nb: thought I’d go a bit of a different route today with this Psalm. A story on God’s unity in love and wrath.
There was once a little princess from Castle Spotless who spent most of her time in the keep while the King was away fighting battles. Whenever the King returned through the frosted gates, the town would rejoice with him, congratulating him for once again keeping the goblin horde at bay.
The little princess would always sit right beside her father at the night’s feast, nestled into the warmth of his cloak and hearing his soldiers share war stories. She didn’t listen too hard, of course, because they were quite scary. She couldn’t quite believe it when the people around her spoke about her father’s vicious sword strokes, flaming arrows and bloodied shield. Her father would hug her goodnight and read her stories. He’d kiss her on the forehead. He certainly wasn’t ever violent or angry with her. All of these tales of bloodshed and anger simply didn’t fit. “They must be exaggerating,” she thought. “Father would never do something like that. They must be mistaken.” Never mind the dried blood on his sword or the gash on his leg.
Not a day later, early in the morning that the sun was still hidden, the sound of the castle horn reverberated through the stone walls. The princess had never thought today would come, but she knew as well as anyone else what that horn meant. An attack.
She waited. And waited. She knew from her lessons that another horn would sound when the goblins were defeated. Three blows. But it must have been ten minutes and she still heard the clashes of metal outside as strongly as she heard it at its beginning. Worried for her father, she plucked up all her courage and left her room. Turning the icy knob, she swung the door open to reveal the courtyard, or more accurately, the battlefield. The castle knights fought with all they had, Sir John had not even had enough time to put his armour on.
And in the midst of it all, she saw her father unlike she’d ever seen him before. His face was red, eyes wide, piercing his longsword into the heart of one of the goblins. He slashed and slashed, defeating any that dared enter within range of his gleaming sword. He was not the father who would kiss her goodnight and read her stories. He was scary.
The night persisted as long as the battle took. Finally the three horns came. The princess saw the servants came to help remove the goblin bodies. She also saw her father covered in sweat and mud, blood and grime. He smiled at her, like he always did. How could this be the same man? Yet then something happened.
She felt her body move before her mind, and she raced towards her father and leapt into his embrace. He was still warm. He had the same face, albeit his breathing was a little faster than normal. Her mind caught up to her feelings as she looked over his shoulder and caught a glimpse of a goblin corpse.
Those things would have taken her if they could. They wouldn’t respond to peace, her father had tried that long ago. They just kept pushing and pushing and pushing. What was her father to do? Hold out a handshake while his whole household was raided and those he loved burned? Her fear turned to an even greater love than she had before. It was not the King’s nature to be angry, but it was his nature to protect his daughter.
She now saw something deeper in her mind’s eye. She remembered that night, when she saw her father cutting down goblins left and right. This time she saw his face differently. It was love for her that drove his anger. It was love for her that powered each sword swing, not the joy of slaughter. When his love was turned to face the enemy, it burned them brightly, for they were met with the love that they despised. His hatred for the enemy was his love for his daughter, the two could not be separated. She saw the two faces of her father she knew: love and wrath. The face of love was turned towards her and the face of wrath towards the enemy. Each face converged into one and she saw both as two sides of the same coin. Her father was more complicated than she thought, but he was even better than she thought before.
I will thank the Lord with all my heart;
I will declare all your wondrous works.
I will rejoice and boast about you;
I will sing about your name, Most High.
When my enemies retreat,
they stumble and perish before you.
For you have upheld my just cause;
you are seated on your throne as a righteous judge.
You have rebuked the nations:
You have destroyed the wicked;
you have erased their name forever and ever.
The enemy has come to eternal ruin;
you have uprooted the cities,
and the very memory of them has perished.
But the Lord sits enthroned forever;
he has established his throne for judgment.
And he judges the world with righteousness;
he executes judgment on the nations with fairness.
The Lord is a refuge for the persecuted,
a refuge in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you
because you have not abandoned
those who seek you, Lord.
Sing to the Lord, who dwells in Zion;
proclaim his deeds among the nations.
For the one who seeks an accounting
for bloodshed remembers them;
he does not forget the cry of the oppressed.
Be gracious to me, Lord;
consider my affliction at the hands of those who hate me.
Lift me up from the gates of death,
so that I may declare all your praises.
I will rejoice in your salvation
within the gates of Daughter Zion.
The nations have fallen into the pit they made;
their foot is caught in the net they have concealed.
The Lord has made himself known;
he has executed justice,
snaring the wicked
by the work of their hands. Higgaion.
The wicked will return to Sheol—
all the nations that forget God.
For the needy will not always be forgotten;
the hope of the oppressed will not perish forever.
Rise up, Lord! Do not let mere humans prevail;psalm ix (csb)
let the nations be judged in your presence.
Put terror in them, Lord;
let the nations know they are only humans. Selah