A WEEKLY WALK THROUGH THE PSALMS
This psalmist is really glad. You can hear it in his exuberant expressions of praise and thanksgiving to God. Something has really gone his way, and that something has to do with his vindication against the accusations of those who had it out for him. They probably brought their case before the temple and instead of coming out on top, were put to shame by a decision that went contrary to what they had hoped. The psalmist is glad that God has made things come out in his favor. Wouldn’t we feel the same? The problem is that victories in life often seem few and far between. Oh, they do happen. God does act in our favor as well. It’s just that if we get through one thing, another thing seems to rear its head or the same thing seems to resurface once again. As one professor said: “Some of the evil seems dead; I hope it is dead: but I fear it is not stone dead.” Goodness seems to take a lot of work; evil seems to happen without much effort.
Nonetheless, God has clearly given a victory in the eyes of this psalmist, and the psalmist is grateful. Each victory we can celebrate has at its foundation the ultimate victory of our Lord. Each victory is a sign of the main victory of life over death that God is bringing about. The psalm draws a contrast between worldly power, which seems so strong at the time but which does not endure, and what God is up to. Their memory perishes. It is transient. Worldly power has changed again and again throughout history. But the Lord shall endure forever. The psalmist would have us know that for all who put their trust in God, God is a mighty defender to the oppressed and a dependable helper to those who seek God in times of trouble. To know this truth about God is to have an inner confidence that all the worldly trials and tribulations cannot shake. Such a confidence leads to singing praises and to telling others what God has done (v.11).
If that is our experience, if we know anything about God’s great mercy in our own life, then why are we so reluctant to tell about it? If someone is sick, we might not hesitate to suggest to them a home remedy, some cure that has worked for us. But when it comes to having a way that speaks to real failure and to the fainthearted, we become silent. We want to exercise good manners so as not to offend. But didn’t God say to the early church: “You will receive power…. And you shall be my witnesses.” We are called to tell others what God has done and is doing in our world.
The psalmist concludes that eventually things catch up to those who follow the way of the world and not the way of God: “The wicked are snared in the work of their own hands.” Sooner or later, they will ‘sink in the pit which they made.’ The psalmist says that ‘the nations know that they are but men’. Shouldn’t that be our prayer too? Wouldn’t it be great if the world could wake up to realize that any of our earthly power is temporary and only that which comes from God and is of God will endure? We can only hope! In the meantime, there is a promise that is expressed in verse 18: “For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.” Praise to the God who will make that happen!
PRAYER: Righteous Judge, hear the cries of your oppressed people. Rescue them from their enemies, and save them from the gates of death, so that we may rejoice in your help and tell your praise in the gates of Zion; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.