How the gold has grown dim,
how the pure gold is changed!
The holy stones lie scattered
at the head of every street.
The precious sons of Zion,
worth their weight in fine gold,
how they are regarded as earthen pots,
the work of a potter's hands!
Even jackals offer the breast;
they nurse their young;
but the daughter of my people has become cruel,
like the ostriches in the wilderness.
The tongue of the nursing infant sticks
to the roof of its mouth for thirst;
the children beg for food,
but no one gives to them.
Those who once feasted on delicacies
perish in the streets;
those who were brought up in purple
embrace ash heaps.
For the chastisement of the daughter of my people has been greater
than the punishment of Sodom,
which was overthrown in a moment,
and no hands were wrung for her.
Her princes were purer than snow,
whiter than milk;
their bodies were more ruddy than coral,
the beauty of their form was like sapphire.
Now their face is blacker than soot;
they are not recognized in the streets;
their skin has shriveled on their bones;
it has become as dry as wood.
Happier were the victims of the sword
than the victims of hunger,
who wasted away, pierced
by lack of the fruits of the field.
The hands of compassionate women
have boiled their own children;
they became their food
during the destruction of the daughter of my people.
The LORD gave full vent to his wrath;
he poured out his hot anger,
and he kindled a fire in Zion
that consumed its foundations.
The kings of the earth did not believe,
nor any of the inhabitants of the world,
that foe or enemy could enter
the gates of Jerusalem.
This was for the sins of her prophets
and the iniquities of her priests,
who shed in the midst of her
the blood of the righteous.
They wandered, blind, through the streets;
they were so defiled with blood
that no one was able to touch
“Away! Unclean!” people cried at them.
“Away! Away! Do not touch!”
So they became fugitives and wanderers;
people said among the nations,
“They shall stay with us no longer.”
The LORD himself has scattered them;
he will regard them no more;
no honor was shown to the priests,
no favor to the elders.
Our eyes failed, ever watching
vainly for help;
in our watching we watched
for a nation which could not save.
They dogged our steps
so that we could not walk in our streets;
our end drew near; our days were numbered,
for our end had come.
Our pursuers were swifter
than the eagles in the heavens;
they chased us on the mountains;
they lay in wait for us in the wilderness.
The breath of our nostrils, the LORD's anointed,
was captured in their pits,
of whom we said, “Under his shadow
we shall live among the nations.”
Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom,
you who dwell in the land of Uz;
but to you also the cup shall pass;
you shall become drunk and strip yourself bare.
The punishment of your iniquity, O daughter of Zion, is accomplished;
he will keep you in exile no longer;
but your iniquity, O daughter of Edom, he will punish;
he will uncover your sins.
(Lamentations 4 ESV)
Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me;
fight against those who fight against me!
Take hold of shield and buckler
and rise for my help!
Draw the spear and javelin
against my pursuers!
Say to my soul,
“I am your salvation!”
Let them be put to shame and dishonor
who seek after my life!
Let them be turned back and disappointed
who devise evil against me!
Let them be like chaff before the wind,
with the angel of the LORD driving them away!
Let their way be dark and slippery,
with the angel of the LORD pursuing them!
For without cause they hid their net for me;
without cause they dug a pit for my life.
Let destruction come upon him when he does not know it!
And let the net that he hid ensnare him;
let him fall into it—to his destruction!
Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD,
exulting in his salvation.
All my bones shall say,
“O LORD, who is like you,
delivering the poor
from him who is too strong for him,
the poor and needy from him who robs him?”
Malicious witnesses rise up;
they ask me of things that I do not know.
They repay me evil for good;
my soul is bereft.
But I, when they were sick—
I wore sackcloth;
I afflicted myself with fasting;
I prayed with head bowed on my chest.
I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother;
as one who laments his mother,
I bowed down in mourning.
But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered;
they gathered together against me;
wretches whom I did not know
tore at me without ceasing;
like profane mockers at a feast,
they gnash at me with their teeth.
How long, O Lord, will you look on?
Rescue me from their destruction,
my precious life from the lions!
I will thank you in the great congregation;
in the mighty throng I will praise you.
Let not those rejoice over me
who are wrongfully my foes,
and let not those wink the eye
who hate me without cause.
For they do not speak peace,
but against those who are quiet in the land
they devise words of deceit.
They open wide their mouths against me;
they say, “Aha, Aha!
Our eyes have seen it!”
You have seen, O LORD; be not silent!
O Lord, be not far from me!
Awake and rouse yourself for my vindication,
for my cause, my God and my Lord!
Vindicate me, O LORD, my God,
according to your righteousness,
and let them not rejoice over me!
Let them not say in their hearts,
“Aha, our heart's desire!”
Let them not say, “We have swallowed him up.”
Let them be put to shame and disappointed altogether
who rejoice at my calamity!
Let them be clothed with shame and dishonor
who magnify themselves against me!
Let those who delight in my righteousness
shout for joy and be glad
and say evermore,
“Great is the LORD,
who delights in the welfare of his servant!”
Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness
and of your praise all the day long.
(Psalm 35 ESV)
Praying Against Opposition
Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me! (Psalm 35:1)
We might often wonder how appropriate it is to pray that God would contend against those who contend against us. We might question whether or not we can pray for the agendas of our oppressors to fail and that they themselves would suffer disappointment, shame and even destruction. However, as we read such prayers throughout the psalms, we can be encouraged that there are in fact good reasons for God’s people to pray such prayers.
Praying in this way is a realistic type of prayer because after all, if God is truly going to protect us as His people then there are going to be definite times where we need Him to disrupt the agendas of those out to oppress us. Next, praying in this way is a just way to pray since such people are often out to harm us without any just cause for doing so. And then also, praying in this way is taking God at His word and is more of an appeal to Him based on our faith than any selfish desire for revenge or vindication.
Like David here in this psalm, whenever we find ourselves praying in this way, we should do so in a way that is willing to wait with confident expectation for the joy and gratitude that will come when our request is finally answered in God’s own timing and His own unique way. And like all other forms of prayer, the end result should be the exaltation of our faithful God who saves. May our soul rejoice in the Lord on account of His saving power, and then may our tongues tell of His righteousness and graciousness all the day long.