“. . .but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.”
I don’t remember things like this happening when I was younger, but more and more these days it seems that the victims of violent crime are given opportunity in court, once the verdict is set, to let loose at the guilty. It’s not an exercise I enjoy watching. No matter how totally despicable and evil the crimes, the frequently emotional diatribes of the victims don’t offer much joy. Venting may feel good, but most often, it’s not pretty because vengeance in the human spirit, no matter how understandable, is almost always unbecoming. Furthermore, it's his--God's--not ours, right?
Maybe if it was my daughter or grandson who was murdered, I would see it differently. Maybe if I’d suffered as some have, I’d want to take a few shots myself.
I hope and pray I never find myself in that position.
It’s anthropomorphic, of course—this line in David’s psalm. One can’t help but get the impression that a smirking God is exactly the kind of deity David would like to believe in because, after all, King David himself is snickering at the plight of the wicked. The whole movement of this part of this psalm is to assert dramatically and unforgettably just exactly how far the righteous stand apart from the wicked: the meek get joy and bounty; the evil get hell. That’s why God laughs. He knows what it’s going to be like when he turns up the heat.
I love the image of God laughing, but I’m uneasy at why, in David’s description, in part because God seems, well, almost disinterested—as if the drama unfolding in front of him is theater, as if he’s even entertained by what goes on in his creation, a season-ticket holder at the pageant of this world’s ordinary life.
It’s impossible to say that God doesn’t do what David says he does in this verse, and therefore wrong to assume that this is simply poetic license. I know enough of God to know that I don’t know it all. Sometimes I rather like the Lakota idea of Wakan Tanka as “the Great Mystery.”
And I am quite sure—because I’m human—that I could feel just like those murder victim’s mothers and fathers and husbands and wives, standing up there in front of the victim’s killer, wailing away. I know I could feel exactly what David does.
When the Allied liberators stumbled on the concentration camp at Dachau, what happened wasn’t pretty. The skeletal prisoners—the living and the dead—were such a horrifying shock to the liberators that ordinary soldiers became cold-blooded killers. There are reports of GIs giving prisoners their machine guns and simply allowing them to kill the hated, evil Nazi guards. All of that—especially if you’ve seen boxcars loaded with corpses—is somehow perfectly understandable. But was it right?
Does God giggle at evil men and women? I honestly don’t know. Maybe he does.
But I know that David’s giving him that human characteristic offers us—me too—some human joy. When I conceive of the Lord God almighty acting just like me, it may well be easier to like him, but more difficult, I believe, to worship him.
Here too, in this anthropological characterization, I wonder if we’re not finding out more about King David, God’s beloved, than we are God almighty, because I really do hope that my God doesn’t just snicker at sinners.