Thursday, July 9, 2015

Can We Pray for Justice and Mercy?

When we think of God, we can tend to set up a strict line between His judgment and His mercy. But this is not a biblical distinction. In Scripture, they go together.

 One clear example of this truth is Psalm 83. In verses 16-18, the psalmist sings a prayer that feels paradoxical to our black-and-white sensibilities. He asks God to punish His enemies, to shame, confuse, and destroy them. But he does so because he knows it is what will allow them to “seek Your name, O Lord” and “know that You, whose name alone is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth.”

The preceding verses, 13-15, carry this same idea in a very profound way. Wind, fire, and tempest are all associated with the Spirit of God in the Old Testament. In fact, the Hebrew word used for “wind” here is the same one used for “Spirit” elsewhere. When the psalmist calls down God’s destructive power, he is calling for the Holy Spirit. And when He calls for the Spirit, he is asking for more than punishment. He is asking for renewal. He is asking for revival.

We should be willing to make this same prayer. The world is full of, let’s face it, wicked people. Some are worse than others, but everyone is selfish. Everyone is self-destructive. And everyone else hurts other people along the way. We need to be willing to ask the Lord to put a stop to our evil ways. But that request should always have one aim in mind: the salvation of souls.

People need to know that God is both: He is just and merciful. And may He send sinners destruction, so they can recognize their error by seeing its consequences. Then may they seek His name, as He desires. For there is no other Lord, no other name by which we can be saved (Acts 4:10-12). 

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