Psalm 7 Just, As I Am

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Questions: In whom do we trust? Do we want justice, or mercy? Do we deserve it? Will God grant it? “Read More” to pursue answers in the Psalms.

Lord, speak to me through your Spirit and your Word, your Body and your Blood;
that I might know you as you are, and manifest the image of Christ in this world,
and the world to come. Amen.

Psalm 7:1-17

[Shiggaion of David, which he sang unto the LORD, concerning the words of Cush the Benjamite]

O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me. Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending [it] in pieces, while [there is] none to deliver.

This appears to be one of the many “mayday” psalms, in that (as usual 🙂 David is under attack from evil men, and needs God to deliver him. However, this time there’s a bit of a twist:

O LORD my God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands; If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy🙂 Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take [it]; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust. Selah.

I gotta admit, very few foxhole prayers include the line, “Of course, if I deserve it, go ahead and let my enemy have his way with me.” Usually we want mercy, not justice — and to be fair, I think David often does too. But at least in this case, he knows he is in the right, and calls to God on that basis:

Arise, O LORD, in thine anger, lift up thyself because of the rage of mine enemies: and awake for me [to] the judgment [that] thou hast commanded. So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about: for their sakes therefore return thou on high. The LORD shall judge the people: judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity [that is] in me. Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.

Part of me wonders if it is a bit presumptuous of David to make demands upon God based on his own righteousness. Then again, he is asking for himself be judged (shaphat) on similar terms to God judging (diyn) his enemies, so he’s willing to put his money where his mouth is. More importantly, he is very clear that his hope is in God, not merely his own character:

My defence [is] of God, which saveth the upright in heart. God judgeth (shaphat) the righteous, and God is angry [with the wicked] every day.

I wonder if it there is a fundamental difference between shaphat-judging the righteous and diyn-judging the wicked, even if we happen to use the same word in English. The former seems more like “weighing”, while the latter implies “punishing.” Something to think about.

More significant, at least to me, is the idea of God being continually angry with the wicked. Wickedness isn’t merely a personal affront to God, or even just a tragedy for the individuals directly impacted. Rather, it is a cancer upon the entire system of humanity — really, all creation. There is no such thing as a victimless sin, because at the very least we are damaging our own ability to do good — and sometimes refusing to do good is as great a wickedness as anything else. Wickedness is really evil, and if God wasn’t angry I’d be appalled — and terrified. ‘Cause that would mean I couldn’t count on him to help.

Fortunately, He is:

If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.

Even more fortunately, God is angry at those who deliberately pursue evil, not me. 🙂

Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood. He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch [which] he made. His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate

Yes, evil carries the seeds of its own destruction, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t responsible. Though I draw a sharp line between good and evil, I don’t draw much of one between natural consequences and divine action. At least for good outcomes, I believe God deserves all the credit:

I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.

Of course, that raises the question — not for the first time, nor the last — whether God is also responsible for all evil. But that’s another Psalm.

Prayer

God, I thank you that you are not just a passive observer, but that you emotionally and physically engage with us your creatures. I thank you that justice and integrity are not in vain, but that a blameless life allows us to call upon you with a clear conscience when attacked by wicked enemies. Yet I thank you that even when we sin — and must face the consequences of our own wickedness — we can still cry out to you for mercy, through Christ. In whose name I pray, Amen.

About the Title:

Today’s title — drawn from the popular hymn — hints at the two-edged nature of Justice.

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