For some of the thoughts I shared in last Sunday’s message (July 9, 2017) about laments in the Psalms I must, to be fair, credit Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, of Germany in the 1930’s- 40’s. Reacting against Nazi Party pressure on the church, the pastors and the seminaries to eliminate all Jewish traits and references from the Bible (what would that possibly leave?), and to “Aryanize” the Christian faith, Bonhoeffer wrote a book on the Psalms. Here are a few quotes from that book pertaining to the laments:

  • “All prayers of the Bible are such prayers which we pray together with Jesus Christ, in which he accompanies us and through which he brings us into the presence of God…If we want to read and to pray the prayers of the Bible and especially the Psalms, therefore, we must not ask first what they have to do with us, but what they have to do with Jesus Christ.”
  • “How is it possible for a man and Jesus Christ to pray the Psalter together? It is the incarnate Son of God, who has borne every human weakness in his own flesh, who here pours out the heart of all humanity before God and who stands in our place and prays for us…it is the prayer of the human nature assumed by him which comes here before God.”
  • “There are no theoretical answers in the Psalms to all these questions [about sin, guilt and suffering], as there are none in the New Testament. The only real answer is Jesus Christ. But this answer is already sought in the Psalms.”
  • “…whoever knows that God has entered into our suffering in Jesus Christ himself may say with great confidence: ‘Thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”
  • [About Psalms of Imprecation against enemies] “It is therefore nowhere a matter of personal conflict. Nowhere does the one who prays these psalms want to take revenge into his own hands. He calls for the wrath of God alone.”
  • “God’s vengeance did not strike the sinners, but the one sinless man who stood in the sinners’ place, namely God’s own Son. Jesus Christ bore the wrath of God, for the execution of which the psalm prays…Thus the imprecatory psalm leads to the cross of Jesus and to the love of God which forgives enemies. I cannot forgive the enemies of God out of my own resources. Only the crucified Christ can do that, and I through him.”

From: Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, translated & published by Augsburg Press, 1970