God’s grace is fresh air for my suffocating soul. It brings me rest from my striving. Forgiveness from my failings. Hope from my despair. And so, I reflect on grace a lot. I read about it. Hang it on my wall. Sing about it. Pass it along.
I do not do the same with God’s justice. Grace makes me joyful. Justice makes me uncomfortable.
I’m walking through the Psalms, and I’m on Psalm 5. A Psalm with a lot of justice language. Language that sounds harsh. Vengeful. Angry.
Here are some of the words that make me squirm in my seat.
For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong; you destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, LORD, detest. – Psalm 5:4-6
Yes, the language is severe. But, should it really make me as uncomfortable as it does?
Grace sometimes causes me to falsely think of God as a pushover. But is that the kind of God I can trust? Is that the kind of God that truly loves me?
These verses describe people who have wronged God’s beloved children and are completely unrepentant about it. Somehow, they are arrogant enough to think they can stand before a holy God and not make a change.
So, what if I put myself in God’s shoes? Let’s say I had a child who was being bullied. And when I confronted the oppressor, he spat in my face and said, “Just try to stop me from doing it again tomorrow.” Would grace mean I let that bully walk away? No. I would be angry. Righteously angry. I would hope for repentance. But if it was not there, I would intervene and protect the one I loved.
How much more does God desire to defend His children?
Where that comparison breaks down is that I am a sinful human. I would see a need for justice, but my human attempts to achieve it would be flawed.
God is holiness and truth. He can be trusted to enforce righteous justice.
David has been bullied. He has been hurt. Deeply wounded. Psalm 5 is his response. His prayer. His honest and raw prayer. When he is wronged, he affirms God’s justice. And then, he gives the situation over to Him.
Lead me, LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies— make your way straight before me. Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with malice. Their throat is an open grave; with their tongues they tell lies. Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you. – Psalm 5:8-10
David uses harsh words to describe those who have wronged him. But they begin with a request for the Lord to lead him in righteousness. David senses that his desire for justice is good. But he knows his efforts to achieve it would be flawed. So, instead of taking matters in his own hands, David asks God to show the way. He gives God his anger, vengeance, and frustration, and asks for God’s justice to be done.
The more I reflected on it, the less this Psalm made me uncomfortable and the more it made me feel loved. It shows me that I have a God who cares when I have been wronged. That I have a God who wants to hear my anger, no matter how raw. That I have a God who can bring righteous justice. (Maybe not in this lifetime. Maybe not in a way I understand. But God is good. One day, justice will come). That I have a God who can be my refuge when I feel under attack.
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. – Psalm 5:11
Maybe I should reflect on God’s justice a little more often.