Leadership with God – Psalm 71:1-2

Pray For All Who Are In Leadership Over Us.

1 Endow the king with your justice, O God,
the royal son with your righteousness.
2 May he judge your people in righteousness,
your afflicted ones with justice.

Judge with Justice

The author of this Psalm cries out to God that He would divinely place justice in the king.  In governments that are not monarchies this would go to the one who was in charge of overseeing the law of the land.  We too should cry out to God that He would place true justice in the hands of those who would wield it correctly.  Far too often have people in this era been forced to endure either the misapplication of justice, or even just a lack of it.

When justice leaves a country, it begins to fall apart.  It crumbles from within.  Evil and petty tyrants come to power, and are brought down as well.  Power is then seized by bullies and people whose moral compass points counter to justice.  It is our duty to cry out to God for leaders who are just.

Rein in Righteousness

But not only should they be just, they should be righteous as well.  Justice cannot be correctly meted out without the proper frame of reference with which it can be done so in righteousness.  And although we all claim to want a justice system that is “fair”, it is mercy and grace that we seek when we are being accused of breaking the law.  “Fair” implies merely that the law is applied consistently.  But consistently applying the law unjustly does it no credit.

Only in righteousness can justice truly be meted out.  And righteousness requires mercy and grace.  For without compassion, justice is cold, harsh, and cruel.  It may not distinguish between self-preservation and premeditated murder when a person’s life is ended.  And wicked people will attempt to usurp blind justice to do their bidding.  We need only to look at the life of Jezebel, the queen of King Ahab, to see this:

1 Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. 2 Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.”

3 But Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors.”

4 So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my ancestors.” 7 on his bed sulking and refused to eat.

5 His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?”

6 He answered her, “Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’”

7 Jezebel his wife said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

8 So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. 9 In those letters she wrote:

“Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. 10 But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them bring charges that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.”

11 So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them. 12 They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth in a prominent place among the people. 13 Then two scoundrels came and sat opposite him and brought charges against Naboth before the people, saying, “Naboth has cursed both God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death. 14 Then they sent word to Jezebel: “Naboth has been stoned to death.”

15 As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.” 16 When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard.

17 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 18 “Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He is now in Naboth’s vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it. 19 Say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?’ Then say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!’”

20 Ahab said to Elijah, “So you have found me, my enemy!”

“I have found you,” he answered, “because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. 21 He says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free. 22 I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have aroused my anger and have caused Israel to sin.’

23 “And also concerning Jezebel the Lord says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’

24 “Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country.”

25 (There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. 26 He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel.)

27 When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly.

28 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 29 “Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.”

Creating a Chiasm

Now comes the interesting part.  Many of the writers of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible used a form of literary prose known as the Chiasm, or Chiasmic structure.  This is where two or more ideas are paralleled in a stepping stone fashion.  This has been used to juxtapose opposites, or to show the outcomes or natures of two different, but interrelated subjects.

In this case, the author of this Psalm chooses to show the theoretical or ideal of two subjects – Justice and Righteousness – in comparison to the practical application or implementation of them.  The Chiasm looks like this:

Righteousness – Judge in
with the sonrighteousness
/\
Endow Justice Justice
with the King for the afflicted

Notice how the on the left side of the Chiasm that the subject matter is to be endowed – it is the “ethics” of the situation that is being highlighed.  On the right side, it is the execution of those “ethics”, or practical “morality”, that is requested.  This type of prose can be found throughout scripture, and gives us insight to what the authors intended.  Without understanding this structure, it would appear that the author may either be rambling or just merely repeating themselves.  If taken chronologically, it could lead to some very incorrect conclusions about prophecy and other events.  But it is designed for a specific effect:  the juxtaposition of two parallel thoughts with the first thoughts from front to back, and with the constrasted thoughts being presented back to front, giving us a clearer view of the subject matter when compared to each other.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I give out justice in the same manner that I desire it?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Praise be to Your holy name.  Thank You for Your insights to justice and righteousness that You provide to me through Your word.  You have revealed that You are perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  Your justice is tempered by Your mercy and grace.  Because of Your compassion, You did not destroyed me when I first sinned against You, but rather two thousand years ago sent Your Son to be my perfect sacrifice.  Help me to better understand Your character, and to display it to the world, for You have been gracious and merciful to me when I deserved justice.  Apart from the finished work of Your Son Jesus Christ on the cross, I would still be in my sin.  Thank You Lord Jesus!  I love You very much!  Help me to show that love through obedience to Your word and displaying Your character in my thoughts, words, and deeds.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

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