Monday, April 19, 2010

Psalm 125

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people both now and forevermore.
The scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous,
for then the righteous might use their hands to do evil.
Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, to those who are upright in heart.
But those who turn to crooked ways the Lord will banish with the evildoers.

Peace be upon Israel.
For true peace to reign, true justice must be established.

This principle lies at the heart of salvation in Christ, of course -- we could not have peace with God until His justice was satisfied, so He sent Jesus.

But the principle is true in the affairs of men as well. All true justice gives us glimpses of the character of our God, who among other attributes, is wholly and completely just. That means that He rightly and accurately, consistently, judges between right and wrong, good and evil. Scripture, especially the prophetic books of the Old Testament, is filled with admonitions that human judges reflect that same discernment.

Simply put, the good guys should win and the bad guys should lose. Without that assurance, peace is elusive and transitory at best, non-existent at worst. In our deepest heart of hearts, we know that something is not right when evil triumphs. As I write this tonight, I'm hearing stories of price-gouging from Europe, where thousands are stranded due to grounded flights. Most of us instinctively know that taking advantage of people in that way is wrong. We rightly recoil at the glimpse of humanity's potential for evil when such greed is on display. We want justice.

Sure, it's not always easy to know where the line between good and evil, between justice and injustice lies. My husband and I love to watch "Hogan's Heroes". It's about Allied soldiers in a POW camp during World War 2. It's totally unrealistic and silly, but I realized why I enjoy it: with few exceptions, the good guys and bad guys are clearly defined. I will always get to laugh as the wise "good guy" Allieds outsmart the evil Nazis yet again. It's justice served up with a side of humor, and it rings true this side of history because the evil of the Nazis has been confirmed repeatedly for 65 years and counting. In the middle of the battle, though, it's not always easy to sort things out.

That's why I think the Psalmist just totally puts the emphasis on God's ability to judge here. After encouraging the believing community to trust God - flowing perfectly from the end of Psalm 124's praise of God's deliverance - the Psalmist lifts up good and evil into God's hands to sort out. Verse 3 is so significant: God doesn't let the wicked reign over the righteous too long - but why? Because He doesn't want the hands of the righteous to do evil. Our hands were made to do good. God knows how much wickedness we can bear before we use those hands for evil. He protects us from ourselves. That doesn't mean we never do wrong - but God will guide us back to the right path.

Verses 4-5 illustrate God's judgment at a level we can never view - the heart. God knows who is upright in heart but burdened by the rule of the wicked and the injustice of the day. He knows equally who has turned to - embraced - crooked ways and rejected God's better path. And He will judge. We cannot.

I wish everything was as easy as Allieds vs. Nazis. It's not. Until the day when God makes all things right, we do the best we can ... trusting God with unshakeable faith, trusting that He surrounds us even as we see the shadow of the scepter drawing closer, trying with all our might to use our hands only for good, and keeping our hearts soft and pliable so we don't embrace and love crooked ways ... knowing in the end, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things (1 John 3:20). He'll right the wrongs and lift up those who were right all along.

"Peace be upon Israel." And peace be upon us ... peace that rests in God's perfect justice.

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