Justice and Grace

Romans 1219 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 58:6–11 (ESV)

6 O God, break the teeth in their mouths; tear out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord! 7 Let them vanish like water that runs away; when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted. 8 Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime, like the stillborn child who never sees the sun. 9 Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns, whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away! 10 The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked. 11 Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

This psalm falls into the category of what is called an “imprecatory psalm”. These are psalms that call out to God to execute vengeance on those who are the enemies of God’s people. These can be difficult passages to understand since they seem to go against the Bible’s teaching on love your enemies. What do we make of verses like we find in Psalm 58:10:

The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.

It is important to notice that the psalmist is not asking God to allow the people to exact vengeance. The psalmist is asking God himself to intercede. By doing this, the outcome is left in the hands of the all-knowing God who executes justice perfectly. It is not unbiblical for God’s people to call out to him for justice and righteousness to be done. In fact, God’s people should desire those things.  At the same time, we leave these things in the hands of God and continue to live out and proclaim the grace of God that is available through Jesus Christ.

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