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.