A Reward for the Righteous

Psalm 58

Sad but true: common (not universal) state of mind among those in nursing homes – apathy. Defined by Webster as: “a state of indifference, incapable of being ruffled or roused to active interest or exertion by pleasure, pain, or passion”. By no means limited to those of advanced years and diminished strength; it’s state of mind that comes in different shapes, sizes. Nearly everyone has something they are apathetic about – topic of discussion, branch of learning, food item, geographic location, particular person. That’s ok, God doesn’t intend us to be passionate about everything.

There are times when apathy is a conditioned response, coming from way you arrive at particular situation. e.g., frog seemingly oblivious to and apathetic about boiling water around him, result of rate at which water temperature was raised. Works same way for people. If communists had invaded US in the 50’s like they wanted to, immediately stripped away all freedoms and imposed their form of government, would have been intense reaction – far from apathetic! But what if over period of time, those same freedoms are quietly removed one by one, how far down same road can you go before there’s much of response??

Run the same risk when exposed to any kind of evil, little by little and in increasing measure, slowly become desensitized to it; often become apathetic toward attempts to bring about change. That’s the way it is, too late to do anything now, it’s too entrenched in the culture, everybody accepts it, doesn’t affect me personally so let’s just go with the flow. Thank God that isn’t true for him!! He has been exposed to evil for 6000+ years and his attitude toward it hasn’t moved a nanometer (1×10-9m)

There’s one thing that really bothers God, same thing that bothered Psalmist in this text: injustice. Not talking about social justice, manufactured perceptions about who deserves what; talking about real injustice, by God’s standard. When that happens, which it does often, shame on us if we’re apathetic about it. What we should do is speak out against it, turn faces to heavenly Father, pray as we have example here, rest in assurance that Abraham got it right: “shall not the judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen. 18:25, ESV)

A. cause for justice v.1-5

at its root, cause of every injustice is sin; sin is perversion of what is right – every thought, word, deed that is wrong is injustice against individual or others and God

God’s answer in part: civil government – established to keep lid on evil and encourage right

their mandate: just consequences for wrongdoing, just rewards for rightdoing

injustice on personal level is wrong, hard to endure; when it’s practiced by those charged with executing justice, gets blood pressure up (1)

it’s their job to do right thing, they ought to be last ones promoting injustice

instead, “is this what you call justice? to remain silent when you should act?”

easy to ask “why?” (2)

did God have a bad idea? did wrong judges/rulers get picked? where did it all break down?

truth of the matter – it starts in the heart; judges just like everyone else are corrupt to the core

it’s an inherited problem, not an acquired problem (3-4a)

think about that when you start devising rehab programs – sinful man not a product of his environment (if he were, there’d be no wrongdoing in prison)

sin is not learned, it is simply nature at work

most adorable infant, before can speak, will lie shamelessly: cry/holler like in imminent peril, until they get attention, then all smiles

“These noxious streams issue from an evil spring. These hateful berries hang on branches rotten to the core. …If heavenly grace comes not mercifully to renew, convert, and sanctify, a corrupt offspring cannot fail to move in paths of corruption. Mark what issues from the nursery—proneness to depart far from God.” Henry Law

reinforced by imagery of poison and serpent – it’s standard issue

poison isn’t acquired at point midway through life of some serpents; it’s in their DNA, intrinsic to being a serpent

sin and sin nature isn’t acquired some time after birth; it’s intrinsic to being a descendant of Adam

it’s an especially serious problem in some (4b-5)

focus comes back from general to specific – sinners as a whole to unjust judges in particular

unjust rulers in a class of evildoers above average – willfully and persistently acting contrary to what they know to be right

don’t simply refuse to be persuaded, they actively prevent opportunity for persuasion – stop their ears

similar to atheists: if there really is no God, why write all the books to prove nonexistence of the nonexistent

deep down, know the truth yet are determined to reject it

B. cry for justice v.6-8

harsh words, difficult requests to make of God

take away their ability to hurt others (6)

make them disappear from the world stage or the county courthouse (7a)

neutralize his weapons, spike his guns (7b)

if it comes to that, take away their lives (8)

in summary, render them harmless, whatever it takes, for the good and protection of those under their rule

again, remember, talking about those who persistently willfully resist good and pursue evil

“I happened to be reading one of the imprecatory psalms, and as I paused to remark, my little boy, a lad of ten years, asked with some earnestness: ‘Father, do you think it right for a good man to pray for the destruction of his enemies like that?’ and at the same time referred me to Christ as praying for his enemies. I paused a moment to know how to shape the reply so as to fully meet and satisfy his enquiry, and then said, ‘My son, if an assassin should enter the house by night, and murder your mother, and then escape, and the sheriff and citizens were all out in pursuit, trying to catch him, would you not pray to God that they might succeed and arrest him, and that he might be brought to justice?’ ‘Oh, yes!’ said he, ‘but I never saw it so before. I did not know that that was the meaning of these Psalms.’ ‘Yes,’ said I, ‘my son, the men against whom David prays were bloody men, men of falsehood and crime, enemies to the peace of society, seeking his own life, and unless they were arrested and their wicked devices defeated, many innocent persons must suffer.’ The explanation perfectly satisfied his mind.” F.G.Hibbard

consider current events, too: it’s good and right to pray for justice in Martin/Zimmerman case; for residents of Lac-Megantic; for reversals on the Supreme Court – DOMA, etc.

C. confidence of justice v.9-11

is there really a God who listens, who will respond? sometimes doesn’t look that way, given how evil prospers

does he really care about justice, can he do anything about correcting injustice?

if God never punishes the wicked, then does his covenant really matter? is it worth anything?

he promises blessing to covenant-keepers, cursing to covenant-breakers – for that to mean anything, he must deal with his enemies

the righteous person, the Christian, confident of God’s existence and character is certain he will right all that is wrong

just because he hasn’t moved yet doesn’t mean he’s asleep! God operates on his schedule, not necessarily ours

in any event, impenitent evildoers will be overcome without warning, without opportunity to avoid his justice (9)

the righteous person, the Christian, rejoices in display of God’s justice (10)

“when one is led by a holy zeal to sympathise with the justness of that vengeance which God may have inflicted, his joy will be as pure in beholding the retribution of the wicked, as his desire for their conversion and salvation was strong and unfeigned. …the righteous would anxiously desire the conversion of their enemies, and evince much patience under injury, with a view to reclaim them to the way of salvation: but when wilful obstinacy has at last brought round the hour of retribution, it is only natural that they should rejoice to see it inflicted, as proving the interest which God feels in their personal safety.” Calvin

the righteous person, the Christian, rejoices when world sees benefit of godly living (11)

not as bleak as it sometimes appears, God and his people do win in the end

living in way pleasing to God does pay, does have the reward/blessing God promised

the Christian rejoices when God is glorified and the world notices

D. dependence on mercy

Don’t give up on human justice; it’s God’s institution after all. But don’t put ultimate faith in it. Recognize mankind is responsible to do right thing, are accountable to God for it also. Recognize, too, that on cosmic scale of things, with regard to all humanity, God will even the balance on that Great Day. When God brings his gavel down, declares an end to this age, perfect justice will be accomplished. Every rational creature will acknowledge that the Judge of all the earth has indeed done what is just.

But what about the Christian? It’s right and good to pray that God would treat his impenitent enemies justly, and also to pray diligently and passionately for their conversion. but what about us? Do we really want God to treat us justly, giving us what we deserve as we really are – simul justus et peccator? Not talking about how God views us – as righteous in Christ, but how we presently are – still plagued by remaining sin.

Thanks be to God, if we are in Christ we can confidently plead for mercy and expect to receive it. Not because God winks at sin, not because he has a magic eraser that makes justice unnecessary. God can be merciful to us because the Lord Jesus drank the cup of God’s just wrath for us. He endured God’s just punishment for sin, satisfying his Father’s righteous demands so we might be granted grace and mercy. Jesus’ work of atonement as our substitute makes our salvation possible without violating the just nature of a holy God.

Understanding that, brothers and sisters, should cause us to sing at top of lungs, expressing thankfulness to God for his mercy and faithfulness. Making sure children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, all generations know that there is a reward for the righteous: forgiveness and mercy and grace in abundance at foot of the Cross because the Lamb who took on our sin received justice.

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