JUSTICE – Psalm 7
This particular Psalm is called a Shiggaion. It is the only Psalm to be described in this manner. There is only one other portion of Scripture to be called a Shiggaion (Habbakuk 3). The term means something that is erratic. It seems to indicate that this is a poem that is irregular in its composition. The words and phrases are not ordered in the usual poetic fashion. There is also the thought that the heart of the Psalmist was erratic and irregular on account of the severe pressure he was under at the time of writing. It is probable that the Shiggaion refers to David’s upheaval of spirit as he penned the words.
This Psalm also concerns “Cush the Benjamite”. There is no-one in the biography of David that corresponds to this title, yet he appears to be a notable foe. It is possible that Cush the Benjamite was a pseudonym for Saul, as he arose out of the house of Benjamin. The words of the Psalm appear to support this interpretation. In verse 4 David described this enemy as:
A Having been saved or delivered by him.
B Being one who hates David without cause.
Saul is certainly identified here on two counts. Twice David spared the King’s life when he could easily have killed him and he was vilified by Saul out of a jealous hatred.
One can understand the term Shiggaion. David’s days as an outlaw created extreme upheaval for his soul, being forced to live in the forests and in the caves.
In this Psalm David addresses himself to God in these days of persecution. This poem is known as one the Imprecatory Psalms. The terms imprecation refers to judgement. This is certainly a prayer for God to judge David’s enemies. In focusing upon judgement David addresses a matter which is of fundamental importance to us a Christians and also to every society. This is justice. We have a Legislature, Courts and a Police Service because justice is a vital component of an ordered and civilised society.
Let us therefore examine this Psalm in the light of this basic need in society – Justice.
1: The Problem with Justice
The problem with justice is that frequently it is lacking. Where justice fails there is injustice. These, then are two contrasting states. Justice and Injustice. Either Justice prevails or injustice prevails. But as we have fundamental need for Justice; Injustice deprives us of that that which is precious and essential.
Examining the 7th Psalm we observe David’s quandary. His enemy wished to tear him limb from limb as the lion would it’s prey (v2). In the verses 3-5 David’s acknowledges that if he has done wrong he deserves this treatment. He calls upon God to allow the enemy to take his life, if he is guilty man. Here David subjects himself to justice while at the same time proclaiming his own innocence. His methodology in protesting at this injustice is striking. Let God deal with me if I am to fault. Ithen deserve all this distress than has befallen me. This was David’s way of protesting his own innocence. He was proclaiming that he was undeserving of the horrible treatment with which he was meted.
This causes us to ask the question – “Does pure justice exist in this world”? The manner in which wickedness dominates throughout the world causing untold suffering is evidence that injustice abounds. Martyrdom, murder, incarcerations and genocide are sad features of human history and current affairs when the wicked prosper and when the innocent suffer. Injustice and its prevalence remains one of the proofs that the man is a depraved creature. Yet the cry for Justice is evidence that man believes in and desires Justice. It is one of our fundamental and innate desires. Few things are more painful than injustice and more to be desired than justice.
2: The Prayer for Justice
This Psalm is a prayer for Justice. David is not taking the law into his own hands. He is not acting as a vigilante nor is he behaving as one possessed with an obsession for revenge. But he is praying that God would exercise his judgement upon the perpetrators of wrongs:
“Arise O Lord, in thine anger, lift up thyself because of the rage of mine enemies: and awake for me to the judgement that thou hast commanded”.
It is right and scriptural to pray for God to exercise his justice because he is the great judge of all men:
“The Lord shall judge the people.”
One of the attributes of God is “justice”. God’s justice is pure and undiluted. There are never miscarriages in his court. Perpetrators are never set free falsely from his assizes. His evidence is unassailable because he is the witness to every evil deed. His standard is his law and the breakers of that not law shall not escape. His is the great and the final court.
Justice is one of God’s communicable attributes. These are the attributes that he gives to men. This is why we have such a strong desire for justice. God has planted that desire, that longing within our breasts as he fashioned us in His image. Therefore every society endeavours to enforce some form of justice. Even primitive tribes have rules and those who transgress must face punishment. One of the leading roles of Government is to provide and enforce justice:
“For he (the ruler of the nation) is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is eveil, be afraid; for he beareth npt the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”
But when Government fails to provide justice, as they do in even the most civilised societies, as Christians we can pray to God, that He might exercise His justice.
3: The Provision of Justice
David solemnly describes the manner in which the righteous God deals with wicked and evil men.
The words of v11 ought to strike terror into the hearts of a God fearing people:
“God is angry with the wicked every day”
Even as the murderer and the child abuser (and a hundred thousands other examples of wickedness) escape the punishment of men they are under the pale of God’s anger. This not an emotional anger but the anger of His law; His broken law.
David also depicts the breaker of God’s law as being in a place which some jurisdictions call “Death Row”. The bow is bent, the arrow is aimed, the instruments of execution are ordained and prepared. A stay of execution does not mean that the day of judgement will not arrive. In grace he allows even the most wicked of men time and space to repent. The judgement, however, remains, a fact that is ordained. If the wicked man or women will not repent and seek divine mercy the arrow of divine wrath will strike his soul.
Does this mean that the Bible teaches Capital Punishment? Absolutely. If God is presented as one who prepares instruments of death, then Capital Punishment must remains a sanction in a state which operates according to the biblical rigours of justice. Sadly in too many nations, those convicted of capital crimes are given light sentences, they become a financial burden on the state and they are rehabilitated rather than punished. This is injustice. The victim receives a life sentence of grief and injury, whereas the perpetrator serves a term and is released to continue with life. How unjust civilised man has become!!.
In verses 15-16 David highlights one natural means that God uses to dispense his justice in this life. He permits the wicked man to be the architect of his own doom. Where a terrorist is blown up by his own bomb or where special forces carry out a successful covert operation against a cell; this is divine justice being executed in this life. It is right and biblical to pray that that those who are guilty of the most heinous crimes against humanity die in the midst of their evil work.
David rested on the God who behaved justly. Therefore in v10 he declared:
“My defence is of God”
Likewise when we become the victims of injustice we can rest upon God is execute his definitive and final judgements.
Therefore in v17 David was brought to a place of praise and thanksgiving despite the moral, darkness in which he was engulfed, because he believed God.
“I will praise the Lord according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high”
We have no need to be discouraged as long as God reigns and sits upon his throne. AMEN.