What do Kobe Bryant, Super-Bowl spectators, and the Bible have in common? Give up? Inevitably, they all end up doing a fair amount of trash-talking.
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets…” (Heb. 1:1). It may come as some surprise that one of the many ways that God spoke through his prophets includes trash-talking. Ok, the term trash-talking is not in the Bible, but the idea of trash-talking definitely is. The biblical term for trash-talking is a “taunt” or a “taunt song.” Old Testament scholars recognize this as a literary genre and technically define it as:
“Any work of literature in which the central ingredient is a mocking, jeering, or put-down of an enemy or guilty party, often in a formalized manner…”
Granted, this trash-talking is a little bit different than the form that I perfected on the basketball courts as a kid. In fact, the kind of self-glorying trash-talking that I did as a kid is a microcosm of the kind of anti-God arrogance that God deals with severely in Scripture. All forms of human self-exaltaion are fair-game for a divine taunt. Put simply, God taunts his enemies for the sake of exalting his glory.
In the Old Testament there were numerous times where God told his people to taunt their enemies. And other times, God’s people made themselves into his enemies and they receive taunting from God. The taunt would come when these pompus enemies of God finally came under God’s judgment and their power and pride were stripped from them. Here are just a few examples:
“You shall take up the taunt against the king of Babylon…” Is. 14:4
“You shall be a reproach and a taunt…when I execute judgments on you in anger and fury…” (Ezek. 5:15)
“He who sits in the heavens laughs, the LORD will hold them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury…” (Ps. 2:4)
“Shall not all these take up their taunt against [the arrogant man]” (Hab. 2:6; cf. v. 5)
But the greatest of all taunts is yet to come because the greatest of all enemies is yet to be put down for good. As Paul says,
“For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Cor. 15:25-26)
When this happens, all God’s people will be involved in the biggest God-glorying, trash-talking fest that has ever been witnessed. Scripture says,
“then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?'” (1 Cor. 15:54-55)
I think Athanasius captured this as well as anyone I know:
“For as when a tyrant has been defeated by a real king, and bound hand and foot, then all that pass by laugh him to scorn, buffeting and reviling him, no longer fearing his fury and barbarity, because of the king who has conquered him; so also, death having been conquered and exposed by the Saviour on the Cross, and bound hand and foot, all they who are in Christ, as they pass by, trample on him, and witnessing to Christ scoff at death, jesting at him, and saying what has been written against him of old: ‘O death, where is thy victory? O grave, where is thy sting?’”
Trash-talking death is the flip side of exalting the resurrection of Christ.
This taunt serves the purpose of exalting the ultimate authority, power, eternality, deity, all-conquering grace, and total supremacy of God over all of his enemies. Paul quickly flows from taunting the great enemy of God and men to praising God through his Son!
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (v. 57)
The present joy of the Christian is in the knowledge that the victory is as good as done. We no longer live in the slavery of paralyzing fear of our enemy death. Instead we rejoice in the death of death in the death of Christ! Because Christ lives, we who are in Christ will live also. We will happily proclaim the ultimate taunt over the last enemy in consequence of the death and resurrection of Jesus which has already taken place!
 Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word, NPNF, vol. 4, p. 51.