We are going to be in Psalm 17 this morning, but as you will see there are any number of Psalms I could have chosen to use for this ….. and due to this we will also refer to a selection of other Psalms…

Our assigned topic is a Psalm of David….. what a great topic…. As we know there are lots to choose from …… about 73 actually and then, as we also know ….David was a great song writer and his writing is inspirational…. Uplifting…we all need some uplifting right now…. how hard can this be to choose a Psalm?

How would you go about it?  Your favourite? Psalm 23 is good… personally I love Psalm 8 though…..

I started by….well ….I started at the beginning… not chronologically, but numerically.. Psalm 1…2…3

I was a little taken aback… by a trend I saw in these psalms….

of course like everyone else, I have read the Psalms… listened to sermons on Psalms… I recognised pretty much all of them… especially Psalm 18 and 19….Andrew….. But I have usually read each Psalm as an individual portion…. Not one after the other like this ….

There was a common theme in many of them which unsettled me a bit….

Psalm 17 is a good example….let’s read

A prayer of David.

1 Hear me, Lord, my plea is just;

listen to my cry.

Hear my prayer—

it does not rise from deceitful lips.

2 Let my vindication come from you;

may your eyes see what is right.

3 Though you probe my heart,

though you examine me at night and test me,

you will find that I have planned no evil;

my mouth has not transgressed.

4 Though people tried to bribe me,

I have kept myself from the ways of the violent

through what your lips have commanded.

5 My steps have held to your paths;

my feet have not stumbled.

6 I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;

turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.

7 Show me the wonders of your great love,

you who save by your right hand

those who take refuge in you from their foes.

8 Keep me as the apple of your eye;

hide me in the shadow of your wings

9 from the wicked who are out to destroy me,

from my mortal enemies who surround me.

10 They close up their callous hearts,

and their mouths speak with arrogance.

11 They have tracked me down, they now surround me,

with eyes alert, to throw me to the ground.

12 They are like a lion hungry for prey,

like a fierce lion crouching in cover.

13 Rise up, Lord, confront them, bring them down;

with your sword rescue me from the wicked.

14 By your hand save me from such people, Lord,

from those of this world whose reward is in this life.

May what you have stored up for the wicked fill their bellies;

may their children gorge themselves on it,

and may there be leftovers for their little ones.

15 As for me, I will be vindicated and will see your face;

when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.

Did you notice that?....does it worry you?

Psalm 3

7 Arise, Lord!

Deliver me, my God!

Strike all my enemies on the jaw;

break the teeth of the wicked.

Psalm 5

9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;

their heart is filled with malice.

Their throat is an open grave;

with their tongues they tell lies.

10 Declare them guilty, O God!

Let their intrigues be their downfall.

Banish them for their many sins,

for they have rebelled against you.

Psalm 7

6 Arise, Lord, in your anger;

rise up against the rage of my enemies.

Awake, my God; decree justice.

Psalm 9

19 Arise, Lord, do not let mortals triumph;

let the nations be judged in your presence.

20 Strike them with terror, Lord;

let the nations know they are only mortal.

Psalm 10

15 Break the arm of the wicked man;

call the evildoer to account for his wickedness

that would not otherwise be found out.

Psalm 12

3 May the Lord silence all flattering lips

and every boastful tongue—

4 those who say,

“By our tongues we will prevail;

our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?”

Psalm 55

a classic

15 Let death take my enemies by surprise;

let them go down alive to the realm of the dead,

for evil finds lodging among them.

It certainly appears that David is praying for God to come and do some dastardly things to his enemies…..  a few verses of many of David’s Psalms are dedicated to calling damnation onto his enemies….surely this does not belong in the Bible?????

This does not make for easy reading…. What is happening here?.... can we pray for the destruction of those we don’t like?

Wow! Can I now pray against the taxi that just cut me off? Lord strike his tyres with lava…. Maybe I can pray against a political party or the Blue Bulls? That will help WP…. To fair of course only prayer can help WP right now….

How does this fit in with our understanding of Jesus’ ministry…. Love your neighbour as you love yourself…..or

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

Maybe this is an Old Testament thing and now that we are under a new dispensation we can’t pray against our enemies…we have to love them….


The Psalms are not doctrine, yes,….but they are a part of God’s inspired word and these words were written by ‘a man after God’s own heart’…. If nothing else it is worth exploring the occurrence of these prayers for vengeance to see what we can learn and maybe at the end we can draw some conclusions about what we can or can’t pray….

The first observation is that David’s Psalms are for public consumption…this is very important…..they are a part of public worship….. they are not his private rantings…. They are constructed verse… he has spent many hours working on the words and what to say…. They are inspired… David is trying to lay down a message for the ages………….the people are meant to be learning something… or he wants some truth to be instilled in the people…..

Secondly, David is not a vengeful person….usually….. Sure he had enemies, he was a man of war, but as we saw with Saul, he had many opportunities to take vengeance, but he refused to…cave…. Night…. yet for some reason, in the Psalms, he is calling on God to strike people down and to smash teeth…

Thirdly, David seems to have a lot of enemies…. Psalm after psalm he is pleading with God to deal with them…I only referred to a sample this morning..…but…..very seldom is an individual person or nation mentioned…..he does not pray against a specific enemy….Even although we believe that his Psalms were sometimes inspired by specific events, he still does not use names…we don’t know who these people are…..weird…

Just those three things for now….

So what is the crime that these enemies of David have committed? What have they done? Who are these nameless people?


Psalm 17

we find out that they are wicked…..they have callous hearts and they are arrogant….David is praying against people who have turned against God, they refuse to listen to Him and they believe that their ways are better than God’s…..


Psalm 5

we learn…….Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;……. their heart is filled with malice….

Their throats are an open grave;…… with their tongues they tell lies.

Psalm 7

they are violent and the wicked…..

Psalm 10

he is arrogant….. hunt down the weak,….He boasts about the cravings of his heart;….. he blesses the greedy ….he reviles the Lord…..he is proud… he is wicked… he does not seek God….in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

Psalm 12 

They plunder the poor…. they flatter with their lips ….they harbour deception in their hearts …they have boastful tongues

You get the idea…. In fact once you look at it, one after the other like this you realise why these Psalms are not in fact David’s personal rantings……these are not necessarily people who have done specific harm to him…..we see why he does not mention specific enemies…..why these seemingly vengeful Psalms have been set up for public consumption…. For the people to read and not private prayers….

David is not vengeful, but is looking for vengeance ….from who?...from a just God…..God is not only a God of love, but He is a just God first……He cannot leave rebellion to fester…. He must deal with it….. this is who He is by nature….

David is praying against the enemies of God…against people and people’s who have set themselves up against God… David…God’s man…is the enemy of these people because they hate God…

David has a desire for righteousness in his people….. in God’s people….

In particular as we consider David as a TYPE of Jesus…. A reflection of the messiah to come… We can see why rebellious, evil people would raise his ire and his call for vengeance….

God’s enemies are David’s enemies…

As I read through these Psalms and marvel at all these enemies of David….. I am left wondering if I have any enemies….. and I can’t say I do……. Should I have enemies? I am very sure that there are some people who don’t like me, but enemies?

Are you like me…..I am not very good at hating…. Maybe it is my dodgy memory, ..but I struggle to hold a grudge, because I can’t remember any slight…. I am happy for people to hold their own views and don’t have time or energy to worry about them……...we are such nice people….such great Christians…..

However…..I would like to suggest that this complacency is the exact reason why these verses in the Psalms were created and inspired…….

People of Israel … we are in a war…. We have enemies…. Israelites….remind each other that those who despise God are the enemies of God…. Sing these songs about war and enemies….. don’t fall into complacency….. don’t just accept the world for what it is…. There are unjust acts, wickedness, lies, arrogance, deception…. We cannot let it go…stand up for what is right….

The Psalms are to be read in a public gathering…regularly ….to remind us about the wickedness in the World that stands against God…..

Israelites! we need to decide which side we are on… are we on the side of the righteous with David and God the Most High or are we on the side of the wicked?

David was not asking God for any more than He has promised to do to the wicked…. He is just placing himself firmly on the side of the righteous…declaring that he wants God to bring about the destruction of the wicked….in this he is asking the people to take sides… there is no middle ground… there is a line in the sand….fully for God, or fully against him….

Are we at fault sometimes of not identifying sin around us…. Sin that could so easily influence us… infiltrate our lives…. Are we okay with letting it go unnoticed?

Well yes…. We are….. Very few of us are prepared to identify the sin around us …..never mind standing up to it…… This was a problem for the Israelites who needed constant reminding through David’s Psalms and it is a problem for us today, …….because we are human and in the World….. and this is a purpose of these Psalms… we should hate sin it is our enemy…..we should be on the lookout for it...

David was a man of war…. As we are all well aware he was wonderfully successful in countless battles… ‘Saul only killed thousands…David killed tens of thousands’… as the song went….so what does David do to sort out all this wickedness….. does he raise an army? Does he besiege a city?

What should we do to sort out the wickedness in the World? Protest in the streets? Burn down abortion clinics?

As we look through each of these Psalms we hear an echo of Psalm 17 vs 6 I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.

Repeatedly David beseeches God to take vengeance… David prays against the evil…. He pleads with God to deal with the wickedness….

For most of David’s adult life he was in a position to smash any opposition which came his way…… but in Psalm after Psalm he calls on God to do the destroying ……

Where does that leave us? What should we be doing about the sin in the World?

Well first we need to define who our real enemies are…. Our enemies are not those people in a rival rugby team or a colleague who runs us down…. They are not even a rival political party or neighbouring country bent on our destruction….. as Christians our enemies should be those who are wicked, those who rebel against God, those who hate God….Those who lead our little ones astray….

We have to be reminded all the time as the Israelites were by David’s Psalms and we need to identify the evil in our midst, we need to be disgusted by it….and do something about it….

What should we be doing? We should be asking God to be just...we should be praying against evil...

What should we be praying against Practically…specifically? Give us an example……?

While I am sure there is a long list … are some thoughts;

-          We should be praying against the wickedness that says it is alright to kill those still being knit together in their mother’s womb

-          We should be praying against those who are sexualising our children

-          We should be praying against those who are encouraging vulnerable children to commit suicide or those who are deliberately trying to confuse children about their gender….

-          We should be praying against those who steal from the poor in this country through corruption….

-          We should be praying against the arrogant who say there is no God…. Those who attempt to place themselves in His place… whether this takes the form of celebrity, pseudo science or spirituality…

David was a man of violence… this is of course why he was not allowed to build the temple….. but he was someone who knew what God wanted and had a great desire for his people to follow God’s ways in an evil world….

So once I have identified the enemy, can I pray prayers of vengeance? I am going to dare to say …that we should be praying like this….. If we don’t have any enemies… then maybe we don’t have our eyes open to the sin in the World….. the sin that surrounds us and so easily entangles…. Maybe even the sin has leaked into our own lives and we need to ask God to search our hearts… to show us the sin we harbour….

But ….yes….the answer is yes…. We should be praying prayers against the wickedness in the World…..

We are not asked here to go out and attack people in the street…. We are shown by example how to pray for God to deal with wickedness in the World…..

Praying against God’s enemies has the dual purpose of a reduction in evil and the prayer serves as a constant reminder that we are in danger from the wickedness around us…….

Psalm 139 19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!

Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!

20 They speak of you with evil intent;

your adversaries misuse your name.

21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,

and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?

22 I have nothing but hatred for them;

I count them my enemies.

Is that it? Can we now go off looking for all those evil practices and pray against them?

Interestingly, more often than not in each of these Psalms, …..David inserts a few verses of self-reflection

Psalm 17

Hear my prayer—

it does not rise from deceitful lips.

2 Let my vindication come from you;

may your eyes see what is right.

3 Though you probe my heart,

though you examine me at night and test me,

you will find that I have planned no evil;

my mouth has not transgressed.

4 Though people tried to bribe me,

I have kept myself from the ways of the violent

through what your lips have commanded.

5 My steps have held to your paths;

my feet have not stumbled.

Psalm 4

when you are on your beds,

search your hearts and be silent.

Psalm 7

Lord my God, if I have done this

and there is guilt on my hands—

4 if I have repaid my ally with evil

or without cause have robbed my foe—

5 then let my enemy pursue and overtake me;

let him trample my life to the ground

and make me sleep in the dust

Psalm 139

quite famously

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

24 See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.

Sometimes these verses of self reflection are in the beginning almost as if David knows that he is about to accuse others of great wickedness, so he had better make sure he was right with God first and then in other Psalms like 139, he reflects at the end…as if his tirade against the evil in the World forces him to look at himself.

Do we do this? Do you and I ever ask God to show us where there is sin in our own lives? Search me o God and know my ways….. Life is usually a meander… things, people, thoughts, attitudes, habits… they drift into and out of our lives without us noticing… we need God to point out the sinfulness in our lives…..

Most of us remember that day towards the end of lockdown…we just happened to look in the mirror as we walked past and there was me larger than life…. Overnight I had put on a boep… where did that come from? It wasn’t there yesterday I am sure…….If it wasn’t for that mirror, I would never have known that the chocolate squares were, one at a time, finding a home around my middle section….

Sin also works into our lives unnoticed….. we need God to reflect his holiness and show us where there is sin…. David seems to ask God for a health check regularly… search me…

Praying against great evil takes great personal reflection….a searching for holiness…..Maybe this is why I don’t really pray against wickedness…. Maybe I don’t want to let the sin go in my own life…. Or I am scared of what I will find if I ask God to search me…..

But yet these prayers are important….

We pray these prayers with David to protect our people and to remind each other that the wickedness is there looking for a way into our lives…..

We are not called to violence against our enemies…we allow God to take vengeance

We have to reflect on our own hearts and ask God to help us to see who we are…..