Let the nations know

This post was published on Monday 9 January 2023.

Psalm 9 ends with these words:

Rise up, O Lord! Do not let mortals prevail;
    let the nations be judged before you.
Put them in fear, O Lord;
    let the nations know that they are only human.

Psalm 9.19-20 (NRSV)

As with all ‘punishment psalms’, Psalm 9 can be difficult for readers with modern sensibilities (and a watered-down view of God) to read about God punishing or destroying people for their wickedness, or for opposing him - or to read about God being the one who ‘avenges blood’ (12).

There are all sorts of things we might say here - not least punishment in the Bible is almost always about justice, standing up for the marginalised, against those who oppose God - but actually I would like to focus on one of the core principles of God’s justice: actions have consequences.

David writes:

The nations have sunk in the pit that they made;
    in the net that they hid has their own foot been caught.
The Lord has made himself known, he has executed judgement;
    the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands.

Psalm 9.15-16 (NRSV)

A central part of God’s judgement is letting us face the consequences of our own actions. ‘The nations’ (usually code for ‘the world outside God’s family’ or ‘those who oppose God’) think they’re so clever and mighty, that they don’t need God and can get on fine without him thank you very much. But the web of lies and rebellion eventually trips up those who weave it.

The verse that really jumped out at me is the final phrase: let the nations know that they are only human (20). It sounds so obvious, but somehow it is so easy to forget that we are only human and he is God. Amazingly, God is willing to listen to us when we pray to him as his beloved children - but we are only human so what is most important is that we must learn to listen to our God.

This morning I want to echo David’s prayer:

Let me know I am only human.
Let me see myself as you see me:
created and fallen, loved and forgiven.
May I live the life
you have won for me and given to me in Jesus.