On Judgement in the Psalms

January 7 – Psalm 7

Today’s Psalm is an example of the sort of Psalm we’ll see over and over again: a Psalm that cries out for justice.  Over and over again, we’ll read the psalmist say: “God, vindicate me, and punish my persecutors.”

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The desire to be avenged on one’s enemies can sometimes strike Christian readers as inappropriate.  I find C.S. Lewis to be extremely helpful on the issue of judgment in the Psalms (as he is always helpful):

“The ancient Jews, like ourselves, think of God’s judgement in terms of an earthly court of justice.  The difference is that the Christian pictures the case to be tried as a criminal case with himself in the dock; the Jew pictures it as a civil case with himself as the plaintiff.  The one hopes for acquittal, or rather for pardon; the other hopes for a resounding triumph with heavy damages.  Hence he prays ‘judge my quarrel’, or ‘avenge my cause’ (Psalm 35:23)….

“Behind this lies an age-old and almost world-wide experience which we have been spared.  In most places and times it has been very difficult for the ‘small man’ to get his case heard.  The judge (and, doubtless, one or two of his underlings) has to be bribed.  If you can’t afford to ‘oil his palm’ your case will never reach court.  Our judges do not receive bribes.  (We probably take this blessing too much for granted; it will not remain with us automatically).  We need not therefore be surprised if the Psalms, and the Prophets, are full of the longing for judgement, and regard the announcement that ‘judgement’ is coming as good news.  Hundreds and thousands of people who have been stripped of all they possess and who have the right entirely on their side will at last be heard.  Of course they are not afraid of judgement.  They know their case is unanswerable—if only it could be heard.  When God comes to judge, at last it will.”

–from Reflections on the Psalms, by C.S. Lewis (pp. 10-11)

 

–AF

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