'How Suddenly They Are Ruined, Wiped Out, Destroyed by Terrors'
Psalm 73 gives voice to the gamut of complex emotions with which we have all been grappling.
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He witnesses the wicked prosper. He watches them wreak evil, destruction and sorrow on the world. He sees them revel in their success, he seethes at their triumphs. He is envious of their prosperity, their temerity, their lack of conscience. He is angry; at God, at himself, at the world. He is bitter and scornful, his faith is deeply shaken.
In Psalm 73, Asaph uncannily seems to give voice to the gamut of complex emotions that we have all been grappling with. How could the destruction of October 7th have possibly happened?
How could it have been allowed to happen? How can people be so evil, so twisted, so merciless? How can the outside world be bolstering that evil, stubbornly viewing aggressors as victims? How can we carry on? How will anything ever be the same?
Asaph struggles with all of those questions. He is strengthened, ultimately, by the deep-rooted conviction that goodness will prevail. Justice will out. God is in his corner. His stirring words open the gate to an ancient pathway down which we can all tread:
“Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped, my foothold had nearly given way.”
A sliver of hope is present from the start. Everything hinges on that “almost,” that “nearly.” He is so close to giving in to his confounding frustration. He doesn’t, not quite yet. But he teeters on the precipice, dangerously close to surrendering. His words burst forth in a bitter torrent:
“For I envied the revelers, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no pangs at death; their body is sound. They are free from the sorrows common to man; they are not afflicted like other people.”
The revelers lined the streets of Gaza and cheered the brutal capture of innocent civilians. Their “heroes” had “prospered.” A surprise attack on Israel, the world’s supposedly most high-tech security wall breached, thousands of Jews murdered, raped, mutilated, abducted.
Asaph envies his enemy’s prosperity, but he also understands its cancerous, destructive root. On October 8th, senior Hamas official Ali Baraka said the following: “The Israelis are known to love life. We, on the other hand, sacrifice ourselves. We consider our dead to be martyrs. The thing any Palestinian desires the most is to be martyred for the sake of Allah.”1
They have no pangs at death. This ideology is what renders Hamas so destructive. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, in his book “The Great Partnership: Science, Religion and the Search for Meaning,” noted:
“When religions develop into closed, totalizing systems and sectarian modes of community, when they place great weight on the afterlife, then they can become profoundly dangerous, for there is then nothing to check their descent into fantasy, paranoia and violence.”
In a phone call to his father on October 7th, a crazed Hamas terrorist screamed: “Look how many I killed with my own hands! Your son killed Jews!” His father’s response? “Oh, my son, god bless you!”
The only god served here is a hard, gleaming idol of hatred, blinding them with a vision of life reduced to a video game, where violence leads to victory, and people are disposable pixelated figures. Their glorification of death and their subsequent descent into fantasy, paranoia and violence means that they are not afflicted like other people. A murderous rampage becomes an event to celebrate.
“Therefore they wear pride as a necklace; they clothe themselves with a mantle of violence.” – Psalm 73
One of the Hebrew words for violence, cruelty, or oppression — the word used by Asaph here — is “hamas.” Hamas is also an acronym of an Arabic phrase meaning: “Islamic Resistance Movement.” That its Hebrew meaning is violence, cruelty, or oppression is uncanny. Asaph is writing to us today.
Meanwhile, Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, spews venomous, cruel speeches laced with brutal rhetoric, calling for Palestinians to “pick up a knife to stab an Israeli, take his car to run over one of them, or throw a Molotov cocktail that will burn your hearts.”
Their twisted equation of sickening violence with bravery, with a fight for freedom, is darkly dangerous. Their eyes peep through folds of fat; they succeed far beyond their expectations.
Drunk on glutenous violence, Hamas “succeeded” beyond their expectations. Twelve hundred innocent people murdered. More than 240 innocent people kidnapped. Over 3,000 innocent people injured. A child with 40 funerals to attend. A country left reeling in shock.
“There can be a darkness so dark that it extinguishes any attempt to light a light,” wrote Rabbi Sacks. “The Bible does not hide from this. It is an honest book.”
“They scoff, they speak with malice; from their high position they plan oppression.” – Psalm 73
They posted grotesque videos online, they reveled in their cruelty. They toyed with desperate Israelis waiting for family members to come home, releasing hostages in small batches to heighten Israel’s already unbearable anxiety. And they plan this from their “high position,” from their mansions in Qatar, Turkey, and Lebanon.
Leader of Hamas’ political branch, Ismail Haniyeh, holds a fortune estimated at about $4 billion, while many people in Gaza struggle on $1 a day. The Times reporter Melanie Swan described Haniyeh as “almost robotic as he repeated a well-trodden script of hatred,” sitting in his “spacious office” as “staff run around him like a king.”
His concern for ordinary Gaza civilians is overshadowed by his greed, ego, and lust for power. His income is allegedly sourced from the embezzlement of charitable funds and taxes levied on tunnel use for passage in and out of Gaza.
When Israel initially warned Gaza civilians living in the north to move south to avoid military action, Haniyeh commanded, “No to displacement from Gaza, and no to displacement from Gaza to Egypt.” According to reports, when he said that, he was staying at the Four Seasons hotel in Doha.
“They set their mouths against heaven, their tongue roams over the earth. Therefore His own people turn to follow them, and drain to the dregs their abundant waters.” – Psalm 73
British journalist Robert Crampton noted in his response to watching the 43-minute film of the Hamas massacre — “the worst thing I’ve seen” — that the two most common words spoken by Hamas that day seem to have been “God” and “dog.” As Crampton wrote:
“Two short words, one the reverse of the other, summing up their feelings and their motivation, and perhaps suggesting how so many people can lose their minds and their humanity to the extent of being able to do what they did. God — their God — is great. Jews are not people, but dogs.”
Hamas desecrated God’s name. They believe in a callous, narrow-minded God who cares only about the glory of his Muslim children. What they believe in then, is not God, but an idol of their own design, a destructive ideology that is willing to unleash cruelty on Earth for the sake of salvation in heaven. And yet, sadly, their tongue roams over the earth.
As historian Simon Schama noted in a column published shortly after October 7th, “From reports all over the world in the days following the massacres last weekend, it is obvious that the spectacle of dead Jews can still excite, rather than restrain, antisemitism.”
The October 7th massacres have sparked protests globally, with the name of Palestinian justice deployed as a front for the gross spewing of antisemitic rhetoric.
The world seems to be descending into an Orwellian reality, a world in which the presidents of the three of the United States’ most revered colleges all confirm that calling for the genocide of Jews only qualifies as harassment if said call “passes into conduct.” The world is thirstily gulping down Hamas’ sly perversion of truth, draining their pool of lies to its dregs.
“They say, ‘How could God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?’” asks Psalm 73. “Look at these wicked men, always at ease, piling up wealth. Surely, in vain have I kept my heart pure, and washed my hands in innocence, when all day long I am afflicted with pain, every morning I suffer further punishment.”
“Had I decided to speak out in this fashion I would be betraying the generation of Your children. So I tried to understand it all, but it was too much for me, until I entered God’s sanctuary; then I perceived what their destiny would be. You set them on a slippery road, and hurl them to destruction. How suddenly they are ruined, wiped out, destroyed by terrors!”
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