This article is about the victims of abuse and justice, and abuse victims and their relationship with God. The author also discusses the imprecatory psalms.

Source: Reformed Perspective, 1996. 4 pages.

A Canticle and Descant: A Lament for the Children

A young sexually abused girl tells her teacher, “I can't pray.” She asks, “How can I pray to a God who let such awful things happen to me?” What can she pray? How can the Church pray if this happens in the midst of the congregation? What must we pray? Scripture itself points the way. In the Psalms there are many laments – songs of the wounded heart. Think of Psalm 13:

How long, O, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, O, LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
My enemy will say, 'I have over come him [her].'
And my foe will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
My heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD for he has been good to me.[NIV]

The child of God, wounded and alone, cries out to God for help. She cries out to God and challenges him to help. She complains bitterly that he has hidden his face. Why must she be alone in her sorrow? Why may her enemy continue to do such wicked things to her? Why, O LORD? And there seems to be no answer at all. There is only darkness and the threat of death. The abused person becomes self destructive; anorexic; bulimic; suicidal. Her abuser knows that if she dies his secret will die with her and so he rejoices at her downfall. If and when she becomes antisocial and psychotic, he is safe, for she then becomes an “untrustworthy liar.”

If a victim of abuse can pray with these words of Psalm 13 then she can, without feelings of guilt, literally challenge God to hear her. She may lay out her lament and her indescribable sorrow before her Maker. Though the victim may not feel the presence of God, she may confess her faith in God by challenging him in this way. Simply addressing God in prayer is already a confession of faith. And the Lord, in His mercy, has given us the words to use when He seems silent and far away; when He appears uncaring and when all hope of hope has fled.

But her Maker is also the Judge of all the earth. And there is another kind of lament Psalm: the imprecatory Psalm. The most [in]famous line of the imprecatory Psalms is found in Psalm 137:8-9.

O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us – he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks. [NIV]

The imprecatory or cursing Psalms have caused Christians all sorts of trouble. Some think that the god of the Old Testament is a god of anger and hatred and barbarity and that he stands in conflict with the god of the New Testament and with the teaching of Jesus Christ who says, “Turn the other cheek…” But the so called “imprecatory Psalms” are not curses at all. They are cries for justice. They are prayers to God that He might deal with those who oppress God's child[ren]. The Psalmists knew that they were not to take vengeance and justice in their own hands. They knew that their God is a God of justice and of vengeance. He will repay (Deuteronomy 32:35; Proverbs 20:22; Romans 12:19). So the Psalmists sought justice in the courts (Deuteronomy 25:1 ff). Declare him guilty! (Cf. Psalm 5:10). Repay them for their deeds and for their evil work; repay them for what their hands have done and bring back upon them what they deserve (Psalm 28:4). The Lord Jesus says that God will most certainly vindicate the elect (Luke 18:1-8). And in Revelation 6:9 f the souls of the persecuted, from under the altar, cry out to God with the words of Psalm 13, “How long, O Lord?”

The imprecations of Psalm 137 are the response of God's people to violence in the face of pathetic weakness. Psalm 109 is the cry of the abused even as she tries to show love and kindness to the abuser. To say, “What is done by the wicked ones is inexcusable,” is as inadequate as it is true! But yet, it needs to be said with passion. These wicked deeds of sexual abuse are done in the face of pathetic weakness and love, and stand condemned before God. They are inexcusable! Psalm 109 is an indictment against namby-pamby religion that says that God loves everyone and forgives everyone and so must I. Psalm 109 is the wail and lament for justice and right in world where there is none. It is the voice of rage and righteous wrath against those who sexually abuse God's little ones. I believe that the victims of abuse and their mothers may pray to God with the words of Psalm 109.

A Canticle and Descant🔗

Psalm 109🔗

The Song of the Wounded Heart🔗

For the director of Music. Of David. A Psalm🔗

For the Mothers. Of a Child. A Lament🔗

O be not silent, heed and hear me;
God of my praise, are you not near me?
His wicked mouth, your word defying,
Frames with his tongue deceit and lying.
Though not deserving ill or threat,
I am with words of hate beset.

How long, O Lord? Don't you hear me?
Will you forget me forever?
He'll come again – in the shadows; in the night.
He says, “She lies! She's making this up!”
And at the same time threatens to expose me.
Over and over he says he hates me.

He raves and without cause abuses
And in return for love accuses.
I prayed for him who has abhorred me;
With evil he for good rewards me.
LORD, you can see it from above;
With hatred he repays my love.

In the morning he rages against me;
He whom I try to love.
I pray for him; that he might stop.
Hidden by the dark, I hear the creaking of the floor.
But the dark cannot hide him from you!
And he rapes me again with hatred on his breath.

Appoint a wicked man to seize him.
Let his accuser not release him;
To him be guilt and blame awarded.
His prayers be all as sin regarded!
His days be few, his life distressed,
His goods by other men possessed.

Lord Jesus, stop him, let him be seized.
May the police arrest him!
Prison doors on him be closed!
May his pious prayerful hypocrisy be exposed!
Strike him down dead so that he might
Really know what it is to meet with you.

Waifs be the sons he has begotten;
His wife be widowed and forgotten.
And when they beg, let naught be given;
They from their ruined homes be driven.
May creditors seize all he won,
His work by strangers be undone!

Of the blessings of the covenant
May these be taken from him:
Posterity, prosperity, property.
May he only know your presence –
and your wrath! and your justice!
and your anger! and your vengeance!

May he be banished from the city,
None show his children any pity.
May his posterity be banished,
Cut off, until his name has vanished!
Let men his father's sins record,
His mother's guilt before the LORD.

May his place in the covenant be taken!
Cut off! Lost forever!
His place in Jerusalem forfeited!
His name not found in the Book of Life.
Count his cursed sinfulness against him.
Do not remove it from him.

May it be always recollected
That he abused the young; afflicted,
That to the victim he had never
Showed any kindness, any favour;
The poor and broken hearted he
Chased to their death, relentlessly.

May his sin be ever before all people.
May it always be remembered by all
That he abused the little ones of God!
– that he is a heartless one; and selfish;
– that he ruined their lives; and cruel.
That he hounded me to my grave.

He loved to curse; may curses press him!
He scoffed at blessings; may none bless him!
He as a garment wore his cursing,
His evil and his hatred nursing.
May all the ills he did and spoke
Like oil into his body sak.

“I'll surely get you if you tell anyone.”
I promised him anything to stop. I begged him.
His whispers voiced, “This is our little secret!
You'll die of shame if anyone finds out!
I'll say it never happened! You're dead!”
Please! Let that curse be on him instead!

His cursing be a cloak around him,
A belt that with his guilt has bound him
May he who without cause accuses
And in his wickedness abuses
Receive all these things from the LORD
As his appropriate reward.

May all the fearsome threats he ever made
Come down upon his own head!
May all the wicked wretched whispers
Of the night be shouted back at him;
SHOUTED back at him by you, O God.
How long, O Lord, God of vengeance?

But you, O God my LORD and Saviour,
For your Name's sake show me your favour!
Your steadfast love is good; O heed me,
Come to my help, I'm poor and needy.
Deliver me and set me free,
For wounded is my heart in me.

Help me, O my God and Saviour!
Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!
Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!
Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!
Deliver me and set me free. My soul cries out.
My heart is wounded within me!

An evening shadow, soon departed,
A locust, shaken off, discarded –
These do I in my woe resemble.
My knees, through fasting weakened, tremble;
My body gaunt, all strength has fled,
And my abuser wags his head.

My eating disorders will kill.
“You're anorexic!” the doctor says. I shake.
I faint! My skin is like paper. “Bulimic!”
My hair limp. I'm fat and ugly! My eyes dull.
“I can't understand it.” he says. “So thin.”
He wags his head. “She used to be as pretty as a pin.”

Help me, O LORD my God, and hear me.
In your unfailing love be near me!
Do justice to your foe who shuns it
And let him know that you have done it.
LORD, let him curse, but do you bless,
And save me in your righteousness

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!
Do not be far from me!
Vindicate me, Lord! Show him your anger!
And let him understand that it is you!
That you have heard my prayer!
Save me from him tonight! Bless me!

Put now to shame he who attacks me
And with his taunts torments and racks me;
But may your servant sing with gladness,
Saved by your hand from grief and sadness.
Dishonour him who does accuse;
Clothe him with shame and with abuse!

Let this be his shame not mine!
He says I deserve this. That can't be true, can it?
My nightmares never end. It haunts my thought.
He stalks me through the darkness of my dreams!
Wash away my uncleanness. The horror of it all!
But not his! In this life nor after!

I'll thank the LORD for His salvation
And praise Him in the congregation,
For at the right hand of the needy
Stands He who in His love shall heed me.
Though some this young girl may condemn,
The LORD Himself saves her from him.

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

But I, may I again have a place;
A place in your congregation.
A place without shame. Stand at my right hand.
Lord Jesus, please be my defender. Hold me.
I desire a place of honour!
Save me Lord from him! Restore me!

John Laurence Van Popta, May 1996

Let this be our cry for justice!
Teach it to the mothers of the wounded.
Lay it upon the hearts of the abused.
Indeed, “How long, O Lord?”

Psalm 109 from The Book of Praise


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