“The Lord is righteous;
he has cut the cords of the wicked.”
~Psalm 129:4 (NRSV).
Many psalms show divisions of thought where the psalmist perhaps commences with a lament, or alternatively a position of praise, before noting some of God’s qualities, then ending with a promise to trust.
Psalm 129 is not like this at all.
It reads like a communal lament, but one with a confident twist. Most of all, its eight verses carry the same theme—throughout is strength of faith to stand by the ordinances of the Lord.
As the Community Stands Together
When we enter our church meetings our hearts are joined as one to worship God and denounce the presence of evil in our world. Yet, we don’t leave it there. We pray and we trigger missional activities to improve situations calling for justice and mercy.
At the individual level we smile beyond the struggle, and help where our world would otherwise hiss in selfishness and despair.
Tenth in line of the Psalms of Ascent, this one holds high the perilous heritage of
Life in the church is like that. We can feel besieged. But the theological lesson of Jesus’ Passion is that when all seemed lost, victory was snatched, no less redeemed, from the presence of utter defeat.
Note that this redemptive pattern is repeated throughout the world, for instance, the ending of motion pictures. As a community of humanity we expect things to end well in justice.
But there are many individuals—even entire communities-of-wicked-heart—set against justice. God will deal with them!
Where It Will End
The psalm is a clear call of confidence in the sufficient grace of God to mete out justice according to righteousness and that alone.
When the cords of the wicked are cut off they experience something of being orphaned—much like going to prison would be like. But hell is one form of eternal prison that cannot be contemplated. If heaven is a place of consummate bliss in the worship of God, hell must be annihilation of being.
The psalmist, speaking for the community, and maybe in its presence, commends a time when the enemy is finally vanquished.
To this hope we all hold; when there is justice for all who cry out for it, and those against the purposes of God are scattered and made impotent.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.
 James L. Mays, Psalms – Interpretation Series (Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 1994), p. 404. Citing Kraus, Psalms 60—150, p. 462.