In the Office: The Unread Part

In the OfficeThe reading from the Psalms in today’s Daily Office is Psalm 109. Notably, however, the suggested reading does not encompass the entire psalm. It recommends, instead, the first five verses and the last ten verses, while conveniently omitting verses 6 to 20 in the middle. The result is a prayer that opens by calling on God to defend the author against “people who are wicked and deceitful” (verse 2) and who “repay me evil for good” (verse 5) — and then ends with the confident affirmation that “With my mouth I will greatly extol the Lordin the great throng of worshipers I will praise him; for he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save their lives from those who would condemn them.” (verses 30-31).

What gets left out, for better or worse, is an extensive tirade in which the psalmist asks God to visit terrible judgments not only upon the wicked person who has been tormenting him, but upon his family as well. “May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow,” (verse 9) the psalmist prays. “May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor” (verse 11). “May their sins always remain before the Lordthat he may blot out their name from the earth” (verse 20).

Of course, if you take a moment to contemplate this “unread part,” you can easily understand why it was omitted from the suggested lesson. After all, it doesn’t exactly provide an encouraging sentiment with which to start the day. On the other hand, I think that difficult verses like these can offer us at least two significant gifts.

First, they can give us the gift of knowing that it’s okay to bring our “true selves” before the Lord. Let’s face it, all of us occasionally have feelings that aren’t exactly worthy of our faith. We get angry and bitter, frustrated and vengeful. And the last thing we really want to do is to remember the grace that we’ve been given — and then ask God to help us extend that same grace to others. But God, I think, understands this. And by including these “unread parts” in His Word, He reminds us that we can lay even these “unsavory” impulses of our hearts before His throne.

And that leads directly to the second gift these “unread parts” can give. They can remind us that “before His throne” is THE place — and the ONLY place — that these sentiments belong. If we’re not careful, we can easily allow yearnings for our enemy to be punished to become actions that seek to get the punishment started. Naturally, we might not resort to physical harm; we’re far too upstanding for that. But we might use unkind words, cruel gossip, and other passive-aggressive behaviors — all the while ignoring the clear teaching of scripture that vengeance belongs to the Lord. We are commanded “not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). And so, having brought our vendettas into the light of God’s presence, we leave them there. We trust that our Father is wholly righteous, and we go about following Christ, secure in the knowledge that in His time and in His way, God will make everything right.

So, if you’re in a hurry this morning, by all means skip “the unread part.” The passages of scripture that we do read offer nourishing truth aplenty. But don’t forget that “all Scripture is God-breathed — and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). And even the parts we’re tempted to skip over have something to teach us — if we’re willing to humble ourselves and listen.

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