1 The Lord is my shepherd.
I lack nothing.
2 He lets me rest in grassy meadows;
he leads me to restful waters;
3 he keeps me alive.
He guides me in proper paths
for the sake of his good name.
10 Tell the nations, “The Lord rules!
Yes, he set the world firmly in place;
it won’t be shaken.
He will judge all people fairly.”
11 Let heaven celebrate! Let the earth rejoice!
Let the sea and everything in it roar!
12 Let the countryside and everything in it celebrate!
Then all the trees of the forest too
will shout out joyfully
13 before the Lord because he is coming!
He is coming to establish justice on the earth!
He will establish justice in the world rightly.
He will establish justice among all people fairly.
The familiar King James Version rendering of Psalm 23:3 is “he restoreth my soul.” Along with “still waters,” it may sound to us like a day at a peaceful spa. But “he keeps me alive” (the Common English Bible’s translation) reflects the fact that for sheep, water and grass were not luxuries, but absolute necessities for survival. The Lord who ultimately rules over our world provides the things we need to keep our spiritual life always alive.
King Jesus, truly, you rule! You rule the universe, including our world—yet you will rule my heart and life only if I ask you to. So please rule my life, and direct me in the proper paths. Amen.
* J. Clinton McCann, study note on Psalm 96:10 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 947 OT.
I struggle to fit today’s Scripture with reality. I’ve written and re-written this introductory paragraph that you're reading probably half-a-dozen times now, and each version focused on a different form of injustice I see. With the breadth and depth of injustice around us - from the worldwide prevalence of discrimination against minority religious and ethnic groups to the simple (yet still profound) personal injustices we all see and experience - it’s difficult to understand how we can say that God rules the world with justice and righteousness.
For that to be true, I’d have to believe that my black friends are somehow inherently less deserving of social status than I am; I’d have to believe that women deserve to be paid less than I am; I’d have to believe that refugees deserve to be cast out of their homes and that my neighbor’s house deserved to be broken into. If the social structures of the world are God-ordained instruments of justice, I’d have to believe that I’ve earned the right to work at a job I love at a church I love in a city I love with the family I love; but when I actually look back on my life, I did nothing to earn any of this. Yet some of the most worthy people I know have none of these blessings.
How do we reconcile the just-ness of God with the broken world in which we live?
The Sunday School answer is that there is tension between God’s justice and the free will God has granted us, but that always feels like a cop-out to me. It feels shallow and insufficient. I know that theologians throughout the millennia have come up with a variety of answers to these questions (I’ve read a handful of them) but it remains a question that I wrestle with today. I hope I’m not alone in my uncertainty.
Here is what I do know, though:
We, as followers of Christ (particularly those of us in positions of socio-economic privilege), are called to be God’s hands of justice in the world. If we want to see a more just world, we must take up the mantle of responsibility for bringing it about. Voting and donating money to causes we believe in are wonderful places to start, but the call of the gospel goes much deeper than that.
By no means do I have all of this figured out, but I am learning that I need to lay my every privilege at the foot of the cross of Christ as I seek to be personally involved in the ongoing fight for justice for the most under-privileged in society. Will you join me?
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