Scratching the Surface of the Psalms
“You Don’t Really Want Justice!”
When I was accumulating worthless degrees to impress others, I smoked a pipe to provide a profile of profundity.
Hey, I’ve never claimed I couldn’t be as hypocritical as anyone else!
Nobody shakes that sin thing.
Lest we forget, that’s why Jesus came.
God knows we need a Savior.
Anyway, I’ll never forget trying to brown-nose Dr. Diogenes Allen – How’s that for a professor’s name? – because I was a first-year seminarian in a class on Kant who was as easy for me to understand back then as America’s OCD with Russia is today.
Well, a really smart guy from Germany named Jurgen Moltmann was coming for some special lectures and I said, “Dr. Allen, aren’t you excited about Dr. Moltmann coming to speak?” After a very pregnant pause of strained silence, he responded, “If you placed all of his books on my desk, you’d have the biggest pile of___that you’ve ever seen.”
I dropped out of that course.
Anybody who’s been around professors knows they can be reaaaaaaalllllllly stuffy, snotty, and snobby.
I know cause I’ve been an adjunct version at two seminaries.
I always liked how Dr. McCord, President of our seminary and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, put ‘em in their place; for whenever we’d have a guest professor who was really stuck on himself and amassed a collection of fans bringing the first table of the big ten in Exodus 20 to mind, he’d introduce the fellah thusly: “I’ve always been impressed by the noteworthy contributions of…”
That was our signal that the speaker was an arrogant dolt.
I’m reminded of my favorite introduction to one of our Lord’s parables by Luke.
He introduces the red letters of the parable about the Pharisee and tax collector with not so subtle disdain: “He told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else” (Luke 18:9-14).
In other words, it’s a parable with parallels for too many stuffy, snotty, and snobby professors, politicians, pastors, schoolteachers, doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs, Sister-Bertha-better-than-yu’uns, and others who parade around town/church like no one knows Jesus like they know Jesus.
“Two men went up to the temple to pray,” Jesus begins, “one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee says, ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people – greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I don’t dance, don’t chew, and don’t go with girls who do. ‘”
“But,” Jesus contrasts, “the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, please have mercy on me! I know I’m a sinner!’”
Jesus concludes with a cold-cock to the condescending who act like they don’t need a Savior because they’ve deluded themselves into thinking they’re so much better than everyone else: “I tell you, the man who admitted his shortcomings and sins and asked for mercy got it; because everyone who exalts himself into thinking they don’t need a Savior will be humbled while those who humble themselves and admit their need for a Savior will be exalted.”
I like how Eugene paraphrased the punchline: “If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face.”
While I don’t know for sure and haven’t heard anyone take the risk to suggest it, I’ve often thought Jesus might have used this parable to illustrate the meaning of Psalm 6.
Psalm 6 was David’s honest estimate of his sin-filled self, excruciatingly personal expressions of sin’s consequences, turn to God for mercy, and celebration of forgiveness from God through confession (admitting sin) and repentance (trying harder to turn from sin to Him).
“Lord,” David prays, “do not rebuke me in Your anger; do not discipline me in Your wrath. Be gracious to me, Lord, for I am weak; heal me, Lord, for my bones are shaking; my whole being is shaken with terror. I can’t stand it much longer, Lord. I need Your mercy!”
R.C. Sproul’s caution comes to mind: “Pray for mercy but never pray for justice because you may get it!”
People who go around thinking they’re better than others which is another way of saying they think they don’t need to be saved by grace through faith in Jesus because they’re auto-suggestively less sinful than others and, ergo, don’t need to be saved as much as others need to be saved miss the reality of David who confessed for himself what Paul observed for everyone: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Truth is everyone deserves to be fried; but everyone can be saved from the flames by the unmerited gift of God through faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Psalm 6 proves David - and anyone who prays it – knew he didn’t really want justice for everyone by God’s standards of belief and behavior because nobody including/especially himself measures up to His excellence.
While David knows he isn’t pure and perfect in every way, he trusts God’s love for him is pure and perfect in every way “because of Your…[God’s]…faithful love.”
He knows God will take care of him sooner or later, usually sooner than later, and definitely in the end because “there is no remembrance of You…[God]…in death and no thanks in the grave.”
The consequences of sin – rejecting God’s will for our lives by insulting His holiness and injuring anyone in His family by thoughts, words, actions, or even looks – are wrenching: “I am weary from my groaning and grief over how I have behaved so badly. I cry myself to sleep. My eyes are bloodshot in grief over how I have hurt You and Yours.”
Just like those folks who seem to gloat over our misfortunes and misdeeds, David felt the jaundiced judgmentalism of people who thought, spoke, acted, and strutted around like they were more holy than David and more worthy of God’s graces yet were as sin-stained-by-inclination-and-incarnation as him; recalling the apostle’s special chastisement of those who condemned the sins of others while committing those same sins in Romans 2: “You steal while telling others not to steal…You say you detest idols but worship them in your churches…You boast in the law while breaking it…You commit adultery in secret while barking against it in public.”
So David shouts, “Depart from me, all evildoers! Stay away from me!”
Just like Jesus would later pledge God’s comforting and refreshing and regenerating forgiveness to anyone who mourns/grieves/laments their sins against God in His second beatitude (Matthew 5:4), God honors David’s confession and repentant pledge with mercy and forgiveness: “God has heard my plea for help and saved me from the eternal consequences of sin.”
David concludes with an observation of what happens to those who don’t turn from sin to Him: “They will shake with terror and be disgraced.”
Psalm 6 highlights the frailty of humanity as overcome by the loving grace, mercy, and forgiveness of God.
We keep staining ourselves with sin because we’re inclined that way.
Sin is in our genes.
We call it original sin and there’s been nothing original about sin since the garden.
Paul put it/us like this: “I want to do the right things but I keep doing the wrong things and never outgrow my need for a Savior which is why I praise God for having One by grace through faith in Jesus!” (see Romans 7).
It’s like my friend Cliff likes to say, “We sin! God saves! What a great deal!”
That’s the gospel.
That’s why God came in Jesus.
He came to save us from the damning consequences of our bad behaviors generated by our bad beliefs because we can’t do it for ourselves.
That’s the Church’s message for the world.
We don’t want God’s justice because we’d most certainly end up in everywhere but heaven if God judged us by our beliefs and behaviors.
We want God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness by grace through faith in Jesus because our lives lived so badly so often beg for a Savior.
Praise God for Him!
There’s a story that reminds me of God saving us because God knows we need to be saved from ourselves by His grace through faith in Jesus.
A little boy goes into a pet shop to buy a puppy.
After seeing the most prized and pedigreed puppies in the shop, the boy notices a lonely-little-scrawny-looking puppy hobbling around in a cage in the corner.
“I want that one,” the boy said.
“No, no, no, son,” said the shop owner, “you don’t want that dog. He’s the runt of the litter. He’ll never be able to run and play with you like the other puppies.”
As the little boy rolled up the right leg of his trousers to reveal a steel brace running from just below the knee to just above the ankle, he said to the shop owner whose eyes began to well with tears as he got it, the boy said with a big smile, “I don’t run and play too well myself. This puppy will need someone who understands.”
God understands how we hobble through life and need Someone to save us.
That’s why He came in Jesus and shared humanity to save us from it.
That’s why nobody in her or his right mind goes around saying, “We want justice!”
We don’t want justice.
We want love expressed through grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
We have Him, again and only, by grace through faith in Jesus.
Blessings and Love!
Shatter the sound of silence!
Wake up! Look up! Stand up! Speak up! Act up for Jesus!
Salt! Shine! Leavenate!
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