“Cheaters never prosper,” the saying goes. But sometimes, they do.
We all have those people in our lives – people who repeatedly, willfully and happily make bad choices – yet they always seem to skirt the natural consequences of conventional wisdom.
The co-worker that bad mouths others and then gets the promotion. The politician who makes a back door deal and then gets away with it. The family member who swindles their siblings out of a rightful inheritance, and takes advantage of a technicality of the law.
We wait, and wait and wait some more for them to actually reap some of the misery they’ve sown, but the harvest never seems to come.
We fear that God is ignoring their sin. We suspect that because God seems to be silent, he always will be.
But Ps 50 affirms to us that God actively pursues sinners and saints alike; he is the Righteous Judge.
What does the Judge look like?
“The Mighty One, God the Lord,
Has spoken and called the earth
From the rising of the sun to its going down.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God will shine forth.
Our God shall come, and shall not keep silent;” (Ps. 50:1-3)
Ps 50. tells us:
- The Judge is mighty (vs. 1)
- The Judge is Lord (vs. 1)
- The Judge is sovereign over creation (all people and the whole planet) (vs. 2-3, 11-12)
- The Judge is righteous(vs. 6)
What does the judge do?
1) God responds to his people (50: 4-6)
God responds to his people in two ways. First, he calls them (vs. 4) and then he gathers them together (vs. 5-6). The sense is of a shepherd tenderly gathering his sheep to himself.
God recognizes those in relationship with him. Our response to the Judge should be to offer thanksgiving and repay our vows (vs. 14).
2) God responds to the wicked (50:16-21)
Nothing is out of God’s eyesight. Listen to how Ps. 50 describes how carefully God observes the wicked:
- He reviews their hearts (vs. 16-17)
- He reviews their actions (vs. 17-20)
- He rebukes them (vs. 21a)
- He brings justice (vs. 21b)
Ps. 50 stands as both a hope and warning. If we don’t have a personal relationship with God, then our response to the Judge should be to acknowledge God by giving “praise to glorify him” (vs. 22).
This means more than going through the motions of worship (attending church services, trying to be good), but rather, acknowledging the Judge for who he is and what he does for sinners.
For those of us who already know the Judge and his salvation (vs. 22), we don’t have to worry about who gets what coming to them in the end. Because God is righteous, supreme, and mighty, we can trust that all the harm brought to us by others will one day be set right.
In the end, cheaters never prosper, but not for the reason you might think. Justice comes in more specific ways than general karma, because the God who made the world is at work in the world to set things right once again.
God’s response to sin is personal, because the Judge, himself, is personal. Just as God was personally involved in creating the world, he is personally involved in sustaining it today and making it right for tomorrow.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for being intimately aware of what’s going on in my life. Thank you for caring for me and for guiding the pieces of my life into the places you’ve designated in your grand design. When a piece seems missing or an unlikely fit, please help me remember that as the Righteous Judge who only acts in right ways toward me, no piece of my life has slipped from your steady and gracious hand. You hold me. You know me. You love me. Please help me to let go of hurt and fears brought into my life by others. Please help me trust that you have me in your firm grip. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.
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I think this is something we all struggle with, watching other people mock God’s law and reap no consequences. Thanks for helping us make sense of it through this Psalm.
It is definitely a struggle to keep ourselves out of the judge’s seat on this one!
Isn’t is awesome though that he provides a way to not sin? Ps 119:11 says that if we keep his word in our heart we won’t sin. I love this verse and the principle it describes.