Psalm 139 is regularly read in church services. It's a beautiful celebration of humanity as created and sustained by God. It's a wonderful reassurance that God's great design stands behind each human being, and that his awesome presence accompanies each human life. Where we are perhaps ready to see the flaws in each other and in ourselves, the Psalm encourages us to view each person as "fearfully and wonderfully made". Where I tend to feel alone, the Psalm lifts my eyes to see that wherever I am and whatever my circumstances, God's "right hand shall hold me". No wonder the Psalm gets so much airtime.
But then you hit verse 19. Oh, that you would slay the wicked, O God!
The reading often skips this bit out. How can this verse sit alongside the beautiful sentiments of the rest of the Psalm? How can we affirm on the one hand that God knows each human life intimately, but on the other hand pray that God would smite the wicked?
But there is no conflict here. It is precisely because of the value of life that the Psalmist cries out against the wicked. The wicked are "men of blood", those who stand against God's good intention, those who oppose life. And they are strong, and they are bold, and mere human beings cannot stop them.
Therefore, oh, that you would slay the wicked, O God!
Now, with New Testament lenses on, we can see that this prayer is ultimately answered, not in the death of any number of wicked people, but in the death of wickedness itself at the cross of Christ. And yet... May we not still hand over the wicked, whose power is beyond us, to God - the just judge? Should we not ask the Judge to enforce justice? I think perhaps we should.
Love of life - the life created by God - must mean enmity to everything that stands for death, and in that battle our weapon is prayer.