Week of June 21

Your Kingdom Come

Read: 2 Kings 1-3; Psalm 82; 1 Timothy 1

Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!
Psalm 82:8, ESV


Humankind the world over longs for the day when justice will rain down and nourish all of the earth. The psalmist teaches what our Savior instructed his disciples to pray—your kingdom come! I imagine that you are like me and long for the day when God will restore order to the disorder around us. The Reformer, John Calvin once wrote, “It is therefore our bounden duty to beseech him to restore to order what is embroiled in confusion” (EBC). Hmm. “Our duty?” Let’s seek a better understanding of God’s ways and reign so that we may strive to embody his justice on the earth.

A Biblical Lens

Our confusing time presents us with a growing number of moral problems where solutions seem to be evasive. We have mounting evidence in our nation of injustices that have been and are being perpetrated against people of color. We also have a growing number of violent ambushes upon officials from angry, lawless citizens. Businesses are being looted and property destroyed as acts of protest. I cite these examples, and there are more, to illustrate the psalmist’s claim. He attributes the existence of evil to forces that are hostile to God (1:2, “How long”; EBC). This claim redirects our focus, and I believe it is important to consider it.

He elevates our view above street level to the heavenlies where the Lord challenges all the false gods for their failure to provide genuine care for the weak and impoverished. They are guilty of being evil and unjust. It is obvious that the hymn writer believes that God is supreme because he calls on him to judge (82:1, 8). Despite the injustice that we see all around us, there are several key truths that will help us to understand God’s control over things that appear to be out of control.

The false gods are accountable to God Almighty (82:2; “Elohim”). The Lord has the authority to hold the nations accountable, and there is no question about his rule (cf. Exodus 23:2-3, 6, 8; Leviticus 19:15-35; Deuteronomy 1:17; 16:18-19; Malachi 2:9; 3:5; EBC). Secondly, God expects his standards of justice to be upheld (82:3-4). Notice the four verbs in these verses. They provide steppingstones to the goal of justice: defend [literally, “judge”], maintain the rights, rescue, and deliver. Thirdly, God condemns evil (82:5). The gods “walk about in darkness.” They have no clue how to provide justice for people. Their assault on moral order does not originate from anything that is good. The converse is true about our Lord. God alone provides precisely for the just needs of his creation. Lastly, God will ultimately judge the false gods (82:6-7). Evil will be eradicated. Wow! This begs a huge question. How are we to represent this truth in our challenging time?

A Moral Pathway

We have witnessed an example of “contra-culture” (against culture) in recent days in the city of Seattle. A group of protestors has occupied nearly six city blocks of Seattle in the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood and declared them to be an “Autonomous Zone.” The acronym for the group is “CHAZ.” An alternative name has also been offered: "Capitol Hill Organized Protest" (CHOP). The occupying group declared the space “not subject to law enforcement” and drafted a list of about 30 different social justice demands.

Their requirements bear evidence of their upset with the current capitalistic system. Notice, too, that they advance a different understanding of justice that is grounded in individual grievances against various forms of authority. This approach to justice has its roots in 19th century philosophy, but it became prominent after World War II. All that a person has to do is claim that an injustice has occurred and others are obliged to fulfill their demands.

They want to defund the Seattle police department and court system, retry people of color who are serving sentences for violent crimes, and abolish prison. They are also demanding free education and free public housing. Hold on before you reject their approach. I do see an attempt being made to “defend, maintain the rights, rescue, and deliver” the weak and oppressed. We simply do not know if they have offered a viable working plan to secure lasting justice. I am unsure about the sustainability of their model for moral reform.

Christians, in contrast, are to live within the various governing jurisdictions as God’s citizens (cf. Romans 13:1-7). They are to live in separate fashion from societal norms that are contrary to God’s values. Believers are to demonstrate a radical change in values and base their lives upon God’s justice as they seek to be transformational change agents in culture (Matthew 5:13-16). As Willem VanGermeren writes, “Christians have to form a counterculture [italics mine], even as Israel had to separate itself from Canaanite values” (EBC). The challenge for Christians today is to address injustices in such a way that God’s way is advanced.

For Your Journaling

1.You likely do not live in an “autonomous zone,” but you may look for ways to address inequities in your own neighborhood and city. How may you become involved as God’s agent for justice?

2.Churches have long been tone deaf to social concerns in the communities that surround them. Now is a critical time to hold neighborhood “town halls” and seek to understand the needs of folks that surround you. Develop action plans to advance God’s justice.

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock