Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tuesday's with Jesus #96

#96 "All His Benefits-Final"
May 15, 2007
"Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits--...The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed." (Psalm 103: 2, 6)
God is not only righteous and just in Himself, but He actively engages in acts of righteousness and justice for oppressed peoples. Today we are going to close out our study of Psalm 103 by looking at the final "benefit" of God to His people. What is righteousness? What is justice? Who are the oppressed? Let's take a look and see...
The words justice and righteousness in the Hebrew are pretty much equal and interchangeable, at least in this verse of Scripture. They mean that God is just and fair in judgement and in truthfulness. God decides your case justly. Justice is the due reward or punishment given for an act. It is getting what is deserved. God is merciful, but He is also just and must punish sin. In the grace of God, justice fell on His Son, Jesus Christ, so that mercy would fall upon us.
Justice is a funny thing. We want it for others who have mistreated us, but we have a hard time adjusting when God's just judgement falls on us. I have had the privilege over the past couple of years to minister to some men who have gone to prison. Inevitably, the question always surfaces..."why did God let this happen to me?" The answer is simple...God is a just God. He works justice. For you and others. We reap what we sow and must often suffer the consequences of our actions. And I don't think we'd want it any other way. I have asked the men this question..."Don't you want to serve a just God? One who is fair?" We want God to be this way when we are wronged. But sometimes that justice falls on us. That's only fair.
But this verse of Scripture gives us such hope when we are the ones wronged or "oppressed". Who are the oppressed? They are those of us who are burdened with unreasonable impositions, those who are overpowered, overburdened or depressed. Those who are exploited, crushed or deceitfully wronged. The oppressed are those of us who suffer wrong because we have been labeled on account of our race, our financial status or our gender. They are those of us who are despitefully used as Jesus said, taken advantage of, mistreated and abused. They include the weak and the powerless in society who have no one to protect them. And if you can't place yourself in this category, I'm sure you can quickly call to mind someone that you know who is oppressed. 
What about that baby who was never given the chance to see the light of day, smell a flower, go to a county fair or a senior prom because of an abortion. What about those in third world nations who are the victims of genocide? What about the people in a tiny country who have a madman breathing down their neck, vowing to wipe them off the face of the earth...(that would be Israel, in case you aren't aware). And closer to home...what about the homeless man who fell on hard times? He wasn't lazy. He wasn't irresponsible. He lost his job, his home and his family. But people judge him unfairly and won't give him a hand. What about the child who can't get a decent education because of where he happened to be born and because of the color of his skin? And what about those who have fallen victim to the "system". The one that started out with good intentions for the "welfare" of those in need, but now has made people slaves on "Uncle Sam's Plantation". (Uncle Sam's Plantation, Star Parker) They are stuck like rats on a wheel. Stuck on public assistance, but unable to come out because they can't make as much with a real job, at minimum wage. If they came off of assistance, they couldn't feed their families. Stuck. Victimized by the system that was intended to help them. 
Let's go even closer to home. What about the woman who is daily abused by her husband or the father of her children. Victim to his moods, his alcohol abuse, his fists. But she has no where else to go. What about the little girl who is being sexually abused on a daily basis by her daddy? And her momma is too scared to put a stop to it. She cries out to God..."help me...why are you letting this happen?" What about the little boy who is bullied on the playground everyday at lunch? And those who have suffered years of abuse, rejection and mistreatment and are now in a pit, suffering from depression, bipolar disease, people pleasing addictions, alcoholism, drug dependency and sexual addictions. All oppressed. All victims. Weak and powerless....no one to protect them.
But God....He promises to work righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. This "all" are His people. This is whether they were the children of Israel oppressed by Egypt or the present day children of God oppressed by the devil in one way or another. The Lord will eventually vindicate His people because what is happening is a slight against Him. David, the writer of this psalm, had something of the heart of God when as a young man he heard of the fear that the Philistines, through their champion Goliath, had put into the hearts of the Israelites.

He said to Goliath "You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hand." (1 Samuel 17:45-47 English Standard Version).

The Israelites had been offended by their enemy, the Philistines for quite long enough. We often make disparaging remarks concerning their cowardice because there was nobody who would go out and fight Goliath, but we do need to remember some things which give them something of an excuse. They were completely outgunned. They had no swords. There were just two in the whole Kingdom of Israel and they were owned by King Saul and his son Jonathan. The enemy had not let the Israelites have swords. So, even those who may have been brave enough to fight Goliath had no training to fight with the sword. But David had a different kind of sword. He, among all the Israelites, knew about the sword of the Spirit, the word of the Lord. He knew that the Lord does not fight with a literal sword and a literal spear. No, there is another sword that proceeds from the mouth of God. That sword is the word we live by. David knew he had covenant rights. He also knew that God has to vindicate His people.

And so it will be for His children at this present time. The Message translation of the Bible says, "God makes everything come out right; He puts victims back on their feet." God tells us in Psalm 103:8 that He is "compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love." These words are based on His words to Moses on Mount Sinai. Because He is gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love, God is faithful to His people and will deliver them from oppression. That's a promise. It will all work out in the end. And if we don't see justice in this lifetime, be assured, my friend, that one day...one day...The Father will say, "That's enough" and send Jesus to rule and reign forever more. Justice will be executed for all who are oppressed. In one of Peter's famous speeches in the book of Acts, he said,
 .."How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him." (KJV)

That "Jesus of Nazareth" is now the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He died the Lamb of God and was raised the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He sits at the right hand of His Father in Heaven. He is still powerful and does good. And He still heals all those oppressed of the devil or anyone else. He is God. And He has made a promise. Hebrews, chapter 2, says that "there is nothing that is not subject to Him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to Him. But we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone."

See Jesus, fix your eyes....on the One who forgives all your sins. The One who heals all your diseases. The One who redeems your life from the pit. The One who crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. And the One who works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. Wow! What a benefit package!   

Donna Schultz                                                                             

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