Mercy and Justice in Psalms and Proverbs
“MERCY AND JUSTICE IN PSALMS AND PROVERBS
“Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy, Deliver the poor and needy; free them from the hand of the wicked” Psalms 82:3,4
This week’s lesson attempts a quick survey of the book of Psalms and Proverbs to draw attention to the plight of the oppressed and the poor. The theme that the oppressed often endure the affliction of this world while the oppressors prosper is woven throughout the Psalms. The author of this week’s lesson points out that justice for the wicked will ultimately be met in the end with God’s just judgment.
Another thread woven throughout this week’s lesson is the call to participate with the heart of God in relieving the physical sufferings of the poor and needy, while offering spiritual hope. I appreciate the goal and purpose of the author and whole heartedly agree that we, as followers of Christ, must be involved in alleviating the suffering of the downtrodden, poor and marginalized.
One thing that I have noticed however, is that as social justice movements abound, there does not seem to be any less suffering today. It seems that as more social movements arise to help various causes and groups, more conflict and discord emerges within society. Why is this?
Consider this verse as is it pertains to mercy and justice. “Mercy and truth have met, righteousness and peace have kissed.” Psalms 85:10. The Psalmist speaks of this kiss in which mercy and truth come together and righteousness and peace are brought into union. The implication is that mercy and justice are apart and righteousness and peace have been separated, but the time would come or has come in which that situation would be remedied.
Have you noticed that for every issue there are typically two sides? This is true in politics. This is true in society with social issues. And this is true within the church.
In American politics, there are usually two main political parties at odds and both frequently take a stand on governmental issues that are opposite of each other. Those that are referred to as being on the “left” are often perceived as take positions on issues that extend “mercy” to the downtrodden and less advantaged. This however, at times is at the expense of some element of truth be it economic truth, moral truth, or even biological truth. At the same time those who are often referred to as the “right”, are often perceived to take positions to protect “truth” while at times neglecting “mercy”. Now realizing this characterization is oversimplified at best, I want you to see how two opposing sides to an issue are each fighting for something good often at the expense of something equally important. Both sides have noble and valid causes but while one side promotes mercy and peace, sometimes at the expense of righteousness and truth, the other side promotes righteousness and truth while sacrificing mercy and peace.
We see the results reflected daily in the news stories and headlines. These two great principles at odds with each other manifested in the never-ending fights and conflict we see in government today.
Mercy and Truth polarization is not only present in government, we see it everywhere in society as well. There are those promoting mercy and acceptance at the expense of truth and righteousness in conflict with those who are promoting truth and righteousness at the neglect of mercy and peace.
Looking at the church, it doesn’t take long to recognize the same issues playing out in policy conflicts, as well as in theological differences. Mercy and truth at odds with each other in the church. As long as mercy and truth are divided and not allowed to exist together in full measure, you will always find discord and division.
Psalms 85:10 tells of a circumstance where mercy and truth come together and righteousness and peace kiss. These two principles are joined in complete union. A place where fully manifested mercy and perfectly preserved truth exist. A circumstance where peace is passionately protected and perfect righteousness is never diminished.
Throughout scripture we get glimpses of these two realities joined together. The ark of the covenant that contains the law of God on the inside and covered by the mercy seat on the outside is one example. We also see this blending in the words of Jesus to the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more”. But nowhere do we see this most clearly displayed than on the cross of Christ.
Consider the following statements:
“At the cross, mercy and truth met together; righteousness and peace kissed each other. As the sinner looks upon the Saviour dying on Calvary, and realizes that the Sufferer is divine, he asks why this great sacrifice was made; and the cross points to the holy law of God, which has been transgressed. The death of Christ is an unanswerable argument to the immutability and righteousness of the law.” BEcho, March 15, 1893
“On the cross mercy and truth met together, and righteousness and peace kissed each other. Jesus had testified that God is true. Faith demands no more. The doubting soul need not ask, Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? The answer comes clear and strong, ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’” BEcho, July 23, 1900
Through Jesus, God’s mercy was manifested to men; but mercy does not set aside justice. The law reveals the attributes of God’s character, and not a jot or tittle of it could be changed to meet man in his fallen condition. God did not change His law, but He sacrificed Himself, in Christ, for man’s redemption. ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.’” 2 Corinthians 5:19. DA 762
”Christ was ‘despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed.’
The grace of Christ and the law of God are inseparable. In Jesus, mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other. In His life and character, He not only reveals the character of God, but the possibility of man. He was the representative of God and the exemplar of humanity. He presented to the world what humanity might become when united by faith with divinity. The only-begotten Son of God took upon Him the nature of man, and established His cross between earth and heaven. Through the cross, man was drawn to God, and God to man. Justice moved from its high and awful position, and the heavenly hosts, the armies of holiness, drew near to the cross, bowing with reverence; for at the cross justice was satisfied. Through the cross the sinner was drawn from the stronghold of sin, from the confederacy of evil, and at every approach to the cross his heart relents and in penitence he cries, ‘It was my sins that crucified the Son of God.’ At the cross he leaves his sins, and through the grace of Christ his character is transformed. The Redeemer raises the sinner from the dust, and places him under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As the sinner looks upon the Redeemer, he finds hope, assurance, and joy. Faith takes hold of Christ in love. Faith works by love, and purifies the soul.” ST, June 5, 1893
These two principles were never meant to be divided. They are the heart of God and have always been and will ever be inseparable and the cross of Christ proves it. Mercy and truth are an indissoluble single entity that is called love. There exists in the self-sacrificing love of God both full complete mercy and perfect righteousness. Love is always merciful, keeping no record of wrong while at the same time never for a moment partnering with unrighteousness.
“It had been Satan’s purpose to divorce mercy from truth and justice. He sought to prove that the righteousness of God’s law is an enemy to peace. But Christ shows that in God’s plan they are indissolubly joined together; the one cannot exist without the other. ‘Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.’” Psalms 85:10. DA 763. The moment we fail to show mercy to preserve righteousness or forsake righteousness while embracing the most merciful position towards others we have divorced these two principles and have joined with Satan’s purpose.
This kiss, that was most clearly seen on the cross of Christ, is an elusive kiss here in this world. Yet it does not have to elude us. God has given every resource that heaven has to raise up a people who will fully manifest mercy, truth, righteousness and peace to a hurting and dying world. Shall we let him?
Arise, shine; For your light has come!
And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.
For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the Lord will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you.
The Gentiles shall come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising.