January 9, 2019

According to Your Justice

Great is your mercy, O Lord; give me life according to your justice.
Ps. 119:156 

What a beautiful verse to look at this morning!

But first, some editorializing: I think in the first clause, I'd prefer compassion (instead of mercy) as a translation of רַחֲמֶיךָ. And as for the word מִשְׁפָּטֶ, which in older Bibles is translated as judgment(s), the word justice (as here in the NRSV) is much more appropriate. In the United States, we don't have a Department of Judgment, we have a Department of Justice. And the word מִשְׁפָּטֶ
is used for the entiresystem of Hebrew jurisprudence.

And so if I pray, Your compassion is great, Lord—grant me life according to your justice, I am affirming my belief in the kindness of God, whose justice is characterized by compassion. Though this is indeed evident in the Old Testament, in the gospels we see the bud come to full flower: For in the life of Christ, God was fully present, and in the death of Christ, God suffered with humanity. This is the literal meaning of compassion, which demonstrates God's justice in the face of human judgment. It's a pleasant surprise to discover such a prayer near the end of the longest of all the psalms.

O Holy One, your compassion was always evident. But in the life of Christ, I see it fully formed. I thank you that the life you grant me is lived by your justice, and I pray that my judgment may also be characterized by love and compassion—in his Name who taught me to pray...

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