Songs of Vengeance: Psalm 59

Life Group Psalms Series: Week 4

Authenticity in the Psalms

By now I hope that your impression of the psalms goes far beyond “pretty words that make me happy.” The circumstances, emotions, and truths of the Psalms are forged in the messiness of a sin-stricken world.

Last week we studied a Psalm that was completely about introspection and our own sinfulness. Declarations of our own sinfulness and need for grace are easily squared with the New Testament Gospel. Every person who has come face to face with his own depravity can agree with Psalm 51.

Imprecatory Psalms

The Psalm we are reading this week is what most scholars consider to be an imprecatory Psalm. That simply means that it contains a call for God to crush the enemies of the psalmist.

Psalm 59 is one of those Psalms that might strike a New Testament believer as raw and brash in the way that it addresses God. Calls for vengeance and our own vindication before God tend to make us a bit more uncomfortable. Dr. Miles van Pelt gives us an explanation for how New Testament Jesus-followers can pray the imprecatory Psalms in a way that squares with the teachings of Jesus.


One thing we should quickly notice is that the call for vengeance is part of David’s salvation. David is not calling for meaningless violence. He is desiring the ultimate victory of God over his foes so that God can be glorified. Violence is not a not a connect that the Scriptures ever shy away from. The symbol of our faith is one of the most brutal and bloody symbols known to the ancient world. It’s worth hearing how Bono and Eugene Peterson deal with the violence of the Psalms. (You may end this video at 19:30)

David has clearly been wronged. He has been betrayed in some of the worst ways imaginable. This young man is being hunted like an animal. His response to what he knows about God is to allow vengeance and salvation belong to God. God took the ultimate act of vengeance out on His son so that our salvation would be complete and eternal.

Discussion Questions

  • What was the worst betrayal you ever experienced?
  • How was your response similar to David’s?
  • Did your response cause you more harm than the betrayal itself did?
  • What imagery in Psalm 59 speaks to you most clearly?
  • How do you know that Jesus knows the pain of betrayal?
  • How does the cross give credibility to the claim that God is a fortress?
  • Why do you think David is more confident in God than he is in his enemies?

Accountability Time 

We believe that the biggest value of small group is that we get to encourage each other to walk in faith. Ask these questions of your group. Keep in mind that we are not merely interested in box-checking religious acts. We are seeking to shepherd group members to evaluate how their measurable actions reflect their personal journeys of faith.

  • Have you come to a place in your life where you can say that you have trusted God for salvation?
  • Have you publicly stated that faith through believers’ baptism?
  • In what ways are you serving God with your time?
  • How are you making prayer a part of your daily life?
  • How is your personal Bible study going this week?
  • Have you been able to talk about faith with somebody outside of church this week?
  • How are you currently being led to give of your resources to God’s work?

End group time in prayer.  

You may pray in a large group or break your group into smaller groups of 3-4. Allow people to request prayer for one personal need and one burden where they would like to see the Gospel advance.

Jonathan Pugh
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