Psalm 9: The God Who Remembers
I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and rejoice in you;
I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.
My enemies turn back;
they stumble and perish before you.
For you have upheld my right and my cause,
sitting enthroned as the righteous judge.
You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked;
you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.
Endless ruin has overtaken my enemies,
you have uprooted their cities;
even the memory of them has perished.
The Lord reigns forever;
he has established his throne for judgment.
He rules the world in righteousness
and judges the peoples with equity.
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.
Sing the praises of the Lord, enthroned in Zion;
proclaim among the nations what he has done.
For he who avenges blood remembers;
he does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.
Lord, see how my enemies persecute me!
Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,
that I may declare your praises
in the gates of Daughter Zion,
and there rejoice in your salvation.
The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug;
their feet are caught in the net they have hidden.
The Lord is known by his acts of justice;
the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.
The wicked go down to the realm of the dead,
all the nations that forget God.
But God will never forget the needy;
the hope of the afflicted will never perish.
Arise, Lord, do not let mortals triumph;
let the nations be judged in your presence.
Strike them with terror, Lord;
let the nations know they are only mortal.
– Psalm 9
The central act of worship for many Christians is about taking bread and wine and remembering. Psalm 9 is also about remembrance and verses 12 and 18 cite God as the one who remembers.
We all want to be remembered. That’s probably why many of us panic when we forget someone’s name. Chances are our forgetfulness is just down to poor memory and/or getting older but we feel bad when it happens. We feel bad because we know what it feels like when someone forgets our name or our birthday or something they said they’d do for us. When someone forgets it’s as if we don’t matter, we feel insignificant.
David tells us that those who know God trust in him because he remembers. God doesn’t forget about us (in spite of how it sometimes feels!) and he doesn’t forsake us. He is ‘the LORD’ (v. 10). Behind the capitals is the Hebrew word YHWH, the name that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai – wherever the name YHWH appears in the Bible it carries all those connotations about a God who doesn’t forget his people but acted to free them from slavery.
YHWH, David says, is known by his acts of justice (v.16). ‘Troubles seemingly past (v. 3), return like gathering storm clouds (v13) but the sunlight of justice keeps breaking through’ (Zundel). God is like the good lawyer who takes up your case and defends you in court (v. 4), he is the judge whose court is always in session and who is never on holiday or taking a nap (v. 4), he is the one who rules justly (v. 8) and protects those who are in trouble (v. 9).
When we remember YHWH our lives our blessed but the Psalm makes it clear that those who choose not to remember God are on the road to ruin (vv. 5, 6, 17). Our identity and our flourishing as human beings is wrapped up with remembering and knowing this God, when we lose sight of him, we lose our own identity.
That takes us back to sharing bread and wine, when we ‘remember him’ we bring to mind the crucified one in whom we find our identity as the deeply loved children of God and we are reminded by his resurrection that in a world that feels forgotten that God’s love and justice will ultimately prevail.