In Psalm 146, in between calls to "Praise the LORD", the God who thrones on the Zion, we are given the following advice:
Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.
Psalm 146 is not the only Psalm which warns us against putting our trust in the powerful people of this world; this is fact a refrain in the Book of Psalms. I recently preached in a church which follows the lectionary, that is, the set readings for each Sunday. One of the passages on the lectionary was Psalm 146 and it stood out to me. When I prepared a sermon on this Psalm, I was tempted to use the sermon to criticise those in power and all governments. After all, does the Psalm not teach us that only the LORD is reliable and good? Other gods only confirm the status quo. Political parties disappoint us, as do celebrities, church leader and bishops. Many of them are exposed as paedophiles etc.
A commentary, I think it was Goldingay's, saved me. It pointed out that leaders are not worse people than the rest of us – that's the populist view – but they are just like us. We cannot trust ourselves either. Only the God who showed his character most fully in Jesus can be trusted. But that's no reason to be one-sidedly critical of leaders. Let's rather pray for them.
Pieter J. Lalleman
Editor, European Journal of Theology