Do me a favor and please read Psalm 75.
As with many psalms we have the writer seeing or experiencing something and them simply responding. I see foes coming at me? I turn to God in plea of hope for deliverance. We’re on our way up to Jerusalem? then we sing songs and write psalms of praise and joy. What we’re experiencing and where we are going or how we are feeling: we lift it up to God and praise him.
The psalmist today is experiencing something from someone – or groups of someones – and is responding because of it. Verse 1 gives us a praise of God and then verse 2 gives us a little hint and clue that the psalmist sees the wicked doing something but we’re kind of left there. Verses 3-8 is kind of a proclamation that is given to the wicked and proud in how they should act because ultimately God will deal with them (a theme we consistently see throughout the psalms as well) and that it is the Lord himself who is in complete control (again…a running theme); and then in the end the psalmist simply closes with a proclamation of joy and praise BECAUSE of God’s goodness and complete holdings of all things (aka, his “sovereignty”).
So where is the psalmist? What is going on?
Well, it’s just not clear (most attribute it to David after coming to the crown from Saul and written by Asaph – but even that is up for interpretation). In one way this psalm kind of feels like Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt Carmel (1 Kings 18) where you have a man of God in a match with people who are against God (and without the massacre), but on the other hand this simply feels like the psalmist is walking the streets and sees all these ungodly people doing ungodly things to each other, and God, and they’re fed up with it. And yet neither of these really, to me, feel like that’s where they are. To me…it feels like the psalmist is reflecting on how HE’S spoken into the lives of those who do not act justly, rightly, humbly, and in ways that God calls them to. It even feels a little like two friends who have come together and one of the friends is explaining to the other what they have seen and how they personally responded and tried to get these “proud” and “wicked” people to stop doing what they were doing and see the errors of their ways.
No matter where the psalmist is at or whom they are speaking to or not to – the conviction to speak out when things are happening that are against God is duly noted. We are called to be stewards of God’s creation (Gen 2:15). We are called to be fishers of men/women (Matt 4:19). We are called to be bringers of grace (Col 4:6) and truth (Eph 4:15). We are called to baptize and bring forth the “Good News” of Jesus Christ (Mat 28:18-20)…we are called to speak into, and respond to, evil (Eph 5:11). But how often do we really do that? How often do we do what the psalmist here has done and warn people when they are boasting and being proud? How often do we speak against the wicked TO the wicked? We’re good about talking to each other or posting things on FB or other social medias – but those are sidesteps and ways of speaking about it without confronting the person and correcting them. We’ll see something someone does or says and we’ll tweet a response, but again, that’s not a correcting. That’s not a speaking into someone’s life about the errors of their ways. All that is is simply backchannel paths of non-confrontational-confrontation. And let’s be clear here too…the psalmist’s words speak of someone who is doing so in direct defiance – which means they are purposely doing so (you can’t be “defiant” without being open resistant to that which you are working against). It’s like the person who proclaims they are a “Christian” and yet doesn’t act the way they know they should…and does so defiantly. And I’m honestly not sure if there is a worse person. To know you do things openly against God and still go about doing it? Ouch.
But here’s the thing – and not that they are of equal harm – but when WE don’t speak to our brothers and sisters when they do harm and go against God…when we use back channels to speak of what they have done without coming to them and speaking of the harm they are doing (in love and hopes of reconciliation)…that too is in defiance of God. We are called to love. We are called to help each other. We are called to speak into each other’s lives and bring correctness when correcting needs to be brought…and again, to do so in love (Matthew 18:15-17; Gal 6:1; 2 Thess 3:15, etc).
I think sometimes we simply need a good reminder that just as the psalmist proclaims that God will have the wicked stand before him in judgment so too will his faithful followers. And in all instances we will ALL be asked why we loved and didn’t love. Why we acted and didn’t act. How we showed grace and forgiveness and didn’t…how we spoke to correct those who were acting un-righteously (and how we went ABOUT it) as well as how we didn’t. Let’s not get so hung up on other people and what THEY are doing without fully looking within ourselves first.