Say among the nations, ‘The Lord is king! The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved. He will judge the peoples with equity.’ Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord; for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth.
I was brought up in a liberal Christianity which shied away from judgement and what appeared to us to be a vindictive God. The climate crisis has made me reassess this tradition. This Psalm should make us all reassess it.
The Psalmist weaves together the joyful song of the created order with God’s judgement on the peoples. They are not two different aspects of God’s nature, they are one and the same. This may seem odd to those of us who have lived comfortably through this recent, very short, period of human history, in which our minority of the world’s human population has lived a luxurious life with only the occasional reminder of our creatureliness. The vast majority of the human population through history, the majority of the world in 2021, and perhaps all of us in the light of COVID-19, we can no longer forget that we also are mere creatures of our Creator.
To cope with that change we need to hear this Psalm and the judgement on humanity in it. David Attenborough’s series ‘A Life on our Planet’ on Netflix concludes that the havoc wreaked by us comfortable people, in our excessive consumption of the earth’s resources, does not imperil the planet itself. But it certainly imperils humanity.
The Psalmist is right – the forests shall go on singing with joy, the seas will roar, the fields exult and the planet will spin for millions more years. But humanity is bringing God’s judgement on itself by disregarding our place in creation and trying to be like God (rather like Adam and Eve in Genesis 3).
We need to hear this truth – our desire to be gods is a vain pretence. If we don’t realise that very soon indeed, then we will surely reap the whirlwind of God’s judgement.
Loving Creator God, we are sorry that we have tried to keep for ourselves the song of the trees, the roaring of the sea, the exaltation of the fields and the rejoicing of the earth without seeking also your judgement in equity on the peoples.
Turn our hearts, that like the Psalmist we may rejoice in your righteous judgement and turn from our evil ways so that creation’s song may continue as you intended. Amen.
Revd Gethin Rhys is Policy Officer for Cytun (Churches together in Wales) and a member of Parkminster URC, Cardiff.
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