As I walk around town, leaves are raining down around me. A hard frost is the signal for the ginko trees, in particular, which are all dropping leaves every few seconds. (Apparently, ginkos are known for going with one fast, glorious release.) It’s as if they have donned their yellow skirts for the dearly departed warmth.
I have to say, it is all a bit melancholy.
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs where late the sweet birds sang. William Shakespeare
All this falling fits nicely with the passage I studied this morning: Psalm 146:3–4.
Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.
Since what is intended here is any influential or powerful person, it’s a healthy reminder to us in the wake of elections to have our hope properly placed. It’s easy to think that someone in authority over us can solve all our problems. But the psalmist reminds us – with the wordplay of adam (man) and adama (earth) – that there is a brevity and an incompleteness to plans, even of the most powerful officials. We see this every time a newly-elected leader undoes the work of his ousted predecessor.
But “princes” exist in other areas of our lives. Like the curious sign on a house that I pass, we can be tempted to assign “demigod” status to anyone in authority over us. Throughout my career, I’ve worried over my standing with the powers-that-be -- art directors, publishers, school assembly coordinators, now corporate event planners. I’ve assigned them too much clout in providing for my good.
I am constantly reminding myself what Psalm 146 goes on to say: Blessed is he… whose hope is in the LORD his God. Those earthly authorities are only the powers-that-be-under-his-rule. And like those golden ginko leaves, that power (and the favor that comes with it) can be suddenly stripped away. The mighty truly do fall.
But the Almighty remains. And his favor will never wither.
Lord, you know our tendency to trust in princes. Forgive us when we tie our sense of security and well-being to any human power. You alone are our hope and help, eternally faithful. In you alone do we trust.