Author - Dr Allan McKinnon - Principal, Tilsley College
Allan is Tilsley College Principal. He and his wife, Jacqui, served in Tanzania, East Africa for seventeen years at Moshi Christian Children’s Centre and Berea Bible College. Allan is an elder at Greenview Church and is leading a small team exploring church planting in Darnley – a southwest suburb of Glasgow. Jacqui and Allan have three grown children and seven grandchildren.
We live in a world where the cry for justice is regularly heard around our world and across our media screens. The exploitation and severe depravation that is the miserable experience of billions of people in our world today is frankly a great shame – a blight on the ‘progress’ we have made as a human race.
Truly there are horrible things that happen in our world today that cry out for justice. The slaughter of the innocents in unimaginable abortion statistics; people facing conflict and war; the plight of the hungry and starving; the suffering of men, women and children in modern slavery and people trafficking; or the devastation experienced by many in racial abuse and exploitation that erupted in mass protests across the world. The atrocities of the world cause us to seek justice somewhere.
And sometimes it gets more personal. We rage with cries for justice and vengeance when our sister is raped or our car is stolen or vandalised. We complain when a neighbour treats us badly, or their dog messes up our pristine lawn. The cry for justice is never far from our ears, if we have ears to hear. We insist that ‘people who do such things should get their due’…
We’ll even go to court over ‘such things’ – fine them, lock them up, and throw the key away or just execute them. They don’t deserve their freedom, they should pay – in one way or another – maybe even with their lives. But in truth our own justice systems are flawed – they fail, they are perverted and corrupted… even our venting of so-called ‘righteous anger’ comes out in horrible sin-filled ways! Verbal abuse and perhaps even violence end up making matters worse, not better and we find ourselves in the wrong and under condemnation.
Psalm 96, a great missions hymn that calls the whole world to worship the One True and Righteous King and to bow the knee before him, surprisingly takes up the theme of justice as a motivation to acknowledge our desperate need of God as our Saviour.
This God of perfect holiness, majesty, splendour and power is to be feared! He is to be feared because He is great and all-powerful (v4). He is to be feared because He is above all others (v4). He is to be feared because who would dare question him or challenge what He is doing. He is to be feared – ‘the whole earth should tremble before him’ (v9).
…the cry for justice is regularly heard around our world and across our media screens
God is the greatest, not only in the sense of His ‘power’ – after all, ‘the world is firmly established and it will not be moved’ (v10) because God upholds it as its great Creator. That’s why He should be feared. Yet, furthermore, God is ‘perfect’ – the perfect Ruler of the world He made – ‘and he will judge the peoples of the world with equity’ (v10) – that is, with perfect justice and by truth – absolute truth (righteousness).
This brings us to the ultimate reason in this Psalm as to why the LORD God should be worshipped – why we should bow the knee before Him. The reason is that God is a perfect Judge who is consistently characterised by righteousness and justice…always!
I wonder how you feel about that? Well, I guess that depends on how you view or how you relate to God… or maybe even how He relates to you!
The end of Psalm 96 is punctuated in regaling God’s judgements and justice with words of great joy – rejoice (v11), be glad (v11), be jubilant (v12), and sing for joy (v12)! This can only be the response of God’s people – those who have entrusted themselves to Him. At the cross, God the Father, in Christ the Son, is dealing absolutely justly with sin and rebellion, with wickedness and all the consequences of the Fall of humanity…He shows us His mercy, without compromising His perfect justice, because Jesus takes the fall. Justice falls on Him, the sin-bearer, so that God’s mercy and grace can be poured out upon those of us who believe (Rom 3.23-26). This is the good news.
Here is an international invitation to come rest in God’s provision of perfect and complete justice for all ‘crimes’ ever committed – whether by us, against us, or in humanity’s inhumanity to one another. But more importantly, it offers a joyful solution for peace with God, despite the terrible sin committed against the LORD Himself.