I love reading the Psalms. I love the raw honesty and the belief in God rooted in real life. I love the spirituality that avoids statements like "God gives me such peace in my heart" or "God just showers me with His love," but says "God is going to kill the people who are trying to kill me." That's real. I don't always know what to do with those kinds of statements, but I appreciate the authenticity.
So, I come to Psalm 9, and I read this in vv. 17–20:
The wicked will return to the grave,
all the nations that forget God.
But the needy will not always be forgotten,
nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish.
Arise, O LORD, let not man triumph;
let the nations be judged in your presence.
Strike them with terror, O LORD;
let the nations know they are but men. (NIV)
There is so much violence in the Old Testament. It's easy to forget that this is the God that Jesus called "Father." This is the God that Paul worshipped. It's a God who is not afraid to take people out for being evil. To paraphrase one of my professors, Eric "Gunny" Hartman, I think, "I have a God who smokes people for picking up sticks on the wrong day."
Like I said, I don't always know what to do with this language. But I don't want to sweep it under the rug. It's there. I think it's good for us to reflect on God's righteousness. First, it reminds us of what we are headed for. We worship a God who believes that things like violence and oppression are bad--He's wiping them out. We need to reflect on the violent God of the Old Testment to remember that God is righteous and just, and that He is strong enough to make right what has been made wrong. Second, these psalms make us appreciate grace more. One of the preaching professors at DTS once remarked about the necessity of preaching sin--"If you don't have sin, you don't need grace." I like that. I need to be reminded that I am an oppressor and that if it weren't for God's grace, I would "return to the grave," be "struck with terror," and be "reminded that I am just a man." Third, these psalms are a call to live more justly. I don't want to be an oppressor.
"Father, I thank You that You are just. I don't want to think about what life would be like if You weren't. I thank You for Your care and concern about our world--that You aren't going to leave it like we've made it. Father we look forward to the day when You right all of the wrongs. In the mean time, I ask that You help me to be just like You are just, to be righteous like You are righteous, to be compassionate like You are compassionate, and to be merciful like You are merciful. I pray for Your kingdom to come. Amen."
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