Wanting Revenge, or Desiring Justice? – Psalm 98

With today’s final look at our week-long category of Heavenly Enthronement Psalms, I have to marvel at the timing of our consideration of these concepts in the light of current events.

Knowing that these devotionals will be online for perhaps years, for those in the future who will read these words, let me tell you that they are written the day after an American journalist was beheaded on video by the ISIS fighters in Iraq for all of America to see. The country is enflamed with righteous indignation and anger at such barbaric behavior. There is a palpable feeling of desiring revenge.

Sadly, atrocities are not new on the human landscape. What would be considered war crimes by international standards over the past century were the common fare of nation versus nation conflict in the era of the writing of the Psalms. The practice of making human popsicles out of enemies by impaling them on a stick was invented by the Assyrians—the people who would take captive the northern tribes of Israel.

Without doubt, those who do such things – either 700 BC or AD 2014 – deserve to be eliminated from the planet. The problem is that, even when we are capable of making a perfectly moral and accurate judgment, we are incapable of executing it with flawless effect and perfect results. We can labor toward justice, but we will never be able to establish it in a world that remains under the curse of sin.

And so we live in a suspended state of inability and futility to bring about the righteous desires of our hearts. Paul says in Romans…

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

Though we may want revenge, it is better to desire justice. And justice can only be fully and perfectly realized with the coming of the Lord as the judge upon the earth.

Put all of this together, and you have the spirit and feeling of Psalm 98 …

1 Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.
2 The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
3 He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

4 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music;
5 make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing,
6 with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—shout for joy before the Lord, the King.

7 Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.
8 Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy;
9 let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.

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