When There Is No Justice

Sun, Apr 21, 2024

Teacher: John Paterson Series: God Is Enough Scripture: Psalm 75:1-10

GOD IS ENOUGH … WHEN THERE IS NO JUSTICE Trinity Psalm 75 21.04.24 Last Monday week a man in Ireland was to stand trial for almost 100 counts of historic sexual crimes. The day before, on the Sunday, he was killed when his car crashed into a tree. Hundreds of hours of police investigation ground to a halt. Imagine the emotional pain for the victims in reliving the past and now nothing. One news report said, “as the victims learned of his death … they were distraught and angry that he would not face justice.” If that man killed himself, it seems like an easy way out for him. If it was an accident, that’s almost as bad. When the person who abused you, cheated you or stole from you dies of old age or is living it up while you suffer, what about justice? We know that we want justice – but should we? Or is it unworthy? We should: the desire for justice is one of the evidences that we are more than flesh and blood … and more than animals … that we are made in the image of God with desires and hopes that reflect his. • Relatives of millions of Holocaust victims still ask, “Where is justice for what was done to them?” • Thousands of people in Israel and Gaza are suffering while the Hamas big men who have caused it, live in luxurious homes in Qatar. • Thousands in Ukraine and Russia are suffering because of the actions of Putin and co, who seem oblivious to even more deaths in the second year of their war than in the first. • Family members of the six people stabbed to death in Bondi last weekend are suffering. Where is the justice for them? So many crimes are cruel and ugly and smash many lives. If perpetrators are shot dead or killed in a car smash, or as often as not, sent to prison for just 10 or 20 years, it seems like there is no justice. And when there is no justice, pain is multiplied many times over. How kind of God to give us Psalm 75. In a world of injustice there is a NOW and there is a THEN. I want to talk about each answer a couple of questions along the way, and then finish up with maybe the biggest question of all. NOW, INJUSTICE IS PART OF A BIGGER STORY Yes, injustice is real, and it is painful. But it is not the whole story and is not the biggest story. God is speaking in verse 2. He says “At the time that I appoint I will judge with equity” … that is future. Things that are uneven, unjust, unfair will be put right on the day that God has written into his diary. We’ll come back to that. But there is a now - Verse3: “When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars.” The earth tottered in Japan on Wednesday when an earthquake struck. Buildings fell down, roads buckled, and trees fell. Deeper things wobbled for many people at Westfield Bondi Junction last Saturday. For some, life in this world changed forever. Life is never the same again for so many who are abused, caught up in war, mugged or traumatised. That is why we need somewhere strong to stand when the earth totters.  The earth tottered when Jesus was unjustly murdered by wicked men. Was their action evil? Profoundly so. But they did “whatever your hand your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:28).  Paul was imprisoned. Justly? No. But he says, “what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.” (Philippians 1:5,6)  Powerful men in China and North Korea and in nations like our own are determined to silence Christians and unjustly force us to bow to the gods of this world. Are they in charge or part of a bigger story? God says that he “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11), whether in China or anywhere else. In verse 3 God says, “When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep it steady on its pillars.” You need to know that I am still holding things together. You need to know that in a world of injustice and pain, RIGHT NOW, I have not left the stage. Pretending that we live in a closed world where there is nothing else apart from what we see and touch, is deadly. You are left only with evil and injustice, and no justice at all. Knowing and believing that may be just enough to rescue you when you are in danger of being rattled by evil and injustice.  Are evil and injustice as purposeful in the hand of God as sunny days and long life? They are.  Can you reduce God to sentimental or neat little formulae that fit with what you think he ought to do? No, you cannot.  Is there even a good side to evil? Yes, in a strange way there is. Because it makes you look for answers you won’t find in this world? It is as C.S.Lewis said: “God whispers to us in our pleasures and shouts at us in our pain.” Premier Chris Minns was this week, in my view, wise, insightful, and helpful, as he led the public response to what happened at Bondi. He was right to urge us to stand together and look out for one another, and he did that in a fine way, I thought. But it is not enough. When serious crimes come, and we are rattled as the earth totters, we need to an answer that is bigger than simply loving others and holding our children close. Then, as much as at any other time, we rest in the reality and certainty that there is a God who “keeps the pillars steady”. NOW, INJUSTICE IS PART OF A BIGGER STORY. But most of Psalm 75 is about the THEN – about a future yet to come. THEN, ALL INJUSTICE WILL BE JUDGED One of the wonderful things about the coming of Jesus is that everything, absolutely everything gets turned upside down.  He was unimpressed by big people, but welcomed children, women, the despised and the poor.  He showed that greatness was in serving, not in being served.  He won everything by losing all he had.  He taught that what you are on the inside is far more important than how you appear to be. With Jesus everything was reversed. That was all promised by God in Psalm 75. There are the men “who lift up their horn” (v4). You know how male deer will lock their horns as they tussle for dominance. The bigger and sharper their horn, the greater their power. These are the men who “speak with haughty neck” (v5b). They stick out their chin, and are in your face, and dare anyone to try to take them down. They are the men whom the courts won’t touch; they hold political office or control the media or who speak as though anyone who has a different view from them must be an idiot. They live in luxury; they get buried with honours. That is now. But there is a then that is coming when they are going to be exposed … and full justice will be measured out to them. And the little people abused and written off will be vindicated. Asaph calls it a time for the execution of God’s judgment, for the “putting down of one and lifting up another” (v7b). It is the day when God pours out his cup of his judgment, “and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs” (v8b). • Pharaoh lifted his horn and asked Moses “Who is Yahweh that I should obey his voice?” (Exodus 5:2) • King Herod accepted the praise of the people “The voice of a god, not a man” (Acts 12:22), as he lifted his horn. • Adolph Hitler, looking at a picture of himself riding a white horse, titled “In the beginning was the Word”, lifted up his horn as he said, “I am providence”. Was there justice for Pharaoh, Herod, and Hitler in this world? Not enough. But the day is coming when they shall drink the cup of God’s justice to the dregs. According to the word of Jesus, all who have thought themselves and their beliefs and their plans more important than who Jesus is, and what he says and does, will drink the just condemnation for their arrogance and unbelief. Do you think that is over the top? Too bad to tell anyone? Are you slightly embarrassed about the fact of the judgment to come and what it means for those who have not followed Jesus? BUT didn’t you want what was wrong to be punished in perfect justice? BUT didn’t you want evil to be removed and burnt up? BUT didn’t you want abused and traumatised victims to be vindicated? BUT didn’t you want unbelief in the Lord Jesus to be exposed as the gross and ugly thing that it really is? Any sentimentalised version of Christianity isn’t nearly big enough. There is no getting into the new heaven and the new earth by a back door, called love. It is because Jesus stands at the front door, dealing with all sin and unbelief, that there can even be a new heaven and a new earth. We must not be embarrassed by talking about the reality of judgment. What is so wrong is any pretend version of Jesus that has a back door view of the future, but no front door. In a sermon a couple of weeks ago, Alistair Begg told of a scene in a movie he saw. It was set in a hotel in India. A rich guest was checking out at reception, and the clerk was asking him how his stay had been. He said the food was bad, the air conditioning hadn’t worked, and the service was second rate. The clerk responded, “It will be alright in the end.” Then he paused and added “And if it is not alright, it is not the end.” Is everything alright now? Not in a world of continuing injustice. Not even though we know that everything is in the hand of a good and wise and sovereign God. But that is because it is not the end. But the end is coming and is almost here. When God will do as he has promised here: “All the horns of the wicked I will cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.” (v10) We read about day in 2 Corinthians 4 and 5. So much here and now to make us weep … deep sorrows are so often our lot in this world. And no answers here and now. But there is the other world, the most real world coming which will bring “a weight of glory beyond all comparison” (4:17). What a day that will be. When each one of us shall “receive what is due for what he has done” (5:10). What a day of blazing justice that day will be. I NEED TO ASK ONE BIG QUESTION AS I FINISH. WHAT ABOUT THE INJUSTICES YOU HAVE DONE? Proud self-righteous criticism of others? The neglect of people who had some claim on you? The unbelief in your heart? The way you have used your power for yourself and not for Jesus? Shouldn’t you be judged as much as Pharaoh, Herod, or Hitler … or Putin or Hamas … or the lovely people you know who just do not think that Jesus is for them? If there is going to be justice, and justice is going to be just, without favouritism … how much of the cup of God’s holy wrath is going to be served up to you? Do you remember Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before he was crucified? What anguish there was in his soul, as he prayed with tears and loud cries, as he asked if it was possible for the cup to be removed from him. Which cup? The cup of Psalm 75. The cup that is in the hand of the Lord, to be poured out on the wicked, which they shall drain down to the dregs. But he wasn’t wicked. He wasn’t unjust or arrogant. Why is he drinking the cup of holy justice? He was drinking the judgment that was mixed in the cup for me. How much did he drink? Every drop – “down to the dregs”. I live before God not because my sins are not as bad as others’, but because Jesus drank the cup reserved for me. My confidence is not that justice is withheld. But that love answered justice. What about you? You can’t ask that justice for your sins is ignored. God is too true to himself to do that. There are only two options: either Jesus pays for you, or you pay! Either he satisfies justice, or you do. Either you drink the cup, “down to the dregs” … or Jesus has already done that for you. Is there one good reason, even one, why you should not bet all you have on Jesus?
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