Read Psalm 129
Focus on verse 5
When I hear the word “curse” my first thought usually brings to mind the use of foul language or “curse words” as they are often called. In my home growing up as a child the use of curse words was strongly discouraged by my parents, and when my wife and I had children of our own we extended this pattern by including several other derogatory words like “stupid” into the realm of the forbidden – at least until the children began to reach the teenage years. Now that they are adults they find it humorous that they honestly thought “stupid” was a curse word. It did make for some interesting moments in our home when they would have friends over to play whose vocabulary included some of the saltier words. What I found most interesting was the response of these friends when the realization sank in that our boys had no idea what these words meant or that they were even words. When it became apparent that this innocence was no longer possible to maintain we began to use appropriate opportunities to explain the meaning of some of these words and why we chose not to use them in our home.
There is another meaning to the word “curse” which is similar, but is a little more intense in in the way it involves wishing ill will upon another person. Biblically, curses were the opposite of blessings. In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy Moses records the blessings and curses that the God placed upon the people of Israel. Blessings, which would follow as they walked in obedient relationship with Him, and curses that, would follow when they rebelled and rejected Him.
The psalm that is today’s reading is such a curse. It describes the consequences that the psalmist is petitioning the Lord to visit upon those who reject God and mistreat His people. “May all who hate Zion be put to shame and turned backward!” (v. 5)
If biblical prophecy is accurate, as I suspect it is, this will be the fate of those who seek to destroy God’s people. It may not be apparent immediately, but in the final analysis they will be put to shame and the destruction they planned for God’s people will come back upon them.
The curses that we find in the Bible pertaining to the consequences of those who rebel against and reject God are not something to be taken lightly. Personally I prefer to focus on the blessings, and on attempting to do those things, which bring blessings upon us, but it is also important to understand that there are consequences to disobedience. In our home we tried to also model the grace of God by what we called the “first time funny” rule. Anyone who has been a parent will understand that there are times when cross a line they did not know was forbidden in manner that is not only harmless but also somewhat humorous. This is not a rebellious disobedience; it is more like experimental disobedience. In these instances grace is appropriate, but it is also important to be informed that some though these things are funny the first time, they will have disciplinary consequences hereafter.
I am not certain that God has a first time funny rule, but I do know He is gracious and just in His dealings with us. I also suspect that there are times when we unwittingly bring negative consequences upon ourselves because we have not made the effort to inform ourselves of things God would have us avoid. Keep in mind this does not make God some kind of legalistic celestial killjoy waiting to squash us whenever we step out of line. If that were His intent, why would He have taken the initiative to give us His instructions in the form of His written word? Quite the contrary is actually true in that it is His great love and mercy toward us that prompts Him to take every opportunity to reveal Himself to us through His word so that we might become aware of the blessings that He desires to give us, as well as the attitudes and actions He desires for us to avoid in order to receive the blessings and avoid the curses.
Just as the love of a parent for child motivates that parent to create boundaries to protect and nurture that child, it is in fact God’s love that motivates Him to inform us of the curses that follow disobedience in order to give us incentive to move toward Him in repentance rather than away from Him in rebellion. He does this not to limit our freedom, but that we might actually experience the freedom and joy of His blessing.