In different ways, these psalms deal with the LORD’s backing for the psalmist against his enemies – whether that’s future, present or past. This goes each time with an affirmation that the psalmist has walked in the ways of the LORD and is righteous – for this is a condition of being able to call upon the LORD with any confidence.
We’re understandably cautious about claiming to have God’s backing in any conflict. We’ve seen and still see too many evils done in the confidence that God is on our side and we’re doing his work against his enemies. But I don’t think we can use these psalms to back us up on ‘big issue’ conflicts where we might wish to insist that God is on our side. They are prayers of an individual facing danger and opposition – usually feeling that the opposition is unfair or unjust. They’re prayers given to us to draw upon when we feel in that position.
They can’t responsibly be used as backing for our projects, be they small or large, business or military. They’re meant to be the heartfelt prayers of a believer who doesn’t feel that anyone else is listening, and who has nowhere left to turn. In those situations, the promise of God’s presence and the victory of his justice make sense, and are there to be called upon.
There are passages in some of these psalms which do go beyond seeking justice to asking for vengeance. That doesn’t mean it’s a good thing to desire the downfall and hurt of others, even if we feel that they deserve it. But it does mean that there are prayers open to us when we really do want our enemies to suffer – that God is not shocked or driven away from us by the worst of emotions any more than by the best. We can still reach out to him – though I don’t think we can afford to keep asking for vengeance forever. Eventually we will have to learn forgiveness, but we may need to pray in anger first.