Theme: Words to the Righteous and the Wicked
In this week’s lessons, we are reminded that God is sovereign over all things, and he will execute justice and judgment in his own time.
Scripture: Psalm 75:1-10
It is not entirely clear from the Hebrew text how much of the following is spoken by God or at what point the writer breaks in to give his own personal comment or reflection of God’s words. The New International Version makes as good a judgment as any when it puts verses 2-5 together as being spoken in one way or another by God. But they fall into two parts. In the first two verses (vv. 2, 3) God speaks to assure the righteous. These words concern the nature of God’s judgments. In the next two verses (vv. 4, 5) God addresses the wicked to warn them about their evil actions.
1. Assurance to the upright. There is nothing in this psalm to betray turmoil, doubt or worry on the part of the psalmist, as there is in Psalm 73. I pointed that out earlier. But even those who are truly resting in God must sometimes wonder why God does not judge evil in a more timely manner or even whether in this life justice is really done.
The important thing is that it is God who chooses “the appointed time” of his judgments, not other people. If judgment were left in our hands, we would probably let it flash out against anything that displeases us whenever we see it. But God lets evil go unchecked sometimes for a rather long time, knowing that he has appointed a proper time when it will be brought down. In his Treasury of David Charles Haddon Spurgeon has a comment on the previous psalm where God’s anger is described as smoldering (Psalm 74:1), saying, “It is a terrible thing when the anger of God smokes, but it is an infinite mercy that it does not break into a devouring flame.”1 That is a blessed truth, of course. But it is equally true that the judgment of God will in time break into flame against evil.
It is not wrong to ask at this point why God’s judgments are delayed. This is a question the Bible answers clearly. There are two reasons for the delay of God’s judgments. The first is so those who are sinning might have an opportunity to repent of their sin and be saved. Paul wrote of this in Romans, saying, “Do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the rich of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance” (2:4)? If you have not yet come to Christ, you should not squander the time you have been given. You should turn from your sin and believe on Jesus now.
The second reason for the delay of God’s judgments is so evil might have time to work itself out or come to full fruition. This is harder to understand, but it is a clear teaching of Scripture, the best example being that of the Amorites, who lived in Canaan before the conquest by the Jewish armies under Joshua. Speaking to Abraham, God explained that the conquest with its corresponding judgment would take place in the fourth generation after Abraham and not sooner because “the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure” (Gen. 15:16). Their case would be like that of Pharaoh to whom God said, “I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (Exod. 9:16; see Rom. 9:17).
2. Warning to the arrogant. The last two verses of stanza two are a warning to the arrogant, precisely so they might repent, the point about the delay in God’s judgments made earlier. Here the arrogant are warned against boasting (“Boast no more”), while the wicked are warned not to lift up their horns against heaven or speak with outstretched necks. The horn is a well-used biblical metaphor for strength (see Deut. 33:17; 1 Sam. 2:1, 10). So lifting up one’s horn against heaven is the equivalent of shaking one’s fist in God’s face. The picture of an angry person stretching out his or her neck belligerently is self-explanatory.
1Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 2a, Psalms 58-87 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1966), p. 273.
Who is God addressing in verses 2-3, as well as in verses 3-4? What message does he have for each?
How does God assure the upright?
When does God punish the wicked?
Contrast God’s timing with our timing.
Give two possible reasons for God’s delay in meting out judgment.
Reflection: Do you have times of doubt? Is there a particular injustice that troubles you? How do you need to handle it by turning it over to the Lord for him to do what is right?
Prayer: Pray for patience when you confront evil. And pray for evildoers to seek repentance so that they can receive forgiveness.