Scripture: Psalm 56.5-7
All day long they twist my words;
all their schemes are for my ruin.
They conspire, they lurk,
they watch my steps,
hoping to take my life.
Because of their wickedness do not let them escape;
in your anger, God, bring the nations down.
Reflection: Praise God for the Justice of the Gospel
By John Tillman
The Psalms hold nothing back.
Without apology, the psalmists shove in our faces and God’s their emotions, their betrayals, their trauma, their desire for vengeance and violent expressions of justice.
We might claim to denounce the barbarity of the psalms, but box office receipts tell a different tale. The upcoming revenge film, Peppermint, joins a long line of vengeful expressions of our longing for justice. The Punisher, the various incarnations of Batman, the Taken movies and TV series, the Deathwish movie series (Six original films and a 2018 remake), and the Equalizer film series are merely a few examples.
Our culture is inconsistent regarding violence and vengeance. We cringe at God taking vengeance on anyone. We cheer when Denzel Washington does it.
It is too simplistic to write off these films as primal-level, sinful, bloodlust. They express our knowledge that our concepts, systems, and pursuit of justice are incomplete. These films express our longing for someone outside our understanding of justice and outside our system of justice to make up our shortcomings.
As Christians, we find that someone in the person of Jesus. Only Christ can stand, simultaneously offering forgiveness to all who seek it, destruction of evil itself, and restoration of all that is broken and lost. This is the complete justice accomplished in the gospel.
In our world we can and should be agents of justice to the best of our ability. Seeking justice for the oppressed, demanding changes when our justice system fails, and working to rehabilitate and redeem those convicted in our justice system are a part of our calling to serve as God’s representatives on earth.
But we also know that ultimate justice cannot be completed by this world’s systems. No fine truly compensates. No prison sentence makes a victim feel safe. No death sentence brings back to life the victims.
The psalms were artistic endeavors, not legal documents or court decisions. They are the cries of the victims, not the verdict of the judge. Justice is solely accomplished with finality on the cross of Christ, where Jesus declared, “it is finished.”
Praise God that our partial, weak attempts at justice are not the final word.
Praise God that we can join him as agents of both justice and mercy.
Praise God that he calls us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with him, the ultimate source of justice.
Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room, and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked. — Psalm 84.9
– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.
Read More about Justice and the Kingdom of God :: Readers’ Choice
The Christian vision of justice is comprehensive and spans all areas of good and evil; it not only vindicates the truly just man condemned to a criminal’s cross, but also summons to final judgment the self-righteous who vaunt themselves as paragons of virtue.
Read More about Justice and Mercy
And yet, in a stunning response to our cry for mercy, God directs his anger toward himself. The wine of justice is pressed from the fruit of mercy.
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