Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Psalm 75 and "Settled Law"

As I read the news last night, I came across one of many stories about the Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. The headline was “Sotomayor calls abortion rights ‘settled law’.” That in itself was not surprising. Troubling, but not surprising. Sotomayor was quoted as saying, “all precedents of the Supreme Court I consider settled law.”

Just now, I was reading the Psalms of the day, and was struck by what I would consider the answer of Psalm 75 to the claim made by Sotomayor. It is a psalm exalting the Lord for His righteous judgment.

vv2-5 are written from God’s point of view:

2 "At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity.
3 When the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is I who keep steady its pillars. Selah
4 I say to the boastful, 'Do not boast,' and to the wicked, 'Do not lift up your horn;
5 do not lift up your horn on high, or speak with haughty neck.'"

Here God holds Himself up as the preeminent authority and judge over all things. He will judge with equity. v3 notes that as the world waivers, He keeps intact the order that He created when He made the world. I believe in this context, He is speaking specifically of His ordained standards of justice. Though the morality and judgments of the world sway with the whims of men, God’s justice doesn’t budge.

In v4 God warns those who would hold up a standard of their own. When He says, “do not lift up your horn,” He is referring to making a claim of power and authority. In other words, do not make proud assertions about your own authority, power, and wicked form of justice.

What could be a more twisted sense of justice than considering abortion to be just and lawful? Legalized abortion seems to me to be the ultimate example of how right and wrong are reversed when men and women reject the law of God. They do what is right in their own eyes (Jdg 17:6, 21:25). They become their own standard, so that the convenience of a mother and father is a higher good than the preservation of the life of their child.

Romans 1:18-32 tells us of the road to the depraved mind. It begins with a rejection of the glory of God in favor of idolatry (v23). Then there is a rejection of God’s truth in favor of a lie (v25). Then there is a rejection of God’s natural order for that which is unnatural (v26-27). Finally, in vv29-31, we are given the attributes of the depraved mind: They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

The second to last word, heartless, is an interesting word. It is literally, unloving. The root for "love" here is not agape or phile, both of which we see all over the New Testament. It is astorge, used only here and in 2 Tim 3:3. It means “natural affection” and refers to the love that exists between family members, especially mother and child.

I think that is what is at the heart of the abortion issue – a depravity so deep that even the natural love between parent and child is decimated. The last verse of Romans 1 is a chillingly accurate portrayal of the issue: Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

They give approval to those who practice them – or in the case of those like Sotomayor, they consider it “settled law.”

But do not be deceived. The rejection of God’s law and the adoption of man’s own law does not result in the inefficacy of God’s law or the removal of God as the ultimate Judge. In the end man will not be judged by his own law, but by God’s. It is to this truth that the psalmist refers in vv6-8 of Psalm 75:

6 For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up,
7 but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.
8 For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.

In reality, there is only one body of settled law in existence. It stands the test of time. It will never pass away. It will never be left void. It is the Word of God. Those who raise up a law against it do so to their own peril.

Something else about Psalm 75 stands out to me. It begins and ends with worship.

Verse 1: We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds.

Verses 9-10: But I will declare it forever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. All the horns of the wicked I will cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be lifted up.

We should pray for those like Sonia Sotomayor that God would grant them repentance and faith, sparing them from judgment. At the same time, we should along with the psalmist also give thanks and praise to a God who will not allow the perverted justice of men to stand forever, but will bring to bear His own righteous settled law. “At the set time that I appoint I will judge with equity.”

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