1 May God arise, may his enemies be scattered;
may his foes flee before him.
2 May you blow them away like smoke—
as wax melts before the fire,
may the wicked perish before God.
i’m not going to lie, i often don’t quite know what to do with some of the anger and violence of the Old Testament. When i was young it was as black and white as an old A-team episode [google it, kids!] where there were the good guys and the bad guys and the good guys beat the bad guys. But then one day when i got older, i realised that the bad guys might have moms and wives and children. And suddenly it got a whole lot more complicated.
i do still, however, feel that the evidence of a good God is overwhelming and so this doesn’t make me question God, but it does make me try a little bit harder to understand why things got a little hectic earlier on.
Cos let’s face it – ‘blow them away like smoke as wax melts before the fire’ – sounds a little hectic to me. But it’s the bad guys, so it’s okay. Oh but wait, maybe these bad guys have families too? Argh.
Well, i’m not sure i know the answers, so let’s start with that confession as the base point, BUT perhaps there are some clues that may help.
In the second half of verse 6, after talking about people God looks after, it says, ‘but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.’
Okay, so that is helpful. These enemies of God are people who rebel. Turn against. Refuse to follow God.
21 Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies,
the hairy crowns of those who go on in their sins.
i think this verse is helpful as well as it suggests the idea of going on in their sins. So not necessarily people who have just got it wrong or made a mistake or been born in the wrong tribe or anything like that. These are people who repeatedly continue to choose a path away from God and to their sin, whatever that particular sin is.
The verses after that get a little edgy in their description of the treatment of the enemies and perhaps what is helpful to get our minds around that is knowing it was spoken into a specific context in the language of the people of the day. This whole piece is a poem, or more correctly a song, and so poetic licence is given in terms of the language used not necessarily being literal but more emotive and colourful.
Because if we only read those verses, we can get a very particular picture of God, but let’s see how else He is described here:
4 Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds;
rejoice before him—his name is the Lord.
5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
6 God sets the lonely in families,
he leads out the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
I love that phrase, ‘God sets the lonely in families’ [Could read a whole subtext of ‘Adoption’ into that one phrase, or ‘Community’ or both].
‘A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows’ and He ‘leads out the prisoners with singing’
Okay, so suddenly this God is sounding a lot more likeable.
9 You gave abundant showers, O God;
you refreshed your weary inheritance.
10 Your people settled in it,
and from your bounty, God, you provided for the poor.
That is really great as well, ‘from your bounty, you provided for the poor.’ We can start to get a picture for the kind of people God seems to strongly gravitate towards – those who can’t seem to look after themselves as easily or well.
This is a long Psalm and so worth reading through the whole thing by yourself, maybe multiple times, to really get the meat of it. But there is still a piece or two i would like to draw attention to:
19 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
who daily bears our burdens.
20 Our God is a God who saves;
from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.
The God we serve is the God who ‘daily bears our burdens’ and He is a ‘God who saves’. Those are both powerful statements ad remind me a lot more of the God i am drawn towards and know.
i think it is important to know that there is a difference between ‘bearing our burdens’ and ‘removing our burdens’ as often we would love fr God to just take away all the bad stuff in our life, but this image is of God carrying it alongside us. So being with us and helping make the burden lighter as opposed to necessarily taking it away altogether.
And lastly this song finishes off with a flourish:
32 Sing to God, you kingdoms of the earth,
sing praise to the Lord,
33 to him who rides across the highest heavens, the ancient heavens,
who thunders with mighty voice.
34 Proclaim the power of God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
whose power is in the heavens.
35 You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary;
the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.
Praise be to God!
Awesome in your sanctuary. This is out God. Praise be to Him.