Let Justice Be Done
(11) Sing praises to Yahweh who dwells in Zion. Proclaim to the nations his accomplishments, (12) for he who avenges bloodshed remembers. He does not forget the cry of the afflicted. (13) Have mercy on me, Yahweh. Consider how my enemies afflict me, and lift me up from the gates of death (14) that I may declare all your praises in the gates of the Daughter of Zion and there rejoice in your salvation. (15) The nations fall into the pit which they have made. In the net which they hid their own foot is caught. (16) Yahweh is known by the justice he has established. The wicked one is ensnared by the work of his own hands. (Higgaion, Selah)
Several repetitions and synonyms help us to determine the message of this segment. Twice David voices Yahweh’s praise in connection with Zion, his dwelling place on earth. In the first mention of Zion, David calls for God’s praises to be declared among the nations of the earth (vs. 11). In the second, David speaks of declaring God’s praises within the holy city (vs. 14).
Twice the psalmist mentions the “nations” as those among whom God’s praises are made known (vs. 11) and as those who fall into the trap they have prepared for others (vs. 15). Twice, in close proximity, he uses the term, “gates,” first to refer to the gates of death (vs. 13) and then, in contrast, to the gates of Zion where life is found (vs. 14). As in many other psalms, Yahweh’s name occurs repeatedly. In the first instance, he is the object of praise for all his works (vs. 11). In the second, he is the object of the psalmist’s prayer for relief from his enemies (vs. 13). In the third, he is designated as the one whose justice is evident in all his works (vs. 16).
I. Calling out in praise for Yahweh’s justice and mercy (11 & 12)
II. Crying out for Yahweh’s deliverance from our enemies (13 & 14)
III. Contrasting God’s justice with the wickedness of our enemies (15 & 16)
Those who know Yahweh should offer him praise in affliction knowing that his justice will prevail and that our enemies will be destroyed.
The Bible is filled with humor. Many verses and passages should make us chuckle when we consider just how funny the situations they describe really are. For example, who can read the prophecy of Jonah without being amused by the ingenious underwater vehicle God provided to bring his fleeing prophet back to his mission and back to his senses? The image used in this passage of the wicked ensnared in the very trap they have set for others should cause us at least a wry smile. A similar example is found in the book of Esther where Haman, the persecutor of the Jews, is hanged on the very gallows which he had prepared for his enemy, Mordecai.
The term, “poetic justice,” is often used to describe this kind of situation. It is defined as “the rewarding of virtue, and the punishment of vice, especially in an ironic manner.” When this happens, it seems almost too good to be true, for in our lives we rarely see this occur. That is precisely what this psalm promises will take place in three parallel statements (vss. 15 &16). The trapper will fall into his own pit. He will be ensnared by his own net. He will be caught by the ambush he has prepared for others.
Scripture instructs us never to plot to harm our enemies nor to seek revenge for wrongs done to us. Paul wrote in Romans, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:17-19). However, Scripture never forbids us to yearn for God’s justice to prevail. When Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer, he included the phrase, “Thy will be done on earth as in heaven.” This is an appropriate way for us to pray when, like David, we are the victims of others’ sinful actions. We all wait for that day when all wrongs will be made right, when all sinners will be held accountable for their evil ways, and when God’s justice prevails over the whole earth.