No one who reads the Psalter can fail to observe how frequently the psalmists are opposed. Here he refers to the insolent, the seethingly rebellious, and he knows they are the opposite of those who “fear” God. Notice 119:78:”Let the arrogant be put to shame,
because they have subverted me with guile;
as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.”
What can we learn from the psalmist?
First, that naming the arrogant and rebellious is not without merit. While I’m not keen on overuse of labels, and I’m concerned that some use such labels far too often, and that sometimes we label in order to “other” rather than to love … still, there is an important place of discernment here. We have to see arrogance, seething rebellion, for what it is: arrogance against God.
Second, describing what the arrogant have done is valuable. The psalmist says they have subverted me with guile. We don’t always know the motives of others; sometimes we can discern them.
Third — for some the “first” thing — the psalmist prays that the insolent will be “shamed” — that is, defrocked from their position and from their arrogant stand. This is the language of the Magnificat and the Lukan form of the Beatitudes and James’ own hope for the “rich”.
Fourth, instead of dwelling on the naming and shaming of the insolent, the psalmist puts that behind him to move into “meditating on the precepts of God.” He will meditate — turn over and over.
All of this fits with our readings of Miroslav Volf’s The End of Memory.