Almost two decades ago, I read a biography to my sons that contained an episode that has stayed with me. I believe the biography was of John Knox. The Scottish Protestants heard that the queen, a devout Catholic, was giving orders to force Protestants to return to the Catholic Church or face execution. In fear, a group of these believers met together and poured their souls out to God, asking for protection. They prayed for most of the night. At about the same time, all of them sensed that God had answered their prayers. Their prayers turned to praise. A few days later they found the queen had died suddenly and unexpectedly the night they had prayed.
This raises questions about when or if it is right to pray for a leader''s death. John N. Day addresses that question in Crying for Justice. Well-written and scholarly, Crying for Justice discusses God''s vengeance and the imprecatory Psalms that call for it. Are they examples of man''s fallen human nature? Do they apply today? How can one love his neighbor and yet curse that neighbor?
Day shows the cultural prototypes of curses in the Middle East and scriptural settings of Psalm 58 which calls for the blood of bloody leaders, Psalm 137 which calls for the fall of Babylon, and Psalm 109 which calls for vengeance on a personal enemy. He explains the injustices that have aroused the curses, and that the actual curses are based on God''s promise to avenge us of terrible wrongs. He then takes the reader into the New Testament to discuss the verses about not cursing and the curses by Jesus, Peter, and Paul that appear there. He lays a strong foundation for the curses being based on the love of other people and a desire for the repentance of the person cursed in extreme situations. The author explains Romans 12 very well.
In his appendix, Day includes a sermon on persecution, extensive notes, a bibliography, a Scripture index, and a subject index.
Day writes well, but occasionally the writers he quotes befuddle the issue with theological gobbledygook. I found much in Day''s explanations to highlight for future reference and answers to questions that I had. This thought-provoking book deserves to be read by thoughtful pastors and any layman who has ever wondered how to pray for the persecuted or about terrorism. – Debbie W. Wilson, Christian Book Previews.com
"Break the teeth in their mouth, O God; tear out, O LORD, the fangs of the lion!" Psalm 58:6
"Happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us-he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks." Psalm 137:8b-9
How did such barbarism make its way into the prayer book of the people of God? What should New Testament Christians, living by Jesus' ethic to "love your enemies," do with these prayers of retribution?
Writing in today's setting of terrorism and increasing world violence, John Day ably answers these questions in this study of the retribution psalms. By examining the theology of the prayers, as well as their ancient cultural context, he demonstrates how mercy and vengeance should play out in the modern world.
"Preachers and teachers who have been at a loss as to how to understand and proclaim [the imprecatory texts of the Old Testament] will find a way out of their impasse by a careful reading of this fine work." -- Eugene H. Merrill Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary
"Thoughtful, biblical, and balanced, . . . Crying for Justice has a message for the Christian church in an age of violence and terrorism." -- J. Carl Laney Professor of Biblical Literature, Western Seminary
"This book is a tractate for our times. It reminds [Christians] of the continuing relevance of the so-called 'imprecatory psalms' in a day of ruthless terrorism and persecution of God's people." -- Robert E. Longacre Emeritus Professor of Linguistics, University of Texas-Arlington
John N. Day (Ph.D., Dallas Theological Seminary) is the senior pastor of Bellewood Presbyterian Church in Bellevue, Washington.