The Imprecatory Psalms and the Northeast Ohio Women’s Center


by Scott Kaczorowski

There are a lot of statements in the Bible about God’s love and care and concern even for His enemies. There are also statements throughout Scripture of God’s impending judgment on those who will not repent and receive His grace. A particular example of this type of passage would be what are called the Imprecatory Psalms, so called because they call down imprecations (or curses) on the enemies of God’s people.

Christians don’t always seem to know how the Imprecatory Psalms fit into the larger ethos of Scripture.* If we are supposed to love and pray for our enemies, how does calling down God’s curses on them fit into that framework? As Christians who are called to love, what are we to do with these prophetic poetic songs that call down curses on God’s enemies? Should we remove them from the Bible?* Should we relegate them to that shadowy period known as the “Old Testament” and try to forget they are there? Or as God’s Word, do they have some abiding use for us today? And if so, what might that be?

One thing we could do with them is pray them outside of an abortion clinic. Sometimes love takes the form of rescuing the oppressed from the oppressor. While our heart’s desire should be for the repentance and salvation of the oppressors, when they will not repent, we can and should pray that God would intervene. The Imprecatory Psalms give voice to this cry for justice.* As such they form a legitimate part of Christian experience and piety.

On my second trip to pray outside the abortion clinic down the road from where we live, I felt led to bring along my Bible and pray a passage of Scripture. Pulling up a list of the Imprecatory Psalms, I asked the Lord which passage He would have me pray. From the list in front of me, I felt like He spoke to my heart, “Psalm 10.” When I read that psalm, I was astonished at how fitting it was.

1 Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? 2 In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised. …8 He sits in ambush in the villages; in hiding places he murders the innocent. His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless; 9 he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket; he lurks that he may seize the poor; he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net. 10 The helpless are crushed, sink down, and fall by his might.11 He says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.” 12 Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted. 13 Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”? 14 But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless. 15 Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none. …17 O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear 18 to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. (Psa. 10:1-2, 8-15, 17-18)

Murdering the innocent in hiding places. The oppression of the poor, the helpless, the fatherless. The call for God to rise up and act when it seems that He has been silent and standing far off for so long. These words could have been written about an abortion clinic. So I stood once again in front of the Northeast Ohio Women’s Center and prayed this ancient prayer of Scripture against it.

I also asked the Lord for something else. God told the prophet Jeremiah that He had given him authority “to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jer. 1:10). I asked the Lord to give me authority to speak to the walls of the clinic and command them to fall down. Then I spoke to the walls. Out loud, I said, “O walls of the Northeast Ohio Women’s Center, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to fall down.”

There was no lightning from heaven or earthquake under my feet (although that would have been cool). But I felt that small voice in my heart say, “You will not have to return. Watch the newspapers.”

If the Lord sees fit to close this clinic soon in response to the prayers of His people, it will be but a token victory. There are other abortion facilities that continue to operate. There are other forms of oppression that continue to exert their power over the poor in this fallen world. But the day will come when God will arise and put a definitive end not only to the Northeast Ohio Women’s Center but to all other forms of oppression as well. He will give judgment for the afflicted and hear the cry of the helpless. He will do justice in the earth.

How we pray and long for that day.

*In these places I may be echoing another writer/speaker.

2 replies
  1. says:

    I don’t want to offend, but to me, standing outside an abortion clinic shouting out judgement via the psalms is not a loving Christian behavior. I was an atheist before I was saved and that behavior helped me to stay away from the Lord. In my experience with the Word, we are not to judge others. Judgemental behavior on the part of Christians is antithetical to Christ’s command to love one another.

    • THB says:

      Dear Friend, thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my post. The feedback is greatly appreciated and it also gives me an opportunity to clarify. There was no shouting involved here; for the most part is it was quite prayer. Even when I spoke out loud, those words were not shouted. I think that I agree with you that that sort of thing could be unproductive in the eyes of the world. But I also sincerely hope that you would agree with me that praying quietly outside and abortion clinic that God would intervene is not an unbiblical thing to do! (If you haven’t had a chance to read my original post where I explain some of the logic and biblical backing behind this, I would encourage you to do so. It is also posted on the Thistlebend Bloom! blog.)

      I also agree that we are not to deal with people in a spirit of judgementalism. Whenever we personally address sins with people, we are to do so in a merciful, loving, gospel-centered manner–the same way that we would want other people to address sins in our lives. But there has been a trend in our culture to label any kind of opposition to sin as “judging others.” Neither do I think that that is biblical. When Jesus commanded us not to judge others (Matt. 7:1) it is clear from the following context that he is not saying that we are not to address sins in other people’s lives, only that we are to make sure that we address our own sins first (Matt. 7:4-5). Otherwise, Jesus didn’t practice what he preached in the Sermon on the Mount– he publically denounced some of the cities in which he did miracles (Matt. 11:20-24) and had absolutely scathing public rebukes for the Pharisees (Matt. 23:13-36). I want to make sure that my understanding of loving vs. judging others is derived from the whole counsel of Scripture rather than from our culture.

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