When someone who’s behaviour we dislike gets their comeuppance, we remember it. When someone who’s behaviour we approve of gets rewarded or affirmed, we remember that too. What gets forgotten is all the people who seemingly get away with it or whose goodness goes unnoticed.
The writer of this Psalm rejoices in either their specific predictions, or their general ones that their target exemplifies, coming true. Clearly a decidedly undesirable person has fallen spectacularly from grace, and without fear of retaliation, their power has disappeared with their wealth, the psalmist denounces them. Their target was rich, influential, boastful, mischievous, deceitful, treacherous, evil and a liar. They have gotten their just deserts, have been broken, and are the subject of derision and ridicule. The psalmist concludes their gloating with, perhaps hypocritically, a boast of their own. The Psalmist describes themselves as an evergreen, fruitful and prized green olive tree sitting in pride of place in God’s Temple. Declares their eternal trust and thanksgiving for God’s love and presence.
The lesson the Psalmist didn’t learn is that our declarations against others weigh twice as heavily upon ourselves. If we are to speak out, discerning God’s will, then we need to acknowledge where we too fall short, less our words evaporate in the heat of our own shortcomings. The psalmist delights in their target’s descent, but forgets that this now much diminished person is a fellow child of God in need of compassion. When the constant targets of our righteous anger occasionally crash to earth, it is incredibly tempting to delight in their diminished circumstances. It is much harder to see, and respond to them, as equally flawed fellow human beings.
Living God, inspire us to challenge all that diminishes your dream for Creation. Remind us that the challenge applies as much to us, as it does to others. Fill us with the patience and humility to walk this path, and the compassion to respond to all things in love. Amen
The Rev’d David Coaker serves with Grays URC in Essex.