Throughout the Psalms, there is expressed an “Us vs. Them” mentality in which the “we” or “I” of the psalms is righteous and the “them,” the enemy, is considered wicked. Probably most readers today find this difficult to relate to, and it is a good thing that we find this somewhat unintelligible. Our reaction to this feature of the Psalms may indicate our level of psychological health. If we identify to closely with this “Us vs. Them” mentality then it may mean that we have a bit of paranoia going on in our psyche.
However, we also need to remember why this is such a prominent feature in the Psalms. If indeed many of the psalms go back to David, and were in fact composed by him, then this “Us vs. Them” mentality makes sense because David was embattled for most of his life. During his early years he was hunted, quite literally, by King Saul, who was trying to kill him. In his later years, David was opposed by his own son, Absalom. Furthermore, throughout most of his life, David was leading the fight against the enemies of Israel.
Therefore, does this mean that David developed an unhealthy psyche? I do not think so, at least, not in this regard. The reason I think David did not develop an unhealthy mentality is because he entrusted judgment to God. Yes, David thought he was in the right on many occasions, and he thought that his enemies were in the wrong. Nonetheless, he realized that he was not the ultimate judge. David recognized that judgment ultimately belongs to God. Notice these statements that David makes about God….
- You have sat on the throne giving righteous judgment. (Psalm 9:4)
- He judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with equity. (9:8)
- The Lord has made himself known, he has executed judgment. (9:16)
- Rise up, O Lord! Do not let mortals prevail; let the nations be judged before you. (9:19)
- Rise up, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; do not forget the oppressed. (10:12)
- O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed, so that those from earth may strike terror no more. (10:17-18)
- The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and his soul hates the lover of violence. (11:5)
- “Because the poor are despoiled, because the needy groan, I will now rise up,” says the Lord. (12:5)
Perhaps we can best identify with the psalms that call for judgment if we think of the Holocaust, or even if we meditate on more recent acts of violence like the kidnapping of those school-girls in Nigeria. Events like these should make us long for justice, to call out to God for judgment, just as the psalmists do. Furthermore, the good news according to the Bible is that one day God is going to put right everything that is currently wrong. As Christians we should long for that day, and we can look forward to that day in confidence, because we can be sure that in that day God will also put right what is currently wrong in us, through his Son Jesus Christ.