Sunday 5th September
Do you indeed, you men so mighty,
Decree in justice what is right?
Are all your verdicts truth and light,
And do you judge all men uprightly?
No, in your hearts you wrongs devise:
You deal out violence and lies.
Right from their birth the wicked wander,
And from the womb they go astray;
Deceit and falsehood mark their way.
Like serpent’s venom is their slander;
They’re deaf like snakes that stop the ear
Lest they the charmer’s voice should hear.
God, break the teeth of those that slaughter;
Repay them with their victims’ pangs;
Tear out their savage lion fangs.
O let them vanish like the waters
That over rocks and gravel pass;
Cause them to wither as the grass.
W. van der Kamp, 1972
You can hear this to the Genevan tune here:
The cry for God’s vengeance found in both the Psalm and the hymn, pull no punches! The psalmist suffers under a corrupt world order – so do we and we might cry out with the same anger and frustration against it.
Despite the savage hopes of retribution, the Psalmist cries for God to act. It is not for us to ‘break the teeth’ or ‘repay them with their victim’s pangs’, but for God. This sounds familiar to our prayer each week ‘thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ – including to those who cause and partake in awful injustice. Even when we cry out against the wicked and in hope of justice – it should be God’s way we reach for, not our own.
Like the Psalmist, we suffer under a corrupt world order and, all too often, we are the beneficiaries of it as well. The language of the Psalm is extremely provocative, hopefully evoking in us an awareness of the pain and suffering in our world; hopefully also, reminding us that we bear some responsibility for the state of the world. How do we respond to the idea of us being the enemies of God’s Kingdom, who should be repaid with our victim’s pangs?
Christian Aid week this year raised awareness of the poorest in our world suffering disproportionately from the effects of Climate change. Might we hear the victims of our broken world, from which we benefit, crying to God: ‘they’re deaf like snakes that stop the ear’… ‘cause them to wither as the grass’?
Our faith and life and work as followers of Jesus is a call to joy as citizens of God’s Kingdom and to the self-awareness and repentance that will bring it about.
God, to whom we bravely pray ‘your Kingdom come’,
open our ears to the cries of the poor,
open our eyes to what is right,
open our hands to reach out with love,
open our minds to the destruction of broken systems,
open our hearts to your Kingdom breaking into our lives.
May we accept your way of Joy and Peace
and be brave to repent for the good of your whole creation.