The Psalms of the Bible are poems. Originally they were song lyrics, but as we have long lost the tunes they sadly remain merely the great poems they are. I understand that many of them have amazing literary style in the original Hebrew. I'm afraid my Hebrew is about as good as my Japanese, so I will have to take the word of Biblical scholars on that one. All I know is that the Psalms have touched me in many meaningful ways even though I'm not usually a mushy kind of guy.
We often think of the Psalms of the Old Testament as feel good worship songs, and many are. Sometimes we think of them as songs of repentance or songs of lament for when we have sinned or have regrets. Sometimes we see encouragement in the Psalms during dark periods of our lives. All of these are common feelings and themes that can be seen in this ancient book of poetry.
Recently I read a different kind of Psalm. It is one of the many Psalms where the writer calls for justice. In Psalm 17 the writer declares his innocence and asks the Lord to protect him from the wicked. Verses 13-14 in particular stood out to me:
Arise, O LORD! Confront him, subdue him! Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword, from men by your hand, O LORD, from men of the world whose portion is in this life.
The last part really stood out to me, "from men whose portion is in this life." The author knows full well the passing nature of this life. We may have a life of pleasure, but it will not last. We may accumulate treasures and wealth and power, but at the end of it we die and everything goes to someone else. For the evil men mentioned in this Psalm, this is all they get.
There may have been specific people the author had in mind when he wrote this bit of poetry. He may have been thinking of individual men who had wronged him in their quest for wealth and power. He likely had specific people in mind with specific injustices. Those people are now all dead. I hope that they repented of their actions, but it is entirely likely that they continued in their evil ways.
As a result of their actions, they got everything they ever wanted.
And now they have nothing.
It is ironic that a Psalm asking for justice against evil men would make me feel such pity for those against whom the author is writing.
"All get what they want; they do not always like it." -Aslan