2020-6-28 A Cry for Justice

A Cry for Justice
Psalm 7
June 28, 2020

Prayer for Illumination:

O Lord, you are the one who spoke creation into existence with your very word. Speak into our hearts and minds. Unless you reveal yourself to us, we cannot know you. Speak today. Make your word alive to us and in us. Make us new creations by the power of your word. This we ask in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A shiggaion of David, which he sang to the Lord concerning Cush, a Benjamite.

Lord my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me,

or they will tear me apart like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.

Lord my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands—

if I have repaid my ally with evil or without cause have robbed my foe—

then let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust. 

Arise, Lord, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice.

Let the assembled peoples gather around you, while you sit enthroned over them on high.

8Let the Lord judge the peoples. Vindicate me, Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High.

Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure— you, the righteous God who probes minds and hearts.

10 My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart.

11 God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day.

12 If he does not relent, he will sharpen his sword; he will bend and string his bow.

13 He has prepared his deadly weapons; he makes ready his flaming arrows.

14 Whoever is pregnant with evil conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment.

15 Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit they have made.

16 The trouble they cause recoils on them; their violence comes down on their own heads.

17 I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.[1]

This is the Word of God, for the people of God. Thanks be to God.

We are continuing with our summer series in the Psalms this morning. We are studying the Psalms so that we can learn to express our emotions in a godly way. The Psalms are filled with emotion. They are filled with people crying out to God in praise. They’re filled with prayers to God crying out for God’s mercy and grace. They’re filled with laments over the sad and sorry situation of life in sin.

Last week, we looked at Psalm 6, a psalm of repentance. There, David cried out to God expressing his repentance over his sin and trust that God would graciously save him. This week, we’re looking at Psalm 7. Psalm 7 is a cry for God’s justice. We live in world filled with sin. Often times that sin impacts others and does damage to them and damage against them. And because of that, we live in world where there is injustice.

Turn on the news and you’ll see many cries for justice. You’ll see people crying out for justice over unlawful deaths. You’ll see people crying out for justice over mistreatment in the workplace. You’ll see people crying out for justice over sexual assault. This psalm gives us language to express our cry for justice.

Our two headings this morning will be:

  • Suffering and the Cry for God
  • God the Just Judge

Suffering and the Cry for God

David is crying out for God’s justice because of words concerning Cush, a Benjaminite. We don’t know much anything about this incident or Cush. But Cush has said some things that have caused David to suffer. Maybe you’re wondering, “Is David that sensitive that some less than kind words have upset him this much?” Cush hasn’t just said, “I don’t think David is the best king” or something like that.

More than likely, Cush has tried to stir up dissension against David. We don’t know that for certain, but it seems likely. Cush was a Benjaminite, he was a member of the tribe of Benjamin. Saul, the first king of Israel, was a member of that tribe. We know that early on in David’s reign, a few tribes didn’t submit to David as king. The first four chapters of 2 Samuel tell of how David was recognized as king only by Judah to start with while Saul’s remaining son, Ish-bosheth, was made king over the other tribes – especially Benjamin. Many of them probably felt as though David was a pretender or a usurper and that someone from Saul’s family should sit on the throne of Israel.

Cush might have been one of those persons. He might have been a leader in the army against David. Or it’s possible that even after David was recognized as God’s king over all of Israel that Cush rejected that. It’s possible that he organized a rebellion against David after David was recognized as king over all Israel.

In any case, Cush has said something against David that has caused him to suffer unjustly. This is an issue. Cush’s slander is an issue because it is directed against the king of Israel. James Montgomery Boice notes that this is a serious issue precisely because he is stirring up dissent against the king. Boice writes, “The king was the chief administrative and legislative officer for Israel. He was responsible for seeing that right was upheld and that justice was dispensed. An accusation that attacked his integrity undermined the moral basis of the kingdom.”[2]

What is David to do? Is he to respond? Depending on how he responds he might fan these sparks into a flame that might burn his kingdom. Is he supposed to let this injustice occur? And if he lets this injustice continue, will people trust him to seek justice for them?

David cries out to God for justice.

Lord my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me,

or they will tear me apart like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.

David turns to God. He finds refuge in the Lord. He trusts that God will be the one to save him and deliver him from his adversaries. The image here is that God is fortress for his people; that he is a divine warrior who will protect them from all ungodly attacks.

These attacks are ferocious that David is experiencing. He compares Cush and his allies to a lion. David has had experience with lions. He was a shepherd before joining Saul’s army. We often have this idyllic picture of shepherds. We picture shepherds casually and almost lazily walking among the hills with their flocks without a care in the world.

Shepherding in the Middle East then and now was incredibly dangerous. There were lions, and thieves, and bears. Oh my! David certainly defended his father’s flock from lions and bears with his club (1 Sam. 15:34-36). He knew how ferocious and dangerous a hungry lion was. And he is comparing Cush with a lion. That is how serious David’s suffering is.

David he turns to God for defense and protection from this ungodly and ferocious attack. It is unjust. He has not done anything deserving this. He is innocent.

Lord my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands—

if I have repaid my ally with evil or without cause have robbed my foe—

then let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust.

David makes clear that he is innocent of any wrongdoing and does not deserve what has happened to him. He is not saying he is perfect or that he has never sinned. We saw last week that David knew he had sinned and was a repentant sinner. And in a few weeks we’ll look at Psalm 51 where David confesses his most public and grievous sin. He’s simply saying that he is innocent in this situation and is suffering unjustly.

So he cries out.

Arise, Lord, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice.

Let the assembled peoples gather around you, while you sit enthroned over them on high.

8Let the Lord judge the peoples. Vindicate me, Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High.

He is crying out for God to do something about this unjust suffering. He isn’t returning evil or evil. He isn’t plotting and planning ways to exact vengeance against Cush. He cries out to God.

In this life, we will suffer unjustly. We will be mocked. We will be abused. We will have people sin against us and seek to do us harm just because. I know saying this is not popular. I know that there are some people on TV who says if we are suffering it’s because we don’t have enough faith or haven’t claimed supernatural power for yourself. The truth of the matter is, we will suffer. And we will suffer unjust.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11, 12). We will be reviled and persecuted for following Christ. I hate to burst your bubble but there will not be a period where those who worship the Triune God are not hated for following Christ. We will suffer unjust for following Christ.

Church history is filled with examples of God’s people suffering unjustly. We don’t have to even leave the New Testament to see that truth. Within weeks or months of Christ’s resurrection and ascension, Peter and John were preaching in the Temple when the Sanhedrin had them arrested for proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 4, 5). A year or two later, Saul of Tarsus began breathing threats against Christians simply because they were Christians (Acts 8, 9). Saul himself was reviled and persecuted for following Christ. Acts is filled with those stories.

The Second and Third centuries are filled with stories of Christians suffering unjustly simply because they believed that Jesus is the Christ. The Roman Emperors persecuted Christians simply because they followed Christ.

Even today, Christians in China suffer unjustly. Within the last three years, the Communist government has persecuted the Church. They have rounded up Christians and imprisoned them simply because they worship the Triune God.

We will suffer unjustly as well. I know for most of the history of the U.S.A., we have not suffered for being Christians. We have been the majority culture. But as our culture becomes more and more post-Christian, we will suffer for believing that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through him. We will suffer for holding to the biblical understanding regarding sex, sexuality, and marriage. We will suffer for Christ.

What should we do when we suffer? We should cry out to God instead of taking vengeance into our own hands.

God the Just Judge

Why should we cry out to God? When we suffer unjust, we cry out to God because he is a just judge. David writes:

Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure— you, the righteous God who probes minds and hearts.

10 My shield y is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart.

11 God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day.

12 If he does not relent, he will sharpen his sword; he will bend and string his bow.

13 He has prepared his deadly weapons; he makes ready his flaming arrows.

14 Whoever is pregnant with evil conceives trouble and gives birth to disillusionment.

15 Whoever digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit they have made.

16 The trouble they cause recoils on them; their violence comes down on their own heads.

David trusts that God will judge the situation justly and will execute justice because he is just judge. He trusts that God will vindicate him and bring to end Cush and his allies.

The Lord God is judge over all peoples. He is the Sovereign King over all creation. He created all that is seen and unseen. He set the laws of nature in place. He governs the entire universe.

And because he is Sovereign King, he is judge. That is one of the functions of a king. We know that even from our system of government. Every mayor, every governor, and the president, each one is tasked with upholding the laws and executing judgment. David as the king over Israel was tasked with upholding the laws and executing a just judgment.

The same is true of the Sovereign King. By nature he upholds the laws of nature. By virtue of who he is God upholds his moral law. He will execute judgment against the wicked and evil. He judges sin as sin. He cannot be bribed. He is just and true. And he will execute judgment against sinners, the wicked, and all who commit evil.

This is often hard modern believers. We struggle with the idea that God judges people. We don’t like it. It is one of the common objections that modern people have with Christianity. When I was working at Starbucks, this was an objection several of my non-Christian coworkers had. People often object to the idea that God judges and will take vengeance saying that it will ultimately lead to more violence and death.

Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf contends that the belief in a just God who judges actually stops people from taking vengeance because they believe God will be the one who judges. Volf lived through the Yugoslav war. That war was one of the most horrific wars of the 20th century. There were some of the most serious war crimes since World War II. And Volf lived through it.

In his book, “Exclusion and Embrace”, Volf argues that it is the belief in a just God who will judge all of humanity that actually restrains Croatian Christians from seeking vengeance and retribution. He says that it is because they believe God will execute judgment over sin and evil that they can turn the other cheek.

Think about it. If someone sins against you, if you suffer unjustly, and there is no God who will judge that as wrong and evil, your natural response will be to take vengeance. You will naturally want to strike back twice as hard. Because there is no one who will uphold the moral law, you will take the role of judge into your own hands.

But if there is a God like the one the Bible presents, a God who is sovereign over all creation, a God who is just and upholds the law, then we can trust that he will execute a just judgment. We have no need to seek vengeance. We can trust that God will faithfully execute justice.

We can trust that God will execute justice. God either executes justice against sin, wickedness, and evil at the cross or he will execute justice when Christ returns. On the cross, God showed himself to be both just and justifier. Each and every person has sinned. Each and every person has done evil. And as a result of having sinned, we deserve God’s just judgment against us. We deserve death and damnation.

But there on the cross, God the Father judged God the Son as having committed the sin each and every believer is guilty of. There he judged Jesus who knew no sin to be sin (2 Cor. 5:21). God showed himself as just and justifier at the cross. He showed himself just in judging sin as wicked and evil and deserving of death. He showed himself to be justifier in that he gave his only begotten son to be the atoning sacrifice that would save his Church.

For those who never repent of their sin, their wickedness, and their evil God will judge them. Revelation 20:11-15 says this. It says:

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Those who are not found in Christ will be judged and found guilty for their sin, their wickedness, and evil. As it is, they stand guilty and condemned because they have broken God’s law. And unless they repent of their sin and trust in Jesus’ atoning work on the cross then they will bear the consequences of their sin. Those who do not trust in Christ for salvation will be in hell as the consequence of their sin.

Application

So what does this mean for us? First it means that even though we will suffer unjustly, we can turn the other cheek trusting that God will be the one who executes judgment. As we are mocked and reviled for following Christ, we will be tempted to return evil for evil. But the God who was, is, and always shall be is a just God. Nothing escapes his notice. He will be the one to execute judgment. For those who trust in Christ as savior and redeemer, he will judge Christ instead of them. He will have poured out his wrath and judgment for sin on Christ. For those not in Christ, God will judge them for their sin when Christ returns.

When someone sins against us, we can trust that God will execute judgment. We can trust that the justice of God will come. That will allow us to turn the other cheek and show that person grace and mercy. Knowing that God is a just judge will stop us from seeking vengeance when we suffer unjustly.

Second, knowing that God is just means we should just and seek justice for others. This might seem to contradict the last point but it doesn’t. We can turn the other cheek and forgive them for their sin against us all the while we stand for justice. Many of us do this naturally with our children. We set rules and we discipline then when they break them. And yet at the same time we forgive them; we turn the other cheek to them.

As Christians, we should stand for justice. We should demand that all people – regardless of sex, religion, ethnicity, or politics – be treated the same way. Proverbs 29:7 says, “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern”. We should demand that the law be applied fairly and equally to all. The bible frequently speaks of making sure that the orphan, the poor, the widow, and the sojourner receive justice like everyone else. Those are the most vulnerable. They are the one most likely not to receive justice. As those who know God is just and have been transformed by his grace, we ought to care about the ones he cares about.

We should demand that incidents like Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd be taken seriously and that justice should be done. We should demand that there should be justice for the retired chief police, David Dorn, who was shot and killed by a rioter. We should demand justice for all of those who have been sexually abused and assaulted. We should demand justice for all of the children who have been killed before their birt.

And while we demand justice, we should implore people to be reconciled in Christ. We should encourage people to repent of their sin and look to the cross. We should encourage believers to trust that if someone has repented of their sin and is in Christ, then God’s judgment will suffice.

We will suffer. And we will suffer unjustly. And when we suffer unjustly, we should cry out to God and trust that he is a just judge.

[1] The New International Version. (2011). (Ps 7). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Boice, J. M. (2005). Psalms 1–41: An Expositional Commentary (p. 60). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.