Volume. XXI, No. 32
Sunday, 04 February 2007

From the pastors heart: Justice

On Wednesday afternoon, I went to the city for a haircut. In the barber shop, I witnessed a few young people abusing the hairdressers. To me, they were habitual criminals who received services but did not want to pay for them. They accused the hairdressers and verbally abused them. I was stunned by these three young peoples’ shameless behavior. They seemed probably cruel impertinent for not paying for the service they had received. It reminded me of justice. I tried to stop their confrontations because their arguments would be worthless after all. The hairdressers would not want to waste their time and energy for a few dollars, and the youngsters were unblushing in their ill behaviors till the very end. Well, how often do we think of justice in our society and community? Almost everyday, we find words or articles from news papers demanding justice. Then, when Christians are ill treated and discriminated, what should be their proper response to those situations? A common answer to this question is, “we should love our enemies.” It has been known as “love ethic.” We have heard about Christ’s instruction to turn our cheek for another slap. It is easy to say, but hard to practice. Christians in Europe and North America have been increasingly facing more hostilities. Christians in South East Asia and Africa have been facing violent hate crimes. For the last few years, lots of Christians have experienced persecutions and oppressions in some countries I would not name. Christians became public enemies and targets of hatred by leaders of Islamic extremists.  There are individuals, organizations, and governments targeting the people of God with extreme cruelty and brutality. We must not have forgotten the cruel persecutions against Christians in communist countries. We feel frustrated in such situations where God’s name is mocked and His people have to stand against the evil ones. Should we continue to bless them, or is there a time to curse? 
This issue has been a question for millennia. It requires us to think and pray hard to know the answer. Romans 12:14 says, “Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.” At the same time, the book of Psalms has been a thorn to Christian conscience, for this book has many psalms invocating imprecation – curses and cries for vengeance. These psalms are called as imprecatory psalms. These psalms are real problems, in particular, to those who believe the Bible as God’s inspired and inerrant Word. They admit that even those imprecatory psalms are a part of God’s Word, which implies that believers may curse because psalmists cursed their enemies. After all, these curses are a part of God’s Word! Psalm 109:10-15 says, “Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places. 11 Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labour. 12 Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children. 13 Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out. 14 Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the LORD; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out. 15 Let them be before the LORD continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth.” The psalmist cursed his enemy’s family and posterity. This is only one of many examples in the book of Psalms. Psalm 58:10 says, “The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.” How can we understand these psalms? John N. Day wrote a very helpful book, Crying for Justice, on this issue. I am going to write a few articles about imprecatory psalms and curses based on his explanations with some of my own observations. It will be a challenging but meaningful study. 
There are a few different approaches to these Old Testament curses. Firstly, some people say that it was the Old Testament way. The New Testament way is to love enemies. This understanding raises at least two problems: (1) Are there two sets of morality in the Bible? Thus, is the New Testament morality different from the Old Testament? (2) If these differences are real, then can we use those psalms for our worship and devotional reading? It they are not relevant, then why do we have to care about them? Secondly, some people say that the psalmists had spoken curses because of their evil emotions. However, this explanation does not remove our problems because even the martyrs, who died for the Word of God and for the testimony which they held, said the same thing inRevelation 6:10: “And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” Revelation 18:20 declares, “Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.” God’s saints are crying for vengeance in heaven, and the angel from heaven encourages God’s people to rejoice over God’s revenge over evil ones. In the end, we do not find any difference between the imprecatory psalms and the saints in heaven. It may have a profound implication – there is no different morality concerning this issue between the Old and the New Testaments. It means that that imprecatory psalms are relevant to modern day Christians. One thing seems to be clear - God’s people in His Word cry for justice. However, before we make this conclusion, there are many other issues we ought to consider. Thus, I would suggest to not make any hasty conclusions yet. 
I do want you to know the meaning of vengeance. I believe that Noah Webster’s definition of the word shines some light to our understanding: “The infliction of pain on another, in return for an injury or offence. Such inflictions, when they proceed from malice or resentment, and are not necessary for the purposes of justice, are revengeful, and constitute a most heinous crime. When an infliction proceeds from a love of justice, and the necessity of punishing offenders for the support of the laws, it is vengeance, and is warrantable and just. In this case, vengeance is a just retribution, recompense or punishment. In this latter sense the word is used in Scripture, and frequently applied to the punishments inflicted by God on sinners.” The Lord says in Deuteronomy 32:35a, “To me belongeth vengeance and recompense.” He also says in Nahum 1:3a, “The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked.” These verses are talking about one of God’s immutable attributes. God’s vengeance is for His justice. Justice is defined as “(1) The virtue which consists in giving to every one what is his due; practical conformity to the laws and to principles of rectitude in the dealings of men with each other; honesty; integrity in commerce or mutual intercourse. Justice is distributive or commutative. Distributive justice belongs to magistrates or rulers, and consists in distributing to every man that right or equity which the laws and the principles of equity require; or in deciding controversies according to the laws and to principles of equity. Commutative justice consists in fair dealing in trade and mutual intercourse between man and man. (2) Impartiality; equal distribution of right in expressing opinions; fair representation of facts respecting merit or demerit. In criticisms, narrations, history or discourse, it is a duty to do justice to every man, whether friend or foe. (3) Equity; agreeableness to right; as, he proved the justice of his claim. This should, in strictness, be justness. (4) Vindictive retribution; merited punishment. Sooner or later, justice overtakes the criminal. (5) Right; application of equity.”   I’ll continue more on this subject.
Your Pastor

More Lively Hope



Shorter Catechism Question 82: Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God? No mere man since the fall is able in this life perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed .
Please pray for health & God’s healing: Rev George & Sis Nan van Buuren, Rev Peter Clements, Rev David Koo, Rev Timothy Tow, Dr S H Tow, Preacher Zhang, Dn Yaw Chiew Tan; Bros S Dhamarlingam, Makoto Kobayashi, Raphael Ng’s father, & Winston Selvanayagam; Sisters Sheila George, Myung Ki, Alice Lee’s father, Aranka Rejtoe (Hampstead), Chrisanthi Selvanayagam, Juanita Tong, Susan Veradi, & Giok Yeo’s sister-in-law; Auntie Oei & others in affliction. "Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Pet 5:7).
Please pray for – a) Cambodia Missions - Rev Luke Kim & Ministry (Veal Renh); b) Laos Missions - Bro S Dhamarlingam; c) Pastors & believers in India & Pakistan; d) Sketch n’ Tell Ministry - Bro H S Lim; e) Journey Mercies - Elder Lee and family (Adel), Sis Marion Chan (Adel) & others travelling during the summer vacation; f) Hopefuls & worshippers overseas & interstate.
Praise and Thank God for – a) AFG Bible Study & YAF Prayer & Bible Study; b) Journey mercies - Ps Ps Ki & family (Moonta Bay), Elder Michael & Sis Alice Lee & family (S’pore/Malaysia); Mrs Lee, Bro Tae Yul & Sis Moon Ok Lee (Moonta Bay/Korea); Bro John Wong (Adl); & all those travelling during the summer vacation; c) Ministry in India - Ps Ki; d) Rev. James White's ministry to Hope Church today
Please note: As announced to all members on 21 Jan, Ps Ki will not stand as a candidate for Session Election in July 2007.
Special Working Bee has been postponed to the 17 Feb.
Looking ahead: Easter Family Bible Camp on the second weekend of April 2007. Speaker with be Dr Gary Cohen.
Flowers’ Roster: Still a few spaces to be filled. Please serve the LORD by adding your names on the roster.



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