God, knock the teeth out of their mouths;
Lord, tear out the young lions’ fangs.
May they vanish like water that flows by;
may they aim their blunted arrows.
Like a slug that moves along in slime,
like a woman’s miscarried child,
may they not see the sun.–Psalm 58:6-8
A few weeks ago, I commented on the many passages in Psalms that sound like a caller to a talk-radio show spouting off about their opponents. I can’t remember if I cited this passage from Psalm 58, but I know that I had it in mind when I wrote the entry.
I’m reminded of these words as I have recently been reading Francis Chan’s book Erasing Hell. Among the many worthwhile things Chan presents is the notion of being embarrassed by God. He confesses to having a tendency to skip over the uncomfortable spots in scripture or to at least read them really fast in order to get to the “good stuff.”
In the context of Chan’s book, the passages to be minimized are those that speak of judgment and hell, the fate of the goats. We’ll all talk about the sheep and their rewards all day long, but we’d rather that the nasty spots would fade into the background or perhaps be dropped into footnotes by cutting-edge translators.
We don’t get to choose, though. Chan compares being embarrassed by God to the kid who tries to keep his friends away from his alcoholic father. On a good day, that father might be a lot of fun, but on a bad day . . . look out. Is that how we view God?
Modern sensibilities say that all that stuff about judgment and wrath are out of step with proper understanding. “I can’t believe in a God who would . . .” people frequently say. Most evangelicals don’t say that, but we tend to act that way. That kid with the alcoholic father doesn’t have to say, “I hate you when you’re drunk” to hate dad when he’s drunk.
Part of me wants to read David’s words here and dismiss them as words spoken in anger. I want to imagine God–the God who I can believe in–saying, “Okay David. Simmer down now. Remember that we’re all about love. All you need is love.” Yes, my foolish heart believes that God quotes the Beatles now and again.
But if I accept that this Psalm is inspired, then I can’t simply sweep it away as the product of David’s bad day. If I’m going to believe that the “good” Psalms–23, 51, 100–are inspired, then I have to accept that the teeth being knocked out are similarly God-breathed.
If God embarrasses me today as I read Psalm 58, how much more often do I embarrass Him–or maybe the better term is disappoint Him. God is in charge. He created everything and sustains everything. Abandoning that belief, we’re on a glide path into creating our own god who really just reflects our own limited vision and desire. If God embarrasses me, then I suppose I need embarrassing. If his words step on my toes, then I need to move my feet.