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Singing Psalm 58 to know the anger that proves love

dark sky and ocean

“Do you, O gods, speak righteousness?

    Do you the people justly judge?

No! You delight in doing wrong;

    You violence deal out with your hand.” ~ Psalm 58:1-2

Rather than play god and make the different roles, arenas, and aspects of our lives into gods, it would do us good to consider what it means to be human* and embrace who we are instead.

It is an unjust judge who condemns the innocent and acquits the guilty. Simply put, God’s people are hidden in Christ who is the only innocent one. Jesus suffered the wrath of the Father on our behalf and paid the debt of our sins before him in full. We share in his sufferings only to the point of knowing God’s wrath toward our sin, the anger that proves love as he actively and progressively works to eradicate our sins while we live on this earth. And we suffer in order to grow up into Christ and learn to walk as he did. When God brings calamity to his people, it results in what he intends. He brings them good through their troubles.

Singing Psalm 58 to know the anger that proves love against lies

Jesus shepherds us humans who are like sheep away from the wolves with the anger that proves love. He uses his word as a sword of truth, the lie-slayer, and leads us out of the deceptions of trying to be who we are not and into truth in love. You don’t have to change who you are to be how you are when how you are is not sinful but only different from societal stereotypes. You are not called to stagnate or to be numb but to honestly rest in Jesus who carries you through the eye of the storm.

In contrast, those who refuse to take shelter in Christ will be taken to task for every wrong thought, word, and deed and judged guilty before the holy God and suffer his wrath not for their growth but for their eternal damnation. His consuming fire power is not for their sin to restore, redeem, or rejuvenate them but to consume them along with the evil that they staunchly committed to wrap into their very identity apart from and in opposition to Jesus. Isaiah calls these rebels before birth (Isaiah 48:8).

“Their tongue is a deadly arrow,

    it speaks deceitfully;

with his mouth each speaks peace to his neighbor,

    but in his heart he plans an ambush for him.

Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the LORD,

    and shall I not avenge myself

    on a nation such as this?” ~ Jeremiah 9:8-9

Those who do not hate the evil they do but rather enjoy feeding lies to God’s people and do not turn to God for mercy, it will be impossible for them to work off the debt caused by their breach of allegiance to God that they owe and so will be relationally indebted to him in suffering and separation for all eternity.

“The wicked are estranged ev’n from the womb;

    These who speak lies have wandered since their birth.” ~ Psalm 58:3

Singing Psalm 58 to know the anger that proves love against pride

Perhaps some look at you and what little you now have to show for all your faithful efforts. Inside they disdain you until they find an opportunity to mock you with their words.

What they don’t see are the hidden ways God is working in the lives of those who trust him. Anyone looking at a snapshot of Joseph’s life even up to a minute before he was summoned to meet with Pharaoh would not have given him a second thought. Jesus steers you away from worthless things with the anger that proves love. You faithfully do the good that you can find to do, one step at a time. You stay in the moment with your eye on Christ not knowing exactly how he is transforming you to be fit for the new heavens and the new earth. You simply trust him.

You will rejoice when, like Joseph’s brothers, the Lord stops them in their tracks. He didn’t just lift Joseph from the pit and give him a peaceful home. No, he exalted him to lead and save nations. His brothers couldn’t mistake this one’s authority and even bowed down before him. They didn’t yet know that he was their brother that they abused, left for dead, and finally sold for profit.

You rejoice that the precious blood of Jesus washes both you and those who hurt you and repented. Joseph saved many lives with grain by the Spirit of the Bread of Life, the Lord Jesus, who forgives his enemies and in that act of mercy, turns them into loyal friends forever.

"But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.'" ~ Luke 16:25

Those who experience brokenness relationally in any way now will in no way be excluded from the full gamut of every relational richness and blessing in Christ. They await and can expect an even greater inheritance than those who had the richness of relational intimacy and closeness on this earth much like Lazarus enjoyed good things at Abraham’s side after his death while the rich man only remembered the good things that he had on the earth while Lazarus received bad things. The analogy breaks down in that both those in Christ with rich relational intimacy and those without it on the earth will share in their master's happiness. But the degree of the rewards there will vary based on the suffering endured on the earth. The more suffering the Lord brings to you here, the greater he has your reward for you there and opens your eyes to see that he is and has been your very great reward all along. Jesus speaks of losing your life to save it, denying yourself and taking up your cross daily as prerequisites to following him as his disciple. You suffer as your Lord did for the joy set before you. Those who denied themselves relational happiness out of obedience to God and were often lonely of human companionship will never be lonely in the new world.

We are tempted in various ways. God does not judge us by our temptations but by whether or not we succumb to them. God does not judge us according to the stress we feel in the temptations we endure but has compassion on us in our weakness as we seek high and low to find the way out so that we can stand up under it (1 Corinthians 10:13). We as his bride, God’s church, are called to judge rightly following the way God judges while we as peacemakers aren’t subject to anyone’s condemning judgment for being tempted in conventional or unconventional ways. We honor Jesus with lives of repentance and times of refreshing as we support one another, carrying each other’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

“The world rejoices in barns, money, honour, and pleasures, but the joy of a Christian that keeps a fixed eye on Christ and his righteousness cannot be expressed.” ~ Thomas Brooks

When God says vengeance is his, what that could look like is in the new world, the defenseless little ones who were unjustly slaughtered in their mothers’ wombs will wash their feet in the blood of their unrepentant murderers who delighted to kill them, comforted that their plight has been vindicated by God with the anger that proves love. Like Lazarus…

Perhaps you have become willing and available to make amends, to build bridges, to break down walls, and still you await reconciliation. Your desire for a happy family and great friendships is unfulfilled. Learning that your fulfillment is in the Lord frees you completely even now. If connection comes not for you on this earth after you have done all that you can as far as it depends on you, you can be certain that God, with the anger that proves love against isolation, has relational riches waiting for you beyond what you can imagine. Like Lazarus…

God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. Jesus calls you to learn from him who is gentle and lowly in heart. If your place on the earth is a humble one, you are actually in quite a rich spot.

"Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits." ~ James 1:9-11

The tables will be turned. Those who oppress now, God will oppress with the anger that proves love. Those who were alienated will be not only freed from it but will be free to rule as peacemakers in the new world. Those who are destitute here will have plenty to give there.

You do your best for your family, in your career, in your relationships, in your life, but your fulfillment no longer comes from these. Your life no longer depends upon them going well. You leave the results and the timing in the hands of the one who perfectly redeems and restores.

The Lord will require the blood of those who don’t repent of oppression and violence toward his people and refuse to be cleansed by the blood of Christ. He will present their blood as proof of his care for, protection of, and faithfulness to his saints to wash their feet with as a tangible sign of their deliverance.

“Like running water let them flow away;

    Let arrows that they aim be headless shafts.

Let them be like a moving snail that melts;

Like stillborn babes, let them not see the sun.

Before your pots feel heat from burning thorns,

The wicked, green or dry, He blows away.

The just is glad when he sees vengeance come;

And in the wicked's blood he'll wash his feet.” ~ Psalm 58:7-10

Hang on in faith. Wait for his purposes for you to be shown and for the anger that proves love against pride. No longer will they be deceived by those who judge unjustly and masquerade as angels of light who would lead them astray to love this world. Anticipate his answer more glorious than imaginable. He will one day humble and lead his prodigals home in mercy and bring justice to those who will not turn to trust in him and repent.

It is such a joy to read the writings and listen to the teachings of brothers and sisters in Christ who understand that the fulfillment of all of our greatest dreams are not to be found in anything or anyone on this earth, but in the Lord Jesus Christ alone.** His desire is for his bride, the church, and the church has eyes only for him. They walk out their faith in Christ and lead others to the truth in love. What they are saying and the distinctions they make are highly esteemed. They have great courage in the face of adversity and deserve the utmost respect and admiration for their spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and relational honesty.

We learn to put away our preferences and pride as we follow and learn from our gentle and lowly Lord, Jesus Christ, God the Son to whom God the Father has given all authority in heaven and on earth:

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." ~ Matthew 5:2-12

God protects his own and his love is fierce about protecting them. You can be certain that the suffering that comes your way is used as discipline from the Lord that will draw you to himself and that will ultimately bring good though it itself is not good. This is different from the punishment that those who are not his people and have no desire to please God will suffer. You can also be certain that the suffering he does not bring to you at the hands of evildoers, if it had been allowed, would have destroyed you. He will not prevent suffering that ultimately helps you. At the same time he will not permit suffering that would ultimately destroy you. This is love on both sides of the coin. You wouldn’t want love to look any other way. It’s love that cares on every level, in every detail, that results in your growth in humility to train you to love as you have been loved. The prongs of God's discipline serve to pique my motivation to seek him and to learn what it is that he wants from me: an undivided heart. He disciplines me away from what displeases him to show me how he wants me to think, feel, speak, and act, how he wants me to use his gifts of time, money, and aptitude, how he wants me to relate to others.

Let those who counsel others and do not know God yet think they know better than God humble themselves. May they seek God who is compassionate and slow to anger but who will by no means clear the guilty that delight in the evil they do, who will not turn from it but proudly and unabashedly persist in it. They will not escape his condemnation. It would be better for them if they had not been born than to proudly lead the oppressed and unsuspecting astray and cause them to sin against God.

“They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” ~ Ephesians 4:18

“God shatter all the teeth within their mouth;

    Break out the fangs of lions young, O LORD.” ~ Psalm 58:6

Singing Psalm 58 to know the anger that proves love against idolatry

Singing Psalm 58 you wish for them a far better destiny than they would have if they didn’t repent. A melting snail and a stillborn child (Psalm 58:8-9) are better off by far than these will be. Jesus said it would have been better for the son of perdition if he had never been born and that it is better for a millstone to be tied around one’s neck and for him be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of his little ones to sin. The only suitable ending for those who are committed to being full of self, care nothing for others, and refuse God's mercy to trust in Christ is unending death.

Job wished upon himself to go back and be a stillborn child in his delirium from fierce temptation to lose trust in God. Better that than to cease to trust his redeemer. The people who sought fruitfulness in Baal worship were wished miscarrying wombs (Hosea 9:14), that they would bear dead fruit from petitioning dead gods.

Since God made the universe for his purposes, it is right for him to expect those he made in his image, especially those among his people, to listen to him in order for those purposes which are greater than we can know, to be accomplished.

“They have the venom of a deafened snake,

    Which does not even hear its charmer’s spells.” ~ Psalm 58:4-5

Jesus’ words caused division then and will cause division now among people:

There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” ~ John 10:19-21

This is what his Father, who cannot lie, says about Jesus:

And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” ~ Luke 9:35

When all is said and done, there is an anger that proves love. God, in righteous anger, avenges the violence of his people’s enemies and in so doing displays his distinctive love for his own.

“Thus people will be brought to say,

    ‘The just will surely have reward.

 It’s surely true there is a God

    Who justly judges on the earth.'” ~ Psalm 58:11

June 7-14, 2024

Resource: David Powlison’s Good and Angry


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