The Thanksgiving holiday season has arrived in the United States, preceded ironically by shootings in churches as well as a concert venue and numerous accusations of sexual harassment or assault against well-known entertainers or politicians. The possibility of nuclear war has emerged again. This confluence of evil with a day of Thanksgiving to God has caused questioning of both the goodness of God and the viability of prayer.
Psalm 9 recognizes the disruption caused by evil. The psalmist acknowledges that sin has consequences, and that the needy may seem forgotten. The concluding verses of the psalm/prayer plead for justice,
“Arise, O LORD! Let not man prevail; let the nations be judged before you! Put them in fear, O LORD! Let the nations know that they are but men! (verses 19-20).”
Violation of God’s will occurs at both personal and national levels. People and nations get into trouble when individuals act as they are gods. Mass shootings happen when someone decides he or she has the authority to decide when other people live or die. This prayer in Psalm 9 reminds us that all humanity is accountable to higher authority.
This prayer is not primarily about bemoaning injustice or cruelty. The psalmist gives thanks to God because of his “wonderful deeds” (verse 1). He sings praises to a God who remembers the afflicted and avenges on their behalf. God “does not forget the cry of the afflicted” (verses 11-12). He thanks God who maintains justice by judging uprightly, who rebukes and punishes the wicked, and who reveals himself (verses 5, 8, and 16). He appreciates that God does not forsake those who seek him (verse 10). When he prays for rescue, he prays for the opportunity to continue to “recount all your praises” and “rejoice in your salvation.”
Like the writer of Psalm 9, let’s look for what God has done for good in our lives. Let’s remember reconciliation of damaged relationships, incredible rescues, and victories over disease and addiction. Let’s praise God for people who turned their lives around. Let’s thank him for the blessings he poured into our lives through the love, action, and example of people who died this year. Let us pray with the Psalmist,
“Be gracious to me, O LORD! See my affliction from those who hate me, O you who lift me up from the gates of death, that I may recount all your praises, that in the gates of the daughter of Zion I may rejoice in your salvation” (verses 13-14).