 20:18. It is arbitrary to say that some of these things apply to Christ, His Kingdom, and the Gospel age, and that others do not.
Third, there is something that I call “the dark side of the cross.” While it is very true that in running to Christ and his cross we find mercy because Jesus satisfied the justice of God as a substitute for all of his people (that’s the very meaning of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross), it is likewise very true that those who do NOT run to Christ (or actually run AWAY from Him) are exposing themselves moment by moment to the wrath of God because of their sins. Colossians 3:6, for example, says that “the wrath of God comes on the children of disobedience”, and Jesus himself says that those who do not believe in him are “condemned already” (John 3:18).
If we do not run to the bomb shelter of Christ we are exposing ourselves then and there and moment by moment to the radioactive destruction of God’s just wrath against sin and sinners. Jonathan Edwards had it right when he spoke of “sinners in the hands of an angry God. “ That is not a popular message; but the fact that it is unpopular does not make it untrue.
I suggest that we don’t feel this as we should in no small measure because we sing the Psalms of God’s justice so little. We are called to “sing of justice and of mercy.” (Psalm 101:1), and the Psalms help us to do both - using the very words God has given us.