Martin Luther King Jr. once delivered a speech containing this powerful sentiment: “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”
His words echo those of a sermon by a man named Theodore Parker, published in 1853, in which Parker addressed the corrupt practices of slavery in America. Parker himself was merely summarizing a thought found throughout the Bible: God the Great Judge of men, will call an accounting for the sins of all men and nations.
The 33rd Psalm, which begins with the refrain, “Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,” speaks to this theme, reminding us that God, who made the heavens and the earth (cf. Psalms 33:6-9), is also the same God who overthrows the plans of unrighteous men (cf. Psalms 33:10). God is not a God who delights in evil, rather, as the Psalmist notes, “The word of the Lord is right, and all His works are done in truth. He loves righteousness and justice. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” (Psalms 33:4-5 NKJV).
It doesn’t always seem as if the earth is full of the Lord’s goodness. Indeed, its easy to see wickedness throughout the world. We see nations making war, politicians who lie and steal, and officials abusing their power for their own gain. We see innocent lives torn apart, children abused, murder, theft and rape. We see people calling evil, good, and denouncing the good as wickedness. But sometimes the immediate problems blind us to the reality that evil never prospers over the long run. Those same wicked nations are doomed to be toppled. The unrighteous will not prevail forever. God will call all people to account, in both this life, and, more importantly, the next.
As the Psalmist says, “The Lord looks down from heaven, He sees all the children of man; from where He sits enthroned He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth; He who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.” (Psalms 33:13-15 ESV)
God is not blind to what is going on. Nor does He let wickedness continue unabated. Rather, history is full of examples of the wicked being brought low. Where is the empire of Hitler? What happened to the civilization of the Aztecs, who offered up human sacrifices to their idols? The Incans? The Ammorites? The Philistines? The Assyrians? What of the Romans who burned Christians at the stake and fed them to lions? Does the atheistic Soviet Union yet thrive? History is littered with the graves of those God has brought to account.
On an individual level, we can see the same trend at work: those who choose to commit their lives to sin and wickedness, though they may prosper for a time, as a general rule, they end up suffering because of their life choices. And, when all is said and done, they must stand before God and give an accounting of their actions. (cf. 1 Peter 4:5)
What then is the conclusion of this meditation? Two connected thoughts. Firstly, as the Psalmist reminds us, remember this fact: “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.” (Psalms 33:18-19 NKJV) God knows how to punish the wicked, but He also knows how to deliver the righteous. (cf. 2 Peter 3:4-9) Those who wait upon the Lord will not be dissapointed, but will be able to declare, “our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name.” (Psalms 33:21)
Secondly, if God’s eyes are upon the righteous, then we must make sure that we are living in a way that is pleasing to Him. Our definition of justice, and God’s definition of justice, must be the same. How then can we know what God thinks is good and what God thinks is evil?
Note again the words of the Psalm: “The word of the Lord is right.” When a man, be he preacher or president, declares, “this is good and just,” we can compare what He says to what God says and know whether or not that man is speaking the truth. Even when our own hearts try to convince us that a certain path or choice is the right one, we can hold our own desires up to the word of God and see whether or not we are right. God’s word is a guide that will not lead us wrong, for it is the standard by which God judges the actions of men. (cf. John 12:48) While some men worry about being “on the right side of history,” the wise man knows that history is always on the side of God.
At the church of Christ, we strive to always be pleasing to God, learning His words and guiding our lives thereby. We invite you to join us in worship and study, at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis.
Likewise, stop by our fair booth at the Gallia County Junior Fair and visit with us.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.