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Damning Vengeance to Hell!

September 8, 2008

Yesterday, I joined a crew of Tablers as we took a look at some Psalms that’ll blow your hair back: 69, 109, 137. The technical term for these is ‘Imprecatory Psalms’, in that they are prayers for the Almighty to put the hurt on one’s enemies. So, creditors siezing funds, spouses dying, orphaned children, and babies smashed on rocks. Yikes. Vengeance is everywhere, and (as one person put it) refreshingly in prayers, as well.

One thing that I didn’t have time to wedge into our very engaging discussion time is this tidbit I found in my research: the ancient Hebrew people didn’t seem to have a belief in an afterlife. So, no strong idea of heaven or hell, but just death. Which, it is suggested, might incline a person to be more concerned about God bringing justice in the here-and-now, rather than postponing it. If you can’t count on an evil person burning in hell, you might be more inclined to ask God to put the hurt on them today.

So while we moderns might feel more civilized and sophisticated– we’ll have no talk of bashing babies on rocks around here, thank you!– I’m wondering if our general belief in the afterlife is acting as a kind of proxy. I’m wondering if we’re hiding behind ‘hell’. Does the idea of hell allow us to sublimate our desire for vengeance, even as it asks God to execute our enemies for eternity? Does ‘hell’ make us more or less vengeful?

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2 Responses to “Damning Vengeance to Hell!”

  1. ER says:

    Great thoughts…stumbled upon your blog via RickB. My thought is that definitely an afterlife gives the capacity to defer wrath to some other time/space continuum for any/all violators of our comfort/safety/dreams. Another dynamic for me, however, is the intersection of the Cross of Christ (and His words of grace from the Cross) and Paul’s persistent reminder that “we wrestle not with flesh and blood.” It is counter-intuitive for me, for sure, but forgiveness is one of the greatest worship experiences of my life. Ironically the big a-ha moment came a few years ago when I was traversing the landscape of the Psalms and Proverbs. Proverbs 19:11 stopped me for several months. I have been praying daily that God would allow those words (and His grace) to become part of my soul. I certainly have needed them in life.
    Anyway, thanks for your posts and may you experience all God has in this life (and the next).

  2. P3T3RK3Y5 says:

    exactly. i’m so spiritual and non-vengeful and patient because: “vengeance is mine says the lord”

    hmmmm…. dang it mike!

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