The peppy theme song to the early 1960s television show Car 54 Where Are You? tells of “a traffic jam in Harlem that’s backed up to Jackson Heights.” I don’t know how far cars stretched in the recent George Washington Bridge scandal, but Officers Gunther Toody and Francis Muldoon of the fictional 53rd Precinct of the Bronx won’t be able to calm this caper.
My son wonders why this sticky patch embroiling New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s office is getting front-page attention, since politicians are known for shenanigans. But it isn’t every day that shenanigans are exposed in such a way that we see what pawns we all are in a game played by a faceless class. We don’t mind so much that the national debt is at $17 trillion—as long as we get home for dinner and Jeopardy.
This is the stuff of Batman Begins (2005), where Gotham’s water supply is laced with poison in a bloodless contest between two nemeses. Or Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995), in which a caravan of dump trucks carrying billions in stolen gold bullion hides in broad daylight on the streets of New York City. As a humble citizen trying to eke out a living each day, one feels like a prawn in an ocean of sharks.
When I was a kid there was a cartoon in which a little fish swimming about is suddenly swallowed by a larger fish that emerges from nowhere. The larger fish smiles smugly, and we tremble before this master of the sea. But just then, from beyond our field of vision, an even larger fish appears, and with its mouth wide open devours the middle-sized creature that has just devoured the small-sized creature.
The people in society who pull strings that close down access lanes to major bridges as political payback, or who change the course of elections, or otherwise inconvenience millions, create fearful awe in us by their menacing power. But when all is said and done, I see them as merely the middle-sized fish in the pond that swaggers until the Mother of all Fish shows up.
Psalm 2 depicts a big fish/bigger fish scenario for our edification and comfort. The universe is a pond, as it were, where:
“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart …’” (verse 2).
What can we minnows do against such powerful machinations on the part of the colossuses that stride the seas?
But we err to be overly impressed with the prowess of the wicked. For the Lord is not impressed:
“He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, ‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill’” (verses 4-6).
One greater than New York/New Jersey bridge saboteurs is here. He will suddenly cast his great shadow over their terrified matter and “break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (verse 9).
Here is the gracious warning to all who think themselves great:
“Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. … Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (verses 10-12).