Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Sermon at Nepal Theological College on 17 February 2011

Psalm 75
Some Bible readers wonder how the sentiments of imprecatory psalms can be harmonized with Christian teaching about forgiving your enemies enemies. But the one crying out for deliverance and vengeance did so as a representative of God's rule over all creation; he was an anointed ruler uniquely representing God's authority. In maltreating the Lord's anointed one, rebels assaulted the Lord himself. Thus, the vengeance called for was vengeance for the sin of rebelling against God's own plan. The deliverance and vengeance sought was an early breakthrough of the hope of final judgment, a foretaste of final and perfect justice, which is—in the end—assured, because he chooses the "appointed times" (Ps 75:2).

When we see injustice, we cry out for justice. The totalitarianism of Hitler and Stalin; the bloodied hands of terrorists, abortionists, and other murderers; the dark dealings of dope and pornography peddlers; the wealthy oppressors of widows, orphans, and the poor—all these things are unjust. All their victims cry out for vengeance. And with them, we cry like the martyrs of the book of Revelation: "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge?" When some great enemy of God's people is destroyed,
we sing joyously, "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God!" (Rev 19:1).

Our spirits bear us witness that these psalms are full of righteous Christian sentiment, of desire for the triumph of justice over evil.

Justice Desired, Required, and Acquired

Justice is desired, we longed for it.

When we see wrongs left unrighted, something in us hurts; a desire for justice cries out when it isn't forthcoming. This psalm speaks of the fate of the arrogant; it tells us that the boastful who promote themselves to places of power and prestige will find their horns chopped off. They will be brought low to be degraded and humiliated (Ps 75:4-6, 10). Isn't our confidence in a just God quickened when we are assured of that final judgment? The wicked totalitarian oppressors and the uncaught—or unpunished—murderers, thieves, and rapists will be chopped off, degraded, and humiliated. They will be brought to justice. The ungodly will receive the judgment they deserve—it is promised, and we are glad.

Justice is required, we fear it.

Since all men are sinners, all must fear justice. If it is perfect justice—and impartial—it will miss no sinner in its sweeping settlement of all claims outstanding against God's righteousness. Not only do murderers go to their doom; the gossips, liars, unbelievers, and unrepentant will be brought to shame. The foaming cup in the hand of the Lord is for "all the wicked of the earth" (Ps 75:8).

What is this 'cup'?

Ps. 75:8 tells us the wicked must drink it.Habakkuk says the one who degrades others will be degraded by this cup (Hab. 2:15-16). Jeremiah was told:
Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending amo g them.... and if they refuse to accept the cup from your hand to drink, then you shall say to them, "You must drink... you shall not go unpunished" (Jer 25:15–17, 28).

Ps. 75:8 says it is a cup of horror and desolation to be drained to the dregs. God spoke to Judah when she was facing conquest just like Israel had years earlier, he said your ways are as wicked as those of your northern sister; your punishment will be the same. Jeremiah says it is the inescapable violent punishment of the wrath of God (Jer 49:12). It is inescapable unless the Lord pleads your cause. But if he does, Isaiah says it can be removed from your hand "to drink no more" (Isa. 51:22) and be handed to your tormentors.

You will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow, the cup of ruin and desolation, the cup of your sister Samaria. You will drink it and drain it dry; you will dash it to pieces and tear your breasts. I have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord. "Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Since you have forgotten me and thrust me behind your back, you must bear the consequences of your lewdness and prostitution" (Ezek 23:33-35).
Because we sinners are estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds (Col. 1:21f).Until the wrath of God is propitiated, we must drink that cup.

What happens when this 'cup' is poured out?

The psalmist says it will be like "fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind" (Ps 11:6). Micah says, "When it falls, mountains melt and run like wax before the fire" (Micah 1:2-3).

Whose 'cup' is it?

You must know; it is your cup, it is my cup. That cup is ours; for "all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs" (Ps 75:8); and as Paul tells us, all of us have been found out to be sinners (Rom 3:23). Jer 16:7 tells us that what we need is the cup of consolation. Zech 12:2 tells us that what he deserve is the cup of trembling and reeling.

But why must all the wicked drink it? Why us; why me?

Looking at all these Bible references reminds us of this inescapable fact: We need mercy, but we deserve judgment; justice calls for it. Since God has sworn in his wrath that unbelievers will never enter into his rest, how shall we escape from the wrath of God; as Heb 2:2 says, "every transgression or disobedience receives a just retribution."

Justice has been acquired, so it is satisfied.

That cup Jesus drank was the cup that we should have drunk in judgment for our own sins.

My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.... and again for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, thy will be done" (Matt 26:39, 42).
Jesus drank that cup for us, and be so doing he saved us from the threats of those violent vengeful psalms. Peter tells us, once we had not received mercy, but now we have received mercy (1 Pet. 2:10). Hammer in hand, nails in my pocket, there I stood at the foot of the cross; blood on my hammer, blood on my fingers.... and he forgave. God put this cup of wrath into the hands of his only begotten son, so that he might drink it for us. Paul gave us the Gospel in a nut shell: He who knew no sin became sin for us and was forsaken by God, he drank our cup of wrathful judgment (2Cor 5:21).

He who knew no sin was forsaken so that we who were wicked might be reconciled to the Holy God. Paul said, "While we were yet enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son... through whom we have now received our reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:18ff). In another place he said, "While we were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, we were reconciled in his body of flesh by his death" (Col. 1:21-22). As he said, we have all have sinned (Rom. 3:23), but God's forbearance is righteous (3:24ff); John tells us how: because "he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2).

We have received mercy with justice.

God is a holy God of wrath; but John tells us that he reconciled us in this way: "he sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1John 4:10). God so loved the world... (John 3:16). God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us (1 John 1:9). Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Pet 2:10).


Jesus drank the cup of the wrath of God. He was forsaken of God that we might be reconciled to God.

We need not fear the day of judgment.

The cry for justice, the call for appropriate vengeance freezes the blood in our veins when we stop to ask, "But what if that fury falls on me?" The Psalmist tells us is angry every day (Ps 7:11). Hebrews tells us that it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of a furious God (Heb 10:31).  Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift of salvation! (2 Cor 9:15). Christ is the unspeakable, inexpressible gift. Paul tells us, now we have the peace of God, peace with God our Father, through Jesus Christ (Rom 5:1).


Is that peace yours now? It can be; but only in Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12 tells us that there is no other name granted under heaven by which we must be saved. It must be; or you are in danger of a fiery hell. To the wicked, he will one day say, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels... and they will go away into eternal punishment" (Matt 25:41).

If that peace is yours, look forward to the blessings of heaven. If that peace is not yours, I warn you to flee from the wrath that is coming, "while a door of reconciliation is open; for here will you flee from his presence" (Ps 139:7) in the day of his wrath?
Those who are, by their own deeds, condemned will never be inscribed in the book of life; but the righteous will be saved.
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death (Rev 21:8).

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