Psalm 7: A Call for Personal and Worldwide Justice
This psalm reveals a deep truth about how God dispenses his justice–and it is a truth that the world does not understand. Three passages from Scripture are listed below to illustrate this failure of the world to understand how God metes out judgment and justice:
“Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely” (Prov. 28:5 RSV).
“A man’s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord” (Prov. 19:3 NIV).
“You say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear, O house of Israel: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin, he will die for it; because of the sin he has committed he will die. But if a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he will save his life. Because he considers all the offenses he has committed and turns away from them, he will surely live; he will not die.
“Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are my ways unjust, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust? Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!” (Ez. 18:25-32 NIV).
With these three examples as a background for understanding how God deals with people regarding justice, Psalm 7 takes on a broader meaning, beginning with verse one and two.
7:1,2: “O Lord my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me, or they will tear me like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me”
This is a call for protection and justice–for true justice. Unlike perverted justice which is all too common in this world, true justice is meant to protect the innocent while punishing the guilty. In the first two verses, the psalmist distills his situation down to a very succinct statement. And in verses three through five, he calls out for this true justice of God, not desiring to escape punishment if he himself has done wrong but that God, who sees all, will judge rightly between himself and his foes.
7:3-5: “O Lord my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands–if I have done evil to him who is at peace with me or without cause have robbed my foe–then let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust. Selah.”
In verse three, he begins to pour forth his case of why delivering him would serve to glorify God. In verse five, he shows that he is willing to accept the consequences if he has done evil–but he knows he has not, so he is not afraid of God’s justice; in fact, he calls out for God to judge these enemies and mete out his justice:
7:6: “Arise, O Lord, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice.”
This is not a self-righteous prayer, like the publican in the parable told by Jesus (Lk. 18:9-14). Rather, it is simply the normal cry all of us have for wickedness not to win in the land. No one in a right mind wants wickedness to prevail. The psalmist wants God to rule and judge all the people in the land. Since he is one of those people, he must include himself–and he does.
7:7-9: “Let the assembled peoples gather around you. Rule over them from on high; let the Lord judge the peoples. Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High. O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure”
7:10: “My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart”
The psalmist is honest with himself, as he must be since his heart is open to God and if he were not honest, he would be fooling only himself. He knows that his heart is upright, wanting to do right and obey God, even if he sometimes fails in this. His heart is right and wants to do good, even if his deeds sometimes fail in carrying out his heart’s desire. This is reminiscent of Paul’s great statement of the dilemma of the human heart:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
“So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin” (Rom. 7:15-25).
7:11: “God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day (RSV).”
A warning to those who think they can get away with their evil because they have done so (seemingly) in the past. God sees their evil deeds. Just because he has not yet punished them does not mean that does not care. His indignation over their attitude and deeds causes him to reach for his weapons of retaliation and punishment. The reason God has not yet punished them is that he is giving the evildoer time to repent of his evil heart and deeds. But . . .
7:12,13: ““If he does not relent, he will sharpen his sword; he will bend and string his bow. He has prepared his deadly weapons; he makes ready his flaming arrows.”
This warning harks back to that of the second psalm:
“Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Ps. 2:10-12).
Still, there are always those who pay no attention to what God says. They continue their foolish path of thinking they can do evil without being punished by God. The evil they conceive first in their thoughts and the wickedness of their hearts just wait for opportunity to deliver the evil within them:
7:14: “He who is pregnant with evil and conceives trouble gives birth to disillusionment.”
Describing what will finally come of such folly by calling it disillusionment is an understatement. They will find, to their horror, that the evil they had planned for others will fall upon their own heads.
7:15,16: “He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made. The trouble he causes recoils on himself; his violence comes down on his own head.”
This is what I call the boomerang justice of God. (See this earlier posting for an extended look at this: http://www.christian-faith.com/forjesus/the-boomerang-god).
7:17: “I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.”
The psalm ends as it began, with a broader view of justice than simply that which involves solely the petitioner of God for personal justice. The psalmist sees past himself and his own enemies and need for deliverance to the broader view of the necessity for right to prevail over the whole world. He is grateful that God is almighty and can and will establish his righteousness over that world, and for that he ends with an appropriate praising of God for his righteousness.