Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How Islam has Made the Psalms Come Alive

The Psalms that call for the vengeance of God upon our oppressors seem antiquated and contrary to the peace we hope to create. We are embarrassed by them. For example, Psalm 94 reads:

·        The Lord is a God who avenges. O God who avenges, shine forth. Rise up, Judge of the earth; pay back to the proud what they deserve. How long, Lord, will the wicked, how long will the wicked be jubilant? They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers are full of boasting. They crush your people, Lord; they oppress your inheritance. They slay the widow and the foreigner; they murder the fatherless. (Psalm 94:1-6)

This Psalm not only seems irrelevant but even counterproductive, dividing the world into the good guys and the bad guys, the righteous and the unrighteous, those who require protection and those who require punishment. Instead of conflict, should we not be pursuing mutual understanding? Instead of erecting barriers between the peoples, should we not be endeavoring to tear them down by seeking common ground?

Although this strategy can prove fruitful, Al Qaeda, ISIS, Hamas, Boko Haram, Hezbollah, and many other Islamic groups finding their inspiration from the holy texts of Islam have proved that the strategy of seeking common ground has its obvious limitations - that reason and gentle persuasion must sometimes surrender to the influence of the stronger remedy. Perhaps this kind of evil requires nothing short of the wrath of God:

·        The wicked band together against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death. But the Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge. He will repay them for their sins and destroy them for their wickedness; the Lord our God will destroy them. (Psalm 94:21-23)

I pray for ISIS, Boko Haram, and the many other forces of evil – that they would see the light and repent, receive the same mercy that I have received. However, I also pray that if they do not come to repentance, that our righteous Lord would destroy these oppressors.

The Psalms teach us the limits of reasonable persuasion and the need for punitive action – justice. When we leave justice out of our equation, we fail to appreciate God in His wise and glorious fullness. Perhaps Islam has helped us to regain an appreciation for the fullness of His counsel and the Psalms.

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