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The City

Confuse the wicked, O Lord, confound their speech, for I see violence and strife in the city. Day and night they prowl about on its walls; malice and abuse are within it. Destructive forces are at work in the city; threats and lies never leave its streets. Psalm 55.9-11.

The description of “the city” that David gives us here is one that could easily be applied, word for word, to Bradford — the city in the UK in which I live — and any other city I have visited or know about. They are indeed places where violence flourishes and destructive forces seem to find a home and go about their business. So what is the answer?

For David, it is a prayer that God will confuse the wicked in whom the destructive forces are at work and confound their speech. As I read those words I thought, “That sounds familiar,” and then I realised why. David is thinking back to the story in Genesis when the descendants of Noah said, “‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’ But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.'” (Genesis 11.4-7).

David’s prayer, then, is that God will do again what he did when men began to build what became the city of Babylon — that he will frustrate the plans of the wicked and bring about a breakdown in communications between them so that they are unable to work together. Have I ever thought of making that my prayer for the pimps and traffickers and drug-pushers in my city? No, I never have … but I shall do so today.

Maybe, thinking about it, my prayers generally are altogether too “positive” — I’m forever praying for people to be changed, redeemed etc, but the fact is that not everyone will be changed and redeemed and, at the end of the day, there must be the destruction of all that is evil. In the midst of the glorious description of the new heaven and the new earth in Revelation 21, there is this: “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practise magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death” (Revelation 21.8). Three thousand years ago, the psalmist recognised that and had no qualms about praying for it to come about — the destruction of evil is a constant theme in the book of Psalms — so neither, perhaps, should I.

Lord Jesus, there are wicked people in this city in which I live and destructive forces at work. Frustrate their plans, break down their lines of communication, let disunity come between them, and destroy all that is evil. Amen.

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