I’ve been camped in the Psalms for the past couple of weeks, and I’m so thankful for the many points of wisdom and guidance God is providing as I spend time meditating. What have you been learning from His Word? I’d love to know. Comment below or send me an email.
As I’m reading through the 90’s in Psalms, I’m seeing a pattern of praising God for justice. Now, this is a difficult topic, which blends into the toughest of all faith questions, “why do bad things happen to good people” as well as its cousin, “why do good things happen to bad people,” so I tread lightly here as I offer my thoughts. I’m not a theologian, but I’d love to be one when I grow up.
Before we get into the Psalms, though, you should know something about me: I’m passionate about helping victims, helpless, hopeless, broken, outcasts, and the voiceless. I allow my heart to get broken often (maybe daily?) by circumstances surrounding these people, and I often cry out for God to just do something for them. One example of this is when I went to Haiti on medical mission in March of 2010, and I cried for days about a young man studying to be a pastor who was killed in the earthquake. I can’t believe it’s been a decade since that happened, but I remember it like it was yesterday. My only thought, though it felt irreverent was, “Lord, you let the wrong one die. Why couldn’t you have saved him and let one of the corrupt human traffickers be crushed? You really should have chosen better here.”
And haven’t we all been there?
Right now I’m feeling similar emotions as I watch the CDC tell the very doctors and nurses who are saving the lives of Covid-19 patients that BANDANNAS will have to do as PPE. Nurses are suffering huge waves anxiety, not wanting to bring the disease back to their homes, and EMT’s are dying, even as they fight. Doctors are unable to comfort loved ones with the usual hug when they have to deliver the worst of news, and these precious, priceless soldiers on the front lines of this battle are just getting thrown under the bus. My heart cries out for justice, and I’m uttering the familiar irreverent words: “You’re choosing wrong here, Lord!”
This graphic showed up in my newsfeed recently:
This grief longs to be comforted and replaced with joy. I turn to the only place I know that can do that, and that’s to my Bible.
I’m not going to move in Scripture order here, but I have several verse sets to share that will lead us in a meandering path through my thoughts on this topic of rejoicing in the hope for justice. Won’t you come on this hike of faith and joy with me?
Let’s start with joy. One definition of worship might include praising God in gratitude for what he does or has done or will do, resulting in joy. Indeed for the believer, this is one of the greatest sources of our joy – not just temporary happiness, but lasting joy.
“Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy!
Let the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord, for he is coming!
He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with justice,
and the nations with his truth.” – Psalm 96:12-13
One source of this worship-gratitude-joy (the original word for it in Greek is eucharisteo) is a two-fold concept that goes like this: God is sovereign, and He is coming inevitably to bring judgement, truth, and justice. The world often feels, seems, and is verily unfair. The crooked get wealthier, the cruel inherit power, the innocent suffer, the vulnerable get sick, the weak are exploited. Our inner morality cries out in pain and we are starved for justice. Our hearts are broken for the inequality and unfair scales that seem to rule our land.
Our meager efforts seem like a drop in the ocean and the only hope is for a powerful and sovereign God to bring about truth, fairness, judgement on the guilty, vengeance for the victims, and equality for all people.
“This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
He is my God, and I trust him.
For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.” – Psalm 91:2-3, 6
Is there a solution to this heartache, this longing for fairness and justice?
` “O Lord, what great works you do!
And how deep are your thoughts.
Though the wicked sprout like weeds
and evildoers flourish,
they will be destroyed forever.
Your enemies, Lord, will surely perish;
all evildoers will be scattered.
My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
my ears have heard the defeat of my wicked opponents.” – Psalm 92:5, 7, 9, 11
One of the great works God does–one we delightfully worship in with eucharisteo–is His actions to destroy evildoers and the wicked forever. It’s a relief that we don’t hold that burden or responsibility. And even if there is not a fair distribution of justice right now, He WILL bring full justice in the end.
“Arise, O Judge of the earth.
Give the proud what they deserve.
How long, O Lord?
How long will the wicked be allowed to gloat?
How long will they speak with arrogance?
How long will these evil people boast?
They crush your people, Lord,
hurting those you claim as your own.
They kill widows and foreigners
and murder orphans.
He punishes the nations—won’t he also punish you?
He knows everything—doesn’t he also know what you are doing?” – Psalm 94:2-6, 10
“Judgment will again be founded on justice,
and those with virtuous hearts will pursue it.” – Psalm 94:15
“Tell all the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
The world stands firm and cannot be shaken.
He will judge all peoples fairly.” – Psalm 96:10
And the answer is YES!
Isn’t God’s answer always yes, when we ask according to His word? He IS coming. He is coming to judge the earth and we tremble at the thought, for none of us is perfect. And in addition to the trembling, we rejoice (we have JOY), because our hope will be fulfilled. The demonic forces of evil will be vanquished, once and for all. The traffickers who sell children for sex will be punished severely. Every virus and silent killer and disease will be eradicated. Every corrupt leader who has dealt in self-serving will be made to repay.
The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.” – Psalm 91:14-16
And these hearts of ours that crave truth and fairness will be satisfied and we rejoice in this hope.
“But the godly will flourish like palm trees
and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.
For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house.
They flourish in the courts of our God.
Even in old age they will still produce fruit;
they will remain vital and green.
They will declare, “The Lord is just!
He is my rock!
There is no evil in him!” – Psalm 92:12-15
The question that begs an answer, then, is this: who are these godly, and am I among them? What is it that separates the godly who rejoice at the coming of the Lord’s justice and the wicked who will be judged?
Throughout the history of God’s people, we see that this division has been marked in two ways. For those who lived before Christ, the measurement was the Law, and whether one had learned and followed it. For those who, like us, live after Christ’s revolution of grace, the measurement is quite different: repentance.
- Have I received the gift of repentance, and used it to recognize and turn away from the evil I’ve done?
- Have I confessed my evil, mistakes, wrongs, and sins, trading them in for the blood of Christ, which covers me?
- Have I surrendered to the life-long cooperative process of becoming more and more righteous (the fancy word here is sanctification)?
- Have I allowed God to make me a new, holy person, defined first by Him who made me and last by Him who saved me?
And if you ask yourself those questions and the answer to all of them is YES, then you are among the godly, among the righteous. According to the new agreement of grace (the fancy word here is covenant), you are among those who rejoice and take gratitude-filled joy at the thought of God coming to judge with truth and justice.
You get excited to know that your heart will one day no longer be broken because of inequality and unfairness and oppression of the innocent and disease that takes the good people.
You worship God for many reasons, and one of those being that He will indeed come to earth to punish the evildoers who have not repented, send the wicked away who have refused conviction, and judge those who have caused harm to good people.
You feel relieved because you don’t have to be the judge, jury, or executioner.
You praise the Lord because He alone is the God of justice.
Want a song for comfort and joy about this very topic? Try this one by Natalie Grant (foot stomping and clapping encouraged).
What are you doing to hold onto joy and hope during this season? How are you reaching for justice? How are you helping those in need of mercy?