A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Lord, Do Not Forgive Them, For They Know Exactly What They Are Doing

Nehemiah 4:1-5   Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?”  Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building–if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!”
Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.

Christ prayed from the cross that His Father might forgive those who crucified Him.  That was probably a pretty good sized crowd, by the way.  All the mockers and  scorners there.  Later on the Day of Pentecost, Peter would tell the crowd that they crucified Christ by the hands of wicked men.  And then it was from that crowd that some 3,000 were saved.  I suspect this would not have happened had not Christ prayed for His elect from the cross.  He prayed for them — for they know not what they do.  Similarly, Paul told Timothy that the Lord showed him mercy because he acted ignorantly in unbelief when he persecuted Christ’s church.

But here in Nehemiah 4, another godly man is being jeered and persecuted by wicked men.  And he prays for them as well.  Only his prayer is much different – Return their reproach on their own heads…give them up for plunder…do not forgive their iniquity and let not their sin be blotted out before You….  What is this all about?  Maybe Nehemiah was being too human and thus unkind and unforgiving?

No.

Nehemiah’s prayer was a good and righteous prayer.  The context makes that clear.  When wicked, evil people set out to destroy the work of the Lord, and they do so knowing full well that it is the work of the Lord, it is right to pray that the Lord judge them.  Nehemiah’s prayer was just like the many imprecatory Psalms that are prayers calling upon the Lord to destroy His enemies.  And I would maintain that victims of abusers have every right before God to pray these very kinds of prayers when they feel moved to do so.  We should ALL be praying these kinds of prayers regularly.  Let’s face up to it — evil people abound within our churches.  They hide behind their facades while they carry out their wickedness unseen.  Sexual abusers of children.  Abusers of their spouses.  Power and control hungry Diotrephes types looking to lure the whole flock into following them.  The Word of God has some pretty rough words for these kind:

Jude 1:12-13,” These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; (13) wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.”

There are people who are worse than your average sinner.  Without conscience.  Charming.  And very dangerous to our souls.

So why is it not quite appropriate then for all of us, including pastors in their pastoral prayers in the worship service, to be praying — “Lord, do not forgive such people who lurk about as hidden reefs in the fellowship of Your people.  Rise up, O Lord!  Expose them and bring them to nothing.  Bring their evil down upon their own heads and give us the wisdom to recognize it when You do so.”  We should all pray for our churches that the Light of the world would bring hidden things to light.

We sing “Shine, Jesus, Shine!”  Do we really understand the implications of that prayer?  When the Light of Christ shines among us, it has a way of turning things upside down.

9 Comments

  1. trustingfaith

    For a long time, I prayed anguished prayers for his soul and his deliverance from the demons he welcomed. But I realized that only God could free him, and only if HE let God in. I now pray for God to do as He will, trusting that only He knows what is possible. I gave my abuser totally over to God and left him there, not out of anger or hatred, but because I had to for my own well-being. It is a sad fact, that some WILL NOT allow themselves to be saved and he may be one of them…it was breaking my heart all over again each day. He is in God’s hands now.

  2. Those who “sin willfully” after having received the knowledge of the truth are a unique breed of sinner for whom no repentance and no forgiveness may be available. “I say not that ye should pray for them”

    • Thanks Larry. This verse is rarely discussed; I’m glad you quoted it so appropriately.

  3. Pippa

    About a year ago, the Lord gave me this Psalm (55). I figure if David could pray it, so could I.
    1Listen to my prayer, O God,
    do not ignore my plea; 
2  hear me and answer me. 
My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught 
3 because of what my enemy isaying,
    because of the threats of the wicked;
for they bring down suffering on me 
    and assail me in their anger.
    4 My heart is in anguish within me;
    the terrors of death have fallen on me. 
5 Fear and trembling have beset me;
    horror has overwhelmed me. 
6 I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
    I would fly away and be at rest.
7 I would flee far away
    and stay in the desert;[c] 
8 I would hurry to my place of shelter, 
    far from the tempest and storm. ”
    9 Lord, confuse the wicked, confound their words, 
    for I see violence and strife in the city. 
10 Day and night they prowl about on its walls;
    malice and abuse are within it.
11 Destructive forces are at work in the city;
    threats and lies never leave its streets.
    12 If an enemy were insulting me,
    I could endure it;
if a foe were rising against me,
    I could hide.
13 But it is you, a man like myself,
    my companion, my close friend, 
14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship 
    at the house of God, 
as we walked about
    among the worshipers.
    15 Let death take my enemies by surprise; 
    let them go down alive to the realm of the dead, 
    for evil finds lodging among them.
    16 As for me, I call to God,
    and the Lord saves me.
17 Evening, morning and noon 
    I cry out in distress,
    and he hears my voice.
18 He rescues me unharmed
    from the battle waged against me,
    even though many oppose me.
19 God, who is enthroned from of old, 
who does not change—
he will hear them and humble them,
    because they have no fear of God.
    20 My companion attacks his friends; 
    he violates his covenant. 
21 His talk is smooth as butter, 
    yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil, 
    yet they are drawn swords.
    22 Cast your cares on the Lord
    and he will sustain you; 
he will never let
    the righteous be shaken. 
23 But you, God, will bring down the wicked
    into the pit of decay;
the bloodthirsty and deceitful 
    will not live out half their days.
    But as for me, I trust in you.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Pippa – My attention was called to that very same Psalm a couple of years ago too. VERY reassuring for victims of abuse. Thank you.

    • Yes Pippa, Psalm 55 is the domestic abuse victims prayer.
      “… confuse the wicked, confound their words…”
      My companion, my close friend, betrayed me. He became filled with malice, lies wickedness and abuse. This psalm has given me unspeakable comfort and support over the years.
      Another passage that has sustained me is Genesis 19:9-11, where the angels strike the men of Sodom with blindness:
      “But they [the men of Sodom] said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down.
      But the men [the angels] reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.”

  4. Maree

    I also used to waken during the night praying in tears for my former husband’s salvation. Now I leave him and the church elders who wronged me in God’s hands to do with as he wills. I rarely pray for my former husband now. I prayed that the elders will have their eyes opened to my husband’s deceit as they believe he is born again.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Maree – and that is very wise!

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  1. Interpreting Bible narratives – how much can we apply them to domestic abuse? « A Cry For Justice

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