When I think of justice, I remember the mercy of God. None of us have we received truly what we deserve – a final judgment, no reprieve, no last minute stay-of-execution, no halting the gas, and no second chance. I think of the Old Testament and how judgment came to the people because of their disobedience. It’s the consequence for sin in this world – death. But it is not just a physical death we suffer. It is a death that is deep, spiritual, and gut wrenching. It is a death that causes the stench of our lives wherever we go, and when we look back at the wreckage we see the damage we have done. We ALL deserve just judgment, but now we have grace. It is a grace purchased for us by the Blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ who took on our sin; paying a penalty-debt we had no hope of settling. On the cross justice was served.
Though justice was served at the cross of Christ, there seems to be a bent in society today for more justice, but the kind that is vicious in it’s intent and charged with irrational emotions. It is a cry founded on angsty pain rather than righteous anger. Have we lost our way, our footing, our sense of who is the wise and just judge? In Psalm 64 David didn’t lose sight of Who had the final say in all things.
David had a confidence in God that always lead him back to right relationship and perspective on what it meant to be human and belonging to God. I don’t know that I could have prayed as David did in Psalm 64. I know that I might have hurtled violent prayers of unmerciful retaliation. It wouldn’t have been my finest hour. David knew to whom justice belonged. God alone is a good and just Judge – He cannot lie, He does nothing out of character or anything that assassinates that character. God is consistent in what He does.
Why then do we so often unsuccessfully attempt to take the place of God when it comes to revenge or making right the wrong? Don’t get me wrong. I believe in restitution and making things right – amending bonds can be healing and restorative. What I’m talking about is more a response to what’s been happening in our nation regarding our judicial system, particularly the reactions of people. There is so much wounding, fury, and malicious vile. And it is directed, maybe even misdirected to the wrong justice makers, leaders, or innocent bystanders.
I love Psalm 64 because David points us to the One to Whom we can always turn to first when our frustration, fears, or rage exceed our heart’s capacity to move forward healthily.
Verse one say’s it best, “Hear me, my God, as I voice my complaint; protect my life from the threat of the enemy” (NKJV 942). David put his hope in God. David did not pass go. He turned to God calling out “my God” implying relational trust and knowing. God was not some far off deity for David. He was there, in the moment, real, and accessible. David doesn’t even try to hide from God why He’s praying – in fact He tells God he’s got a complaint.
God wasn’t perturbed, disgruntled, or annoyed. Rather than praying for immediate vengeance, David sought God for protection. He let God know all his concerns. He laid them there at the Father’s throne in prayer. David got the yuck out of his heart because he hid nothing from God. How much more so encouraging is this for us, especially in this day and age when there is so much livid railing in the nation. We can be the difference just by going to the quiet place, praying, and laying our hearts bare before God. It is in those moments that God restores our hearts, purifying the depths of our souls, enlarging our spirits to give more compassion and grace.
David was aware there was injustice in the land he lived in, but he knew Who had the power to make it right. Rather than focus on what he could not do, David chose to focus on God and praising Him. David’s final words are an uplifting reminder for Christ followers as well as those seeking for things to be made right on the earth: “The righteous will rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in Him; all the upright in heart will glory in Him” (NKJV 942). How can this be?
Perhaps it is because we choose to fill our mouths with praise rather than cursing. We lay our concerns before God. We choose to take sheltering refuge in the One who can and does protect us in the fiery storms. Laying the complaint at God’s feet makes room for righteousness to pervade our hearts rather than bitter disdain and vengefulness. God turns our tongues to praise and we ponder again His goodness. Maybe, just maybe, this is why the words of our enemies return to them – because we laid down our right to be justified, we laid down the malicious vile that had the propensity to derail our hearts and souls. In laying down the complaint, we get out of God’s way where His vengeance can move as He sees fit. Perhaps, we keep our words from turning against us when we leave the complaint at the cross.
After all, God’s word is true and has never changed, “Beloved do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19), and again in Deuteronomy 32:35: Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; their foot shall slip in due time; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things to come hasten upon them (NKJV 1903, 345). ” I’ll believe what God has said. It may not come – this justice that I want to see happen – in my lifetime or even the way that I think it should, but I am not God. It is not for me to dole out judgment. It is for me to pray, stay in right relationship with God, and to have right relationship with my fellow human beings.
My prayer today is that we take our complaint, no matter how big or small, to God first – to let Him settle Truth in our hearts before we make unholy errors in judgment that compromise our faith or that slander the Name of God.
NKJV Study Bible. Radmacher, gen ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997.
Linking up with Stephanie Spencer for Psalms Journey this week. Come join the reflections and discussions.