Sunday, October 15, 2017, 7:15 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Near the Cross.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 82 (Select vv. ESV).
Showing Partiality (vv. 1-2)
God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
God is addressing the judges (rulers) of the earth, and yet all of us make judgments of some kind every day, so all of us can learn from this passage of scripture. As well, we read in the New Testament that God does not show partiality in his judgments (Ro. 2:11; Eph. 6:9; Col. 3:25), but he judges us all the same, by the same divine standard. So, we are not to show partiality or favoritism by human standards (Jas. 2:1-13), but we are to judge justly and righteously, as God does. So, how might we be judging unjustly today?
To show partiality is to give preferential treatment to one group of people over another, i.e. it is to treat some people better or worse than we treat others because of their social status, race, religion, culture, color of their skin, personality, and sex (male or female), etc. Yet, we have to consider how this better or worse treatment is to be defined, not by man, but by God, and what it means to judge justly and righteously, as God does, not as man.
For example, we don’t support or encourage sin in sinful humans and call that “being nice” and not showing partiality, nor do we participate in sin in order to not show preference to one group over another. Yet, we should not be guilty of placating (pacifying) some sins in people while we rail against other sins, especially to do so hypocritically. So, with regard to sin, we should treat all who are walking in sin the same, with the love, grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, but also with his divine justice and righteousness.
The problem here for today’s modern church is that many do show partiality to the wicked by placating sin, by diluting the gospel in order to not offend, and by patterning their meetings after the ways of this sinful world in order to draw in the world (their customer base), so that the ungodly will keep coming back to their meetings. In order to do this, not only do they show preference to the ungodly, but they will sometimes treat the godly with disdain, and will even rail against them in public and will encourage them to leave if they cannot unify with the church’s worldly marketing strategy.
Rescue the Weak (vv. 3-4)
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
So, instead of showing preferential treatment to the wicked (ungodly), so that they will like us, or so that they will come to our gatherings, and to do so by compromising our faith and the gospel message, we are rather to give justice to the weak, the needy, the fatherless, the afflicted and the destitute, etc.
So, what is justice? It is righteousness. It is what is moral, ethical, good, reasonable, honest, honorable, proper, fair and evenhanded. So, this means that to treat people honorably and fairly, we must also treat them righteously, which again says that treating people with kindness cannot mean that we compromise truth, the gospel, or our faith, because that is not kind at all, because then we, in essence, send them straight to hell. So, fair treatment must also be coupled with righteousness rather than being devoid of what is godly, holy and good (in the eyes of God).
So, as the body of Christ, we need to cease to show preference to the ungodly, which we do by participating with them in their ungodly ways, by being entertained by their wickedness, or by placating their sins in order to not offend them so that they will like us. And, we need to show honor, respect and value to those who are walking righteously, rather than treating them as though they are misfits who must be reformed or discarded. And, we need to be rescuing the powerless and the needy from the hand of the wicked, both physically and spiritually.
Basically, rather than showing partiality to the wicked, by pacifying them and entertaining them, we need to be rescuing people from the control of Satan and sin, and we need to be bringing them into the light of truth and righteousness. And, we do this, not only by treating all people equitably, but by telling them the truth, and by not telling them lies which leave them still enslaved to their sins.
We need to tell them that Jesus died that they might die to sin and live to righteousness, and that faith in Jesus Christ means we die with Christ to sin and that we are resurrected with him to new lives, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. And, we need to tell them that if they continue in sinful practices, they have no hope of eternal life with God, but a fearful expectation of judgment and fire.
Arise, O God (v. 8)
Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!
God is presently judging (chastening, reproving, censuring) the people of the earth, including his wayward saints, and yet more judgment (chastisement) will be coming. So, what is the purpose of this judgment? It is to punish, yes, but not just to punish, but to save. How so? When people are allowed to continue in their wicked ways, via favor being shown them, and without reproof, the Bible says they don’t learn righteousness. But, when God’s judgments are in the earth, the people learn righteousness (Isaiah 26:7-10).
But, it is not just the wicked or the wayward who need divine discipline, reproof, and chastisement. Even the godly need this in order that we may share in God’s holiness, and in order that it may yield “the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (See: Heb. 12:1-13). Thus, when we go through trials and hardships, they test our faith, and they prove it to be genuine, if it is genuine, and they teach us to rely on God, and not on ourselves. As well, we grow in the grace of God, we mature in Christ, we learn perseverance, patience and endurance, and we develop godly character traits such as kindness, goodness, faithfulness and compassion.
So, we need to learn righteousness and justice and how to treat others with the love, grace, kindness, goodness, mercy, justice and righteousness of God. Yet, whether we will learn from what we suffer, or not, depends largely on us, not because we learn by obeying God out of our own flesh, but by yielding our lives to our Lord for him to live his life out through us. Amen!
Near the Cross
Fanny J. Crosby / William H. Doane
Jesus, keep me near the cross;
There a precious fountain,
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calvary’s mountain.
Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.
Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day
With its shadow o’er me.
Near the cross I’ll watch and wait,
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand
Just beyond the river.
In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever,
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.