Someone quoted Psalm 94 on Facebook this morning, and that led Heidi and me to read it. It is probably not a psalm that many people know, given that it is focused upon God’s judgment against the wicked of the world, and His comfort toward the righteous. But it is most appropriate right now with the level of evil we see displayed in the world.
For a bit of clarity, when the word of God speaks about those who are evil, and those who are righteous, it doesn’t do so from our perspective since we are fallen and sinful. It does so according to God’s Law. This is why the Ten Commandments are so important not only for our personal lives, but for culture as well. If we want to understand true righteousness, we must look at it in light of God’s Law.
Psalm 1 shows that the righteous are those who mediate on God’s Law and delight in it. To them, it is a joy, not a burden. It is a guide as to how we are to live. It shows us how it is that we are to love THE LORD our God, with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and our neighbors as ourselves. We delight that God has given us such a guide for living.
It is also a delight to the righteous because when we read His Law, and see our shortcomings in light of His Law, we are driven back to our need for Christ, and to the atoning sacrifice He made on our behalf to pay the debt of sin we owe. This, in turn, leads to more joy.
Go to Psalm 2 to see the evil world’s response to God’s Law. For the wicked, God’s Laws are shackles that keep them from living out their fleshly, evil desires. They seek to throw off all vestiges of God, and His Law, so they live in unrestrained debauchery. The Triune God laughs at them in derision. He will bring them to justice.
I point this out because so many in our world have no concept of true righteousness and true evil. They are confused, mislead, and misguided by our culture and our courts, which makes that which is evil good, and that which is good evil (Isaiah 5:20).
Back to our Psalm. It was reading through Psalm 94, which is comforting for those of us who cling to the LORD, that we were a bit perplexed by the first part of verse 15. See the photo:
But judgment will return to righteousness.
It wasn’t exactly clear what that meant. How was it that judgment would return to righteousness? How did it leave righteousness? Upon reflection, I think the writer of the psalm is writing from the perspective of those going through national turmoil. To them, it seems that judgment has left righteousness for a time and we are to take comfort in knowing that it will return. I’m not sure about that, but this seemed like a possibility.
We were also comforted in the reality that whatever it meant, those who were upright in heart, would follow it. They would delight in it and rejoice. In other words, those in Christ can take comfort in the world that is filled with evildoers and iniquity.
We did look to Charles H. Spurgeon for help, and his classic work, The Treasury of David. He reminds us that this verse is about the coming Lord who will judge.
“The great Judge will come, the reign of righteousness will begin, the course of affairs will be turned into the right channel, and then all the godly will rejoice.”
I believe that reign clearly started at Christ’s ascension, where He was seated at the righthand of God, to rule with all authority over all things, until His enemies are made a footstool. And while we live in dark days, this does not mean these things are not taking place.
And all the upright in heart will follow it.
A delightful hope is here expressed in beautiful poetic imagery. The world’s government has been in the hands of those who have used it for base and vicious ends, but the cry of prayer will bring righteousness back to the throne. Then every upright heart will have its portion and joy.
And that should be our prayer, that true righteousness should return to our country. That only comes about in one way: through the preaching and teaching of God’s word, both Law and Gospel. This means we need men who are willing to preach the hard truths of the gospel. Again, let’s look at what Spurgeon has from his comments on verse 16, which reads:
Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? Who will stand for me against the workers of iniquity?
According to Spurgeon, the psalmist doesn’t see anyone coming to his aid.
“No champion of the right was forthcoming; the faithful people had failed. This is a bitter trial and a troublesome evil. Yet is has it purpose. It drives the heart completely to the LORD, compelling it to rest alone in Him. If we could find friends elsewhere, God might not be so precious to us… we are led to prize God and rest on Him with undivided trust.”
He adds that this verse is perfectly appropriate now that the church is being assaulted from all sides.
“Faithful ministers are few, and fewer still are bold enough to stand and defy the enemies of truth. Where are our Luthers and Calvins? A false charity weakened Israel’s valiant men (think ‘false love’ of our day). One John Knox would be worth a mint at this hour, but where is he? Our great consolation is that the God of Knox and Luther is still with us, and in due time He will call His chosen champion. “
The beauty for us is that we know the name of the chosen champion the psalmist was waiting for. He is Christ. He is bringing judgment, and will bring justice. The darkness we see all around us is judgment to those who cherish darkness. Yet, there is light as well. The Light of the World has not been extinguished. His light still shines forth through His word, to His people. He still comforts. He still protects.
Just as His judgment will be complete and thorough, so too, will His deliverance for His people.
UPDATE: After writing this post, came across the following sermon that makes the underlying point of the need for the Law in the believer’s life, and culture.