By Christopher Langford
Psalm 98 begins with the verse “O sing unto the Lord a new song”. This simplistic statement is profound. It is so short and easy to read that we may be tempted to quickly move on from it without giving it further consideration. Alternatively, some of us may be unsure of the meaning of the new song so we quickly move past trying to interpret it. Yet if this psalm was transformed into a hymn this verse would most certainly be the refrain. Many of the remaining verses in Psalm 98 provide justification for why the whole earth should rejoice and provide praise to the Lord. The great irony coming from this psalm is instead of praise being sung to the Lord upon the remembrance of His mercy, petitions for vengeance continued to be sung by the Israelites. The final verse concludes that all of the earth should be joyful together “Before the Lord, for he come to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.”
All too often anger, sadness, anxiety, and despair supersede our communal joy. Perceptions of inequity are often at the core of our negative emotions. We worked harder than our peers and yet they got promoted, they earned better grades, they received the praise and recognition. We did the right thing, we followed the rules, and yet we are the ones that got in trouble, received punishment, thrown under the bus for the mistakes of others. Does this sound familiar? It has undoubtedly happened to all of us before, and it will happen to most of us again.
A buzzword these days is justice. We throw around this phrase carelessly and convince ourselves our actions promote this noble idea. I am all too guilty of this myself. I tell myself – and my business students at BUA sometimes – I try to promote justice is the classes I teach, in part by assigning grades on an equitable basis. But the truth of the matter is I do a horrible job sometimes in ensuring justice here. Students’ computers crash, their vehicles break down, a few end up sick and even in the hospital sometimes. In these cases, I may elect to extend deadlines and provide make-up exams. Is this promoting justice? I am unsure. I am unsure because I have only a vague idea of what justice looks like and even less definitive information to base my assessments on. Looking at definitions in the dictionary provides limited guidance. For example, Wikipedia defines justice as “just behavior or treatment”. What does just behavior or treatment consist of when my knowledge of any given situation is deficient in some capacity?
Thanks be to God for being the living truth and for discerning the heart and mind of man. Only He is the rightful judge. The closest humans can come to ensuring justice on the earth is to love those around them by extending and encouraging mercy whenever possible. For “with righteousness shall (God) judge the world, and the people with equity”. Let the joy and gratitude that accompanies mercy be the new song we sing. Let us sing this new song unto the Lord.
By Christyn Baer
Psalm 22 begins with a line familiar to us all, being five weeks into Eastertide…
“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
David begins his anguished prayer with the same words that Jesus laments on the cross.
As I sit here reading this psalm on Saturday night, I’m thinking along the same lines; but rather than God, it’s Timmy, Tony, Manu, Kawhi, and Popp that I feel have let me down. I feel desperate and beat down, emotionally, after two weeks of watching my team – “the good guys” – fight back and forth with a formidable opponent, only to lose in the end.
I know there are much bigger things going on in the world than the NBA playoffs. And I shouldn’t be comparing my “hardships” in dealing with this loss to any of the real difficulties being faced on a daily basis – in Nepal, in Baltimore, in San Antonio, and right here within our own church. The injustices and conflict in our world today are not so different from what was going on in David’s time.
David continues to express his deep distress through verse 18, calling himself not a man, but a worm, scorned by man and despised by people. Then in verse 19 he begins to ask the Lord for deliverance, asking him to come quickly, knowing that the Lord is hearing his prayers and calls to be saved. He vows to praise the Lord when his sure deliverance does finally come.
Starting in verse 25, David begins to describe all the people that will join with him in praising the Lord: All the ends of the earth… all the families of the nations… those that are rich, and those that are so poor they are near to death – all will come to realize that God is King and will bow before him.
David starts out in a very bad place in this psalm; he’s deeply anguished. Yet he ends up realizing that God has not deserted him, but rather is very much still with him. So much so that David begins boldly proclaiming God’s goodness for all people, reminding us that we can go to God as we are… hungry, tired, poor in spirit.
Man will fail us – our teams will lose, our leaders will disappoint us, even our friends may let us down at times. But God will not. God never lets us down. He is with us, even before we are born. Verses 30-31 provide extra comfort for me, as I think about my baby growing within – “Future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn – for he has done it.”
We are those future generations David spoke of! We can share with the world the joy of God’s righteousness, the truth of the cross, David’s final words of Psalm 22 – “He has done it!”