Do not gloat when your enemy falls;
when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,
18 or the Lord will see and disapprove
and turn his wrath away from them.
This proverb seems to contradict other Scripture that speaks of rejoicing in one’s victory over enemies. Indeed, doesn’t the very desire for justice require joy over the downfall of wicked enemies?
We recognize the attitude of God here, especially if we are parents of more than one child. We ourselves, after punishing one child, will turn to the other and rebuke him for gloating over the offending sibling. And that is what this proverb is about – gloating over another’s downfall. In movies, when the bad guy gets “what’s coming to him,” his devious plans are not merely foiled, but he suffers a humiliating or especially horrible death. The producers know that the audience is not contented with evil being checked or the innocent being vindicated. The wicked must suffer. That is what will fill the audience with satisfaction. The audience must be able to gloat.
And that is what we want in real life. We want the driver who swerved in front of us to be pulled over immediately so we can gloat over him. (We wouldn’t even mind if he had a wreck.) We want whoever offends us to be humbled, not because we desire the welfare of their soul but because we want to gloat. It is right to desire justice; but we too often confuse such a desire with our sinful desire for personal vengeance. Our attitude for justice is found precisely in our attitude toward the wicked. Do we rejoice over their downfall or do we mourn that they would not repent? Justice must come, and we should rejoice over justice. But we should mourn the soul that is lost.
We forget that we too are sinners deserving God’s wrath. God’s displeasure could easily and rightly be turned against us, if it were not for our Lord, who instead of gloating over his enemies (us), gave himself for us and made us God’s children.
Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
4 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and glory are in his sanctuary.
7 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come into his courts.
9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of his[a] holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.
11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
13 Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his faithfulness.