This psalm of praise has a sharp end, calling for the praise to be a double edged sword in their hands, carrying out vengence on other nations, binding their Kings and shackling their nobles, carrying out a sentence that has been pronounced on them.
There’s bits missing here (which nations? what sentence?). These can be filled in by the exile and the prophets.
Probably Babylon is the nation they are most likely thinking of, who sacked Jerusalem and exiled Israel, and the sentence is probably some version of the prophesy that the exile would end after 70 years, as it did, when the Persian Empire defeated Babylon and freed the people.
What’s more, singing the song in its original context: praising while captive, it probably wasn’t a good survival strategy to be more specific. It’s probably deliberately vague.
It’s a salvation psalm. You have the people rejoicing in God, God delighting in them, and them anticipating his salvation.
And I do long for the Kings of the nations to be fettered. To give Kings and princes their due, I suppose someone’s got to do it. But it is more common than not that the power makes them compromised and disappointing figures, even the ones who don’t kill the kids and drive you from your homeland.
I just watched the trailer for Tom Hanks’ movie about Mr Rogers. He was a Presbyterian minister, and his kids show about being a neighbour was squarely based a biblical inspiration for his life mission.
Hollywood aren’t fools, they know how this portrait of a deeply civil and gentle man will play against a national – maybe international – discourse that is descending into crude name calling, simplistic populism and dark forces like racism.
I knew I was being co-opted, but the trailer made me cry, anyway.
May our praise be a double edged sword.