I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.
Surely the righteous will praise your name, and the upright will live in your presence.
What can you really be sure of in life? Maybe that question evokes a hopeful response in you—like the song that little orphan Annie sings in the musical, “The sun’ll come out tomorrow; bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun!” Or maybe you’re a little less confident and optimistic—like Ben Franklin, who famously wrote in a letter to a friend just months before he died, “In this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.”
Aside from the sun, death and taxes, is there anything else can we really be sure of?
In Psalm 140, David the worshiper concludes his song with, “I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy. Surely the righteous will praise your name, and the upright will live in your presence.” (Psalm 140:12-13)
How can David know? How can he be so sure?
This song begins with a cry for help, “Rescue me, Lord…protect me; keep me safe…protect me” (vs. 1-4). David acknowledges that there are “violent evildoers” in the world that threaten his plans and his very life. But he also believes that there is a God who is, “my strong deliverer, you shield my head in the day of battle” (vs. 7). He can be sure of the danger around him—he’s seen it with his own eyes! And yet, he seems to be just as certain that there is a faithful and powerful Friend by his side—even when David can’t see Him.
The second part of the song becomes an imprecation as David pleads for God’s justice and judgment. (I like how one commentator calls this part of Psalm 140, The Righteous One’s Prayer of Exasperation) “May burning coals fall on them; may they be thrown into the fire, into miry pits, never to rise. May slanderers not be established in the land; may disaster hunt down the violent.” (vs. 10-11). We’ve probably all wanted to pray that prayer of exasperation at some point in our lives!
While David is sincere in his desire to see these evildoers brought to judgment, he isn’t so sure God will do it. And so, he ends his song by declaring what he does know for certain—that the Lord is on the side of the poor and the needy, and that the righteous will praise His name and live in His presence (vs. 12-13). We don’t always get to see God’s judgment carried out—we don’t always see his plans for the poor and needy and righteous either—but we can still be sure of God’s goodness, righteousness and justice, even when we can’t see it. That’s what we call faith.
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Like David, we know there are problems in the world around us—we can see them with our own eyes. Like David, sometimes we’d like to be sure that God is going to heap burning coals on the heads of the evildoers. Like David, sometimes we might even become impatient with God’s timing and take matters into our own hands. But instead of trying to get even or get revenge, maybe we’d be better off faithfully practicing the things we are really sure God wants from us. Maybe that’s what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he writes,
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Romans 12:19-20)
As a follower of Jesus, you can be certain of much more than death and taxes and sunrises. You can be sure that trouble and evil won’t get the last word in God’s great story! Here’s a spoiler alert: “Everyone born of God will overcome the world” (1 John 5:4) and “Mercy will triumph over judgment” (James 2:13). So be sure, in faith, of what Christ has promised to you, and then faithfully live out his good promises in the world around you. As you do, you can be sure that He is your Living Water…so stay thirsty, my friends.