"In the work of his own hands the wicked is snared." Psalm 9:16 Psalm 9 is an interesting psalm in that it celebrates the exaltation of the "righteous" and the throwing down of the "wicked" in an experiential sense. The Psalmist appears to be writing out of experience. This is the best of experiences for those who are wired like me. I am a "do it right, get the reward" type of person. This is the way the world is supposed to work in my book. The good guys get rewarded and defended by God and the bad guys get sent packing or get punished. "When my enemies turn back, they stumble and perish before You. For you have maintained my just cause; You have sat on the throne judging righteously. You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their name forever and ever. The enemy has come to an end in perpetual ruins, and you have uprooted the cities; the very memory of them has perished." Psalm 9:3-6 This is exactly how it should go in my expectation of God and the world. This is how it works on TV whether you are watching Daniel Boone, Andy Griffith, the Lone Ranger or Bugs Bunny. The good guy wins in the end. And this is how we wish it would work in the world of politics, but it rarely does, at least, according to our reckoning. "The nations have sunk down into the pit which they have made; in the net which they hid, their own foot has been caught." Psalm 9:15 This was one of my father's favorite passages. He took comfort in the thought of his enemies being snared by their own traps. And I can't say I blame him. When this Psalm stands alone, it is purely a psalm of exaltation at the defeat and overthrow of ones enemies. Not many of the Psalms have such a straight forward message of good news. Many of the Psalms live with great tension and acknowledgement of the complexities and contradictions in the life of God's people. But this one is consistent throughout. However, it is not meant to stand alone. The Psalms are a collection of prayers that are meant to be read together. The are small pieces of an enormous work of art that depicts the journey of God's dealings with his people. As it says in Ecclesiastes, "to everything there is a season". This particular Psalm provides words of celebration for the deliverances of God. But we should also be thankful that not all the Psalms as so straightforward. We should be thankful that sometimes the Psalms dwell on the contradictions and the sense of injustice that we seem to experience in life and that God's people experienced as a whole. This is because, when the whole truth is told, it can get very difficult to declare exactly whom the enemy is. As someone once said, "I have seen the enemy and he is us!" We should know that there is a limit to the celebration of the overthrow of the wicked because, if we are not careful, we will find ourselves courting the same disasters that fell upon our enemies. We might be dancing upon our own graves. In other words, we might be judged according to the standard we are using to judge others. To bring this home for a minute, I was listening to President Trump's recent address to the United Nations concerning the growing threat of North Korea. I applaud his speech in the way it confronted the evil, totalitarian, government of North Korea. But I winced when I heard him
compare the "few evil" with the "many righteous". Obviously, in that scenario, we and other nations like us are the "righteous" compared to the "evil" North Korean government. While I can agree with this on one level, the obvious hypocrisy and propaganda of it is extremely unhealthy for our national collective conscience. North Korea shamelessly uses the lives of their own people as commodities worth less than cattle. I would rather be a cow than a human in North Korea. But Donald Trump has made much of his own personal money through Casinos which have destroyed countless lives and no doubt has exploited many sex-slaves through strip clubs and creating a venue for such activity. We may need to stand up to North Korea, and we should rejoice should God grant us the ability to remove an oppressor, but we should take heed lest the judgment fall back on our own head. We should repent of our own evil while we confront evil that we find elsewhere.
Jesus warned Israel of similar arrogance when He spoke to the crowds concern atrocities committed by the Romans against their people: “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” Luke 13:2-5 The Psalms are meant to paint a full picture only when they are read as a whole. We should not isolate them and read them as rules which God must obey. These are the songs of a people who have walked with God for many generations. Rather, they are the songs of a people with whom God walked for generations. This is what they saw and experienced, and this is how they responded and prayed. Their story becomes our story when we give out lives to Jesus. So pray their prayers and sing their psalms but know that to everything their is a season.
"For the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted perish forever. Arise, O Lord, do not let man prevail; Let the nations be judged before You. Put them in fear, O Lord; Let the nations know that they are but men." Psalm 9:18-20