But is it Fair?

Our lectionary psalm today is one of three psalms that begin with a proclamation that “the Lord reigns.” (See Psalm 93 and 97.) This one takes it a little farther by stating that not only does he reign, but he is present both “between the winged heavenly creatures” and in Zion as a king who loves justice. With our New Testament eyes, we can leap forward and see Christ as the embodiment of a king who brings equity, justice, and inclusion to his reign on earth. Thus, in some ways, this psalm could be viewed as a prophecy of the reign of Jesus, especially in the last verses that speak of his forgiveness.

Psalm 99 (Common English Bible)

The Lord reigns—
    the nations shake!
    He sits enthroned on the winged heavenly creatures—
    the earth quakes!
The Lord is great in Zion;
    he is exalted over all the nations.
Let them thank your great and awesome name.
    He is holy!

The word “holy” means separate or set apart. It implies a sacredness that stands in contrast with the mundane. By proclaiming that God is holy, the psalmist reminds us that there is a distance between God and humanity, not just morally (as one who is pure would be from the sinful) but also in regard to his eternal nature compared to our earthly existence. He is divine.

Strong king who loves justice,
    you are the one who established what is fair.
    You worked justice and righteousness in Jacob.

My denomination has been focused on justice issues from the beginning of its inception. John Wesley spoke out against poverty, forced child labor, and the system of “poor houses” that kept people trapped in a life of despair. He spoke out for the fair treatment of widows, orphans, and prisoners. Wesley was one of the first churchmen of his time to address the issue of slavery:

The United Methodist Church, has a long history of concern for social justice, including speaking out against racial injustice, advocating for and working toward equality.

Methodism founder John Wesley was well known for his opposition to slavery. In 1773 he printed a pamphlet titled “Thoughts Upon Slavery,” in which he decried the evils of slavery and called for slave traders and owners to repent and free their slaves.

“Nothing is more certain in itself, and apparent to all, than that the infamous traffic for slaves directly infringes both divine and human law,” he wrote.

Wesley’s writings influenced political leaders of his day — including William Wilberforce, a British Parliament member who led a movement to abolish the slave trade. The last letter Wesley wrote, six days before his death, was addressed to Wilberforce, urging him to continue his work. In that letter, he lamented that “a man who has a black skin being wronged or outraged by a white man, can have no redress.” (From ResourceUMC.org)

The most powerful thing about Wesley’s work here is that he was just an ordinary Anglican priest. He wasn’t a king, he wasn’t a politician, he was just a preacher. But he used his influence to fight for justice. Being a “man of one book,” i.e., the Bible, he knew God’s position on justice and fairness, and he obediently used his voice to fight for what God loves.

I say to you today that if God loves justice, so should we.

Magnify the Lord, our God!
    Bow low at his footstool!
    He is holy!

Part of our job here on earth is to aspire to emulate all that is holy and to love what God loves. Perhaps one of our greatest challenges comes in the fact that God loves all his children, each and every one. Do you struggle with that? Do you find some people or even some groups of people hard to love? Are there members of your own family who are unlovable? Remember that God loves them just as they are.

6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
    Samuel too among those who called on his name.
They cried out to the Lord, and he himself answered them—
    he spoke to them from a pillar of cloud.
They kept the laws and the rules God gave to them.
Lord our God, you answered them.
    To them you were a God who forgives
    but also the one who avenged their wrong deeds.

The psalmist reminds us that there is great wisdom to be gleaned from the writings of the Old Testament priests. When we study Moses, Aaron, Samuel, and the others, we see God’s activity and learn the history of our “desert forefathers” in a way that helps us understand God’s activity here on earth. We are comforted by the fact that God answered their cries, God led them through a wilderness, God forgave them, and God protected them.

Magnify the Lord our God!
    Bow low at his holy mountain
    because the Lord our God is holy!

We are invited to bow low before our holy God and do all we can to learn about him and care about the things he cares about. It is not only a call to study, but a call to action, as Wesley understood. Where is God calling you to promote justice and fairness in your community?

The Lord our God is holy, and he will guide your steps when you follow him.

The Lord Reigns by Michelle Robertson

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