A WEEKLY WALK THROUGH THE PSALMS
The Psalms are often like our prayers. Something is troubling us and we turn to God for help. As you read through this psalm, it sounds like the psalmist is talking things out with God. Prayer is like that for us too – our praying is a way of thinking things through, even as we offer it all up to God. This writer is having charges brought against him. It seems what he is being charged of is something he did to a friend, someone who trusted him. Not only that, but if his guilt is proved, he may pay for it with the loss of his life. This is serious stuff on many levels.
The problem is that the psalmist claims he is innocent; he is being falsely accused. None of us likes to admit that we are to blame for something – or even partly to blame for something. That’s human nature, I guess. I wonder, though, if we don’t make a mockery of God’s forgiveness when we take that approach. Many times we have some part in things that have gone wrong. It is so easy to become self-righteous. But that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Have you ever been accused of something you didn’t do?
The psalmist says that if he has done this, then he should be punished accordingly – ‘let them trample my life to the ground and lay my soul in the dust’. But since he hasn’t done anything wrong, he wants God to intervene in his favor, to set things right. And he wants this done is so clear a way that everyone will know he is right and they are wrong. Even more, he wants those who have falsely accused him to suffer in some way because of it – ‘He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole which he has made’. Another way of saying that would be ‘whatever a person sows, so shall they reap’. A modern version of that would be to ‘make your bed and lie in it’.
In our human reaction to such things, we often want others to pay for their evil deeds. In Dante’s Inferno, what people experience in the next life is directly related to how they wronged others in this life – e.g. those who shed blood to achieve power in this life must wallow in boiling blood in the next. Not a very pretty scene. But our experience is different than that. Our experience is that the sun shines on both the righteous and the unrighteous. Our experience is that evil seems to thrive and good often does not. Even when we are wronged, there doesn’t seem to be payback.
That’s why, as Christians, we are sent running to the Gospel and to our Lord and Savior. Like the psalmist, we can give thanks that our Lord overcomes evil – even if we don’t always see how and where yet. That is what the cross was all about. We can give thanks, not only that God brings to nothing the plotting of those who do evil – and ultimately God will, but also that the one who died and rose again is also at work trying to turn all the world from wickedness to life. Even when we may not always see how that is happening, like the psalmist, we must believe God will do it and sing praise to the name of the Lord as a result. In the end, we all stand accused before the Lord our God. But how thankful we are that our God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Without that, where would any of us be?
LET US PRAY: O God, the light of your truth reveals the depths of every mind and heart. Purge us of malice and wickedness, and be our shield and defense against every evil, that we may bear witness to your steadfast love; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.