Poetic Irony

If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

  • Psalm 139:19-24

Those last few lines about “search my heart…” show up in church services and inspirational posters regularly. But not the first few lines about hating people! This can feel like an unsettling poem/prayer when you first read it - you can get a case of whiplash from it! We kind of want to skip past the first half and just focus on the second half. But it’s all one prayer in the Bible.

Just imagine for a moment that they are put here together for a reason - the hate and the prayer for self-awareness. Don’t you get the sense that the hate is the very thing God wants to surface for David (who wrote this poem/prayer)?

And maybe it’s the same for us. While we’re praying our nice holy, good-church-people prayers, God is seeing deeper into our souls and yearning to reveal the judgment, hate, and pain that lies within us.

Pray those last few lines out loud right now, and see if God might reveal some of that other yucky stuff to you as you are quiet and listening.