Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. Beyond the horizon is rest beckoning me. Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me.
God calls the judges into his courtroom,
he puts all the judges in the dock.
2-4 “Enough! You’ve corrupted justice long enough,
you’ve let the wicked get away with murder.
You’re here to defend the defenseless,
to make sure that underdogs get a fair break;
Your job is to stand up for the powerless,
and prosecute all those who exploit them.”
5 Ignorant judges! Head-in-the-sand judges!
They haven’t a clue to what’s going on.
And now everything’s falling apart,
the world’s coming unglued.
6-7 “I commissioned you judges, each one of you,
deputies of the High God,
But you’ve betrayed your commission
and now you’re stripped of your rank, busted.”
8 O God, give them their just deserts!
You’ve got the whole world in your hands!
This is a great reading from the Ketuvim, the 3rd section of the Hebrew Bible, set to contemporary dialog. Why should I be surprised that social justice was a concern of the early Jewish culture much as it is today with our Christian tradition? Apparently man, although he has conquered many technical impediments to enlightenment, has yet to master his own ego, that part of him which says he is better than, different from, and entitled to.
I often inventory these aspects of my own inner forces which determine who I shall be today – better, different or entitled. And sometimes miraculously, I tune in to a greater self which tells me I am a son of that universal essence which created all mankind equally deserving of justice among their fellow-man whether wealthy and powerful or poor and needy.
I can picture the author of Psalm 82 standing before a panel of appointed judges reading the riot act to them for their lack of compassion towards the defenseless and underdogs. In today’s society I am one of many, not only judges and politicians, who would do well to reflect on attitudes toward and treatment of those who have hit personal bottoms, endured unjust racism, struggled through financial difficulties. The homeless, the emotionally challenged, the addicted, the prisoners, the broken, the afflicted – all are deserving of a day in the court of compassion and empathy.
When honesty hits me between the eyes, I would have to admit that I am unworthy of mercy and grace, that I should be sleeping in the woods, scrounging for food, sitting in jail for my disobedience. That honesty tells me that I am not special nor gifted nor smarter. No, I am merely luckier because I have escaped the harshness which afflicts my brothers and sisters.
Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now I’m found was blind but now I see
Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed
When we’ve been there ten thousand years bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.
John Newton, 1779 OLNEY HYMNS
John Newton understood this undeserved gift from a gracious God. He lived a profane and wicked life, but turned the page which all of us turn when we exclaim,
“Dear God, there has to be a better way than this.”
His actions endorsed social reform and supported the fight to abolish slave trade in the British Empire resuling in the British Slave Trade Act in 1807.