He will judge the peoples with equity

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.” Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it.”

Psalm 96:10-11

In society, there has to be a system to preserve order. In most, if not all countries, this is a legal system with laws that lay down either what you can or cannot do. I remember when I was at university studying the differing conceptions of the “state of nature” – what humans would be like if there was no law or authority. Some philosophers believe humans to be fundamentally good, therefore only requiring a light touch legal system, whilst others believed humans to be fundamentally bad, thereby necessitating a tougher system of laws. As a Christian, I believe that humans were created pure and blameless, but, since “the fall,” when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, humans are living under what is known as “original sin,” which means that we are all inherently sinful, with sin built into our very beings. Even if we think that we are good, honest people who love God, love our neighbours, and obey every law there is, we are still by nature sinful. This is bad news, since God punishes the sinful.

In today’s verse, we get a picture of God as the judge – but, unlike in some more dubious countries, we have a fair and honest judge. He created the world to be pure and perfect, and created an established and unchanging order. Since he is the creator, he has the right to judge us. Since he established the moral principles that underpin humankind, he also has the right to judge us. We can be assured, however, that he will do so in a fair manner. His moral principles are unchanging, so he won’t bend them one way or the other, but will be perfectly fair. He will apply them to all with equity according to the rules and standards that he has laid down. We can also be sure that this applies to all people, since the psalmist maintains that the proclamation that “the Lord reigns” needs to be carried to all nations.

This first part of the verse might seem rather threatening and intimidating, yet the response that the psalmist gives is to instruct the heavens and earth to be glad and rejoice at God’s judgement. Why? Because it is as a consequence of God’s love and promised judgement that the basic order is maintained. If we live by God’s commands, honour him, and do our best to serve him with our entire lives, we have nothing to fear. Indeed, we have much to be joyful for, because those who love God will be rewarded with eternal life in God’s new creation!

Today, then, reflect on God’s judgement. Think about all the things that you need to say sorry to God for, and ask him for forgiveness. Rejoice as well, though, that we have such a fair and loving God, who is honest, reliable and trustworthy in his judgement!

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