9 I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations. 10 For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, and Your truth unto the clouds. 11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; Let Your glory be above all the earth (Psalm 57:9–11, NKJV).
Doubt over what may happen in the future debilitates us. Dread over potential crises hinders clear thinking and decisive decision-making. Anxiety and fear harm one’s faith in God (Phil. 4:4-7). David’s life was being threatened by King Saul when he wrote Psalm 57 and hid in a cave from his would-be assassin (1 Sam. 22:1). Yet, David did not trust in himself or doubt the Lord. “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by” (Ps. 57:1). God’s mercy is higher than the heavens, and His truth touches the clouds, even as His glory fills the earth (Ps. 57:11-12). Instead of doubt, dread, anxiety, and fear, David trusted God’s mercy, justice, and power in times of trouble. For instance, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and give praise” (Ps. 57:7). Even so, evil lurks nearby and pursues our souls (1 Pet. 5:8). God is merciful to forgive our transgressions as His truth guides our path and executes justice (1 John 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 4:17-19). Let us repent of doubt, dread, anxiety, and fear and replace them with faith in God’s mercy, praise for His steadfastness, and reliance on His truth to vindicate the righteous (2 Thess. 1:3-8).
He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, NKJV)
God had a complaint against Israel (Micah 6:1-2). Despite His righteous acts of deliverance from Egypt, the nation had turned away from Him (Micah 6:3-5; 1 Sam. 12:7-8). They would not appease God by multiplying burnt offerings. Even offering one’s firstborn to Him would be insufficient (Micah 6:6-7). God wanted Israel’s faithful devotion in heart and conduct. He still does (Mark 12:30-31; Acts 10:34-35). Micah 6:8 is a template for God-approved character brought to fullness in the new covenant of Christ. (1) He has shown you. God’s word reveals His will, and we must give attention to it (Heb. 1:2; 2:3-4). We must do His will, not our own (Matt. 7:21-23). (2) What is good. God is good and shows us what is good (Ps. 73:1). Israel’s rulers had perverted justice by hating good and loving evil (Micah 3:1-2). We are to hear and do what God says is good (Heb. 13:20-21; Eph. 2:10). (3) What does the Lord require of you? Yes, the Lord has requirements (commands) we must keep (John 14:15, 21-23). (4) Do justly. With fairness and integrity, justice must guide our treatment of others (Matt. 5:33-37; 7:12). (5) Love mercy. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5:7). (6) Walk humbly with your God. The lowly in heart walk with God, but pride brings destruction (Col. 3:12; James 4:6, 10; Prov. 16:18). Let us live in Christ, so God has no complaint against us (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 2:5).
For there is no partiality with God (Romans 2:11, NKJV).
It is not easy to be objective in moral and spiritual matters. Yet, God is impartial in His judgments, and He expects us to be, too. Paul recognized “God shows personal favoritism to no man,” therefore, he refused to court the favor of men by changing his preaching to please men (Gal. 2:6, 4-5; 1:10). James wrote, “The wisdom that is from about is…without partiality” (James 3:17). Prejudice (judging a matter or person before and without evidence, Prov. 18:13) and preferential treatment based on fleshly considerations are grievous sins. James explained at some length what happens when partiality happens in the assembly of the church (James 2:1-13). James said showing favoritism based on external factors (in this case, wealth or poverty) is evil (v. 2-4). It dishonors the innocent person (v. 6). It is an unloving action of sin (vv. 8-9). And it is unmerciful (vv. 12-13). When we show favoritism, we are in danger of condemning the innocent and approving the guilty. The apostle Paul warned Timothy against rash judgments and partiality in 1 Timothy 5:19-22. Instead, he was to “observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality” (1 Tim. 5:21). Neither misplaced sympathy (“You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute,” Exod. 23:3) nor a lingering grudge (“You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute, Exod. 23:6) must be allowed to distort justice (Lev. 19:15, 18). Fearing God protects us against partiality, but fearing men causes it (2 Chron. 19:5-7; Deut. 1:17). Our heavenly Father does not play favorites. He accepts all who fear Him and work righteousness (Acts 10:34-35). And He judges “without partiality…according to each one’s works” (1 Pet. 1:17). So may we develop the character of impartiality seen in God.
“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down” (Daniel 4:37, NKJV).
Nebuchadnezzar was driven from his throne over Babylon to live as a wild animal because of his pride that praised his accomplishments while ignoring God (Dan. 4:22-33). Instead of praising the Most High God, who “rules in the kingdoms of men,” the king praised himself and his majesty (Dan. 4:25, 28-31). God has not abdicated His rule over the nations (Ps. 22:28; Acts 17:26). Those in power who honor the true and living God are blessed; those who pridefully dishonor Him face inevitable defeat (Ps. 33:10-22). “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect” (Ps. 33:10). And, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Ps. 33:12). Nebuchadnezzar learned God’s “works are truth, and His ways justice” (Dan. 4:37). God calls national leaders and all the earth’s inhabitants to humble themselves before Him. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” is true of individuals and nations (Prov. 16:18). Daniel’s counsel to the Babylonian king remains relevant: “Break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity” (Dan. 4:27).
If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them (Ecclesiastes 5:8, NKJV).
It grieves us when we witness oppression and violence, but it should not surprise and astonish us. Justice and righteousness continue to be perverted in this country and around the world. Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9). While acknowledging these wrongs, Solomon instructs us to remember that those in authority are also under higher power. This reality ought to be a check against harassment and injustice, but even that is not always the case. “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan” (Prov. 29:2). What are we to do? (1) Remember that God is sovereign and holds the unrighteous accountable for their sins (2 Cor. 5:10). Jesus called out the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees who “devour widows’ houses” while pretending to be pious with long prayers (Matt. 23:14). God will bring justice to bear on His day of judgment (Acts 17:30-31; Rom. 2:4-11). (2) Keep our faith in God instead of putting it in human beings (Jer. 17:5). God will not fail the righteous (Heb. 13:5-6). (3) We can go about our daily business (Eccl. 5:18-20). Honest labor is God’s gift that prevents us from being overburdened with anxiety over life’s troubles (Eccl. 5:20). Daily labor to provide for ourselves and our families brings joy and contentment in the face of life’s injustices. (4) Remember to pray (1 Thess. 4:11-12; 1 Tim. 2:1-2). (5) We can aid those harmed by others (Luke 10:29-37). Be neighborly and help one another instead of being suspicious and divisive.
“For if I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying; but if there is nothing in these things of which these men accuse me, no one can deliver me to them. I appeal to Caesar” (Acts 25:11, NKJV).
Paul had been falsely accused of sedition against Rome and crimes against the Jews and kept imprisoned by an unscrupulous governor (Acts 24:5-6, 22-27). Two years later, he is before another Roman governor (Festus) answering these false charges (Acts 25:7-10). His appeal to Caesar’s court for judgment indicates several things worthy of our consideration and practice. (1) Paul put himself under the authority of civil government. We do not see Paul arguing against the government’s authority to adjudicate disputes of its citizens. Although the government was suppressing his rights (as Felix detained him, hoping for a bribe), Paul did not become violate. Neither should we when those in authority oppress us (1 Pet. 2:14-20). (2) It is right to seek justice from civil authorities. God ordained civil government to address the primary purpose of protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty (Rom. 13:1-4). Paul’s “appeal to Caesar” was the exercise of a legal avenue for justice and protection from the Jews who were trying to kill him (Acts 25:2-3). (3) If we violate the law, we should accept our punishment without objection. Paul was willing to be executed if he “committed anything worthy of death.” If we are guilty of violating the law, we ought to admit it, accept our punishment, and repent of our transgression against the Lord (Rom. 13:4-5). While our citizenship is in heaven, we are to be honorable citizens of society (Phil. 3:20; 2 Cor. 8:21).
47 And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. (John 12:47–48, NKJV)
Sin condemns souls to eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Jesus came to save a world already condemned by sin. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17, 18). Jesus affirms in today’s text that He came to save guilty souls lost in sin (v. 47). Jesus did not say He will never judge our sins. He said if we reject Him (refuse to believe He is the Son of God) and do not receive (accept, follow) His words, His words will judge us in the last day (v. 48). God has appointed a day of judgment, with Jesus as the Judge (Acts 17:31; Heb. 9:27; 2 Cor. 5:10). God’s love compelled Him to send His Son to save the world (Jno. 3:16). Under commandment from the Father, Jesus spoke God’s words that lead to eternal life (Jno. 12:49-50). God’s justice demands a righteous judgment if we continue to sin instead of believing and following His Son and Savior, Jesus Christ (Rom. 2:2-5, 16). God’s gospel saves sinners who believe and follow Jesus (Lk. 6:46; Rom. 1:16-17).
16 “Then I commanded your judges at that time, saying, ‘Hear the cases between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the stranger who is with him. 17 You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, bring to me, and I will hear it.’” (Deuteronomy 1:16–17, NKJV)
We are reminded of the importance of impartial, unbiased judges as we watch this week’s confirmation hearing of the most recent judge nominated to sit on the U. S. Supreme Court. Judges who bring an agenda to interpreting and applying the law to cases are biased, unjust, and undermine the rule of law. “Equal justice under law” (engraved above the entrance to the United States Supreme Court) is a principle we strive for as a nation, but it is not a new concept. Moses commanded it of Israel under the governance of the Sinaitic Law. Gospel salvation under the new covenant of Christ is equally available to all “without respect of persons” (Acts 10:34-35). God is impartial, applying His word of truth without bias to rich and poor, slave and free, male and female, Jew and Gentile (Rom. 2:1-11). God commands all of us to repent because He has appointed a righteous, impartial Judge before whom we will stand and be judged (Acts 17:30-31; 2 Cor. 5:10). Let us discard our agendas for the only one that matters; the word of Christ. He saves and He judges without prejudice and partiality (Jno. 12:48-50).
23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; 24 But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23–24, NKJV)
This stern warning against pride in personal wisdom, power, and wealth is set against the backdrop of God’s wisdom, power, and richness. Paul wrote, “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25). Human insight is nothing before the Almighty’s wisdom. Only the boastful would make such a foolish claim. Concerning human power, “Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord” (Jer. 17:5). Pride moves people to think they are stronger than God. Riches are temporary, and “perish through misfortune” (Eccl. 5:14). Pride in material abundance can lead to neglecting eternal riches (Lk. 12:15-21). By contrast, we can “understand and know” the Lord (Jer. 9:24). We understand He is sovereign (Lord), and accomplishes what is gracious, just, and righteous in the earth. Humility glories in God’s accomplishments, not ours. By doing so, God assures us of His favor (delight).
He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8, NKJV)
How do you define a successful life? Fortune? Leisure? Fame? Power? I watched a couple of TV shows today about former NFL players who set many records and won many championships? Their walls are lined with trophies and awards that recognize their athletic accomplishments. Yet, when they talked about what being successful was to them, it was not about statistics, championships, and awards. It was about being a good husband, a good father, a good friend, and a good citizen in the community. That is impressive. All these things are good, and yet, something was missing. They did not measure their success in spiritual terms. Jesus said, “What profit it is to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul” (Matt. 16:26)? When you wake up and consider how you intend to succeed that day (and in life), assess your success the way God does. God’s measure of success requires us to choose to practice justice and love mercy (to love our neighbor as ourselves, Matt. 22:39), and to choose to walk humbly with our God (to love God with all our being, Matt. 22:37). Define success as a life of justice, mercy, and faithful service to God. These things are good. God says these things make life successful.