Have you ever gotten a big head only to be knocked down immediately? The kind of whiplash that makes the words “pride comes before the fall,” sting a little? If not then you and I are clearly different. If you’ll excuse my confession, I can get a big head. I’m confident and I don’t mind being in charge. I like to be the guy that people look to and say, “wow, he did a great job of ____.” This can lead to me seeking my own glory, trying to build my own kingdom, and even thwarting and perverting justice to get there. If you’re like me, this psalm is a needed shock to your pride that we all need. This psalm is about God lamenting the men who think they’re unstoppable, who at the same time corrupt justice to serve themselves.
This psalm is a lament of sorts, but because it is from God’s perspective it doesn’t take the typical form of a psalm of lament.
The typical form of laments is
Addressing and introductory petition
Confession of trust
Vow of praise
This psalm loosely follows this outline. We see an introduction in verse one, the lament in verse two, a confession of trust in verse three, and a petition in verse four.
Again this psalm takes on the voice of God in verse two and condemns the wickedness of mankind. This is important for us to know because if you try to read it like Asaph is saying this, it becomes — among other things — spiritually confusing. But it is God speaking to people on earth to take care of the weak in society. And then in verses 6 and 7, he gives a serious warning. There are areas in our lives where we feel almighty. Like we know what we're talking about, or we have lots of influence. It can make us feel sovereign over it. We — in some sense — become little gods. But Yahweh reminds us that no matter how great we think we are, we are temporal, ordinary, and mortal. We will die one day — even the greatest people in history — and be forgotten. There will be a day when no one will remember your name. So then, the point is not to manipulate the system in your favor to get an advantage so you can get ahead. The point is to be an ambassador of God’s justice here on earth. Run your company with integrity, lead your team with respect, parent your children in grace and truth, be a friend with honor, and above all bear the image of God with justice.
Allen Ross, in his commentary on this psalm, summarizes this psalm this way,
“Declaring that God judges His human judges, Asaph called for Him to act on His justice. Asaph warned that judges without understanding, who ignore God’s appointment of them, will perish.”
God will judge those who have power harshly, because — as image bearers — it is our job to dole out justice like God does. Yet we know that power often corrupts justice.
For us, we need to keep in mind the parable Jesus tells us in Luke 12:48. In that parable he says, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.”
But do we pervert justice? Are we like these people whom God is calling to repent? Yes, we are. Have you ever lied to your children to get them to stop asking you about something? Have you ever allowed your children to get away with something they did wrong because you were tired and didn’t have the energy to discipline them again? Have you ever cheated on homework, or in a sport? Have you ever allowed someone you oversee at work to get away with something wrong, either because you like them, or because it didn't really hurt anyone?
The list could go on and on. We all have made a mess of being image bearers of God, and have represented him poorly by simply being indifferent towards injustice. Know that all of us have power and influence. Each and every moment we have the ability to seek justice and truth or to pervert it and try to build our own kingdom.
The reality of this is that we will struggle to do this well our entire lives. This is not an article that is trying to tell you to be better and try harder. We can’t, and even if we could it wouldn’t matter. The injustice we have caused in the world cannot be undone by a little more justice each day. What we need is someone who can undo all the injustice in the world.
That’s where the good news of the gospel comes in. Jesus can set the record straight, and enact perfect justice because he was a victim of a terrible injustice. Jesus was given the death penalty, yet he was the only person on earth who has never committed any crime, cosmically or from a legal perspective. Jesus never even contributed to societal injustice. Jesus was convicted in a kangaroo court, without due process, without policy or procedure. The one who was righteousness incarnate was hung and condemned as a criminal. This is what we deserve, we deserve injustice because of our contribution to injustice. Yet Jesus took our place on the cross, taking what we deserve from the Father so that we could be treated like Jesus.
Allow the good news of the gospel to transform you today. See the love Jesus has for you, and seek to see justice done in your life.