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Synod Legana 2009
Meditation text of Reverend JGR Kroeze
Minister of the convening church of Legana
Monday 15th June 2009, Synod Legana, Tasmania, 2009
(Acts Article 1)
This evening we are going to begin Synod Legana 2009. We will be asked to judge many questions on behalf of the churches. We do that with trepidation as we know ourselves to be weak and sinful men. We also know that we are not here to judge according to our own insights, but according to God's will. Therefore it is good to remind ourselves of how God judges and that we can only judge as God would judge if we allow ourselves to be guided by His Spirit and not by party spirit. With that in mind we will turn to Ps 101 for instruction in how we should serve God at this synod.
The psalm begins with David raising a song about lovingkindness and justice. This psalm is not a celebration of the virtue of these things, but a song in which King David maintains that he will do everything he needs to to maintain them among God's nation. In fact in the last analysis his life is to become that song to the Lord of lovingkindness and justice.
This song is raised to the Lord. for the Lord is the God of lovingkindness and justice Ps 33:3-4 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. 33:5 He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD. He has revealed that these qualities are His in concrete actions in history. He has showed these qualities to Israel ever since He brought them out of Egypt. It is clear then that to show lovingkindness and to do justice one needs to know the Lord and those who do may boast in this only as long as they do. Jer 9:23-4 Thus says the LORD: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the LORD; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the LORD.
Lovingkindness translates the Hebrew word ' hesed'. Hesed is an aspect of the love of God in which He shows lovingkindness, mercy and compassion to those in need. It includes a loyalty factor and so points to a proper and righteous attitude to one's fellow man in which we love him.
Justice is the Hebrew word ' mishpat' , which indicates the whole process of government, authority, rights and litigation. It is a description of what the person called judge of Israel must do to maintain a fair and just society. It's purpose is to promote righteousness and to discourage injustice.
The two terms are used together here, for together they summarise how God's people ought to be governed, how God governs His people, and so how His officers should do so also, for God wants righteousness to prevail among His people. A ruler is meant to exercise his authority in the name of the Lord. He is to govern and to maintain the right of all under God's rule and he should do with with mercy and compassion. It was one of the Lord's bitter criticisms of His people that they did not do so. Mt 23:23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others.
We also must in the coming days raise a song of lovingkindness and justice to our God based on the knowledge of Him. Those who know Him and love His self revelation will do so. Those who do not will be judged without mercy as James says: 2:12-13 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgement will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
David was king and had to do all these things. However, he knew himself to be a sinful man and weak man and that therefore he would find this difficult. Therefore one of the first things that he did was to pray that the Lord would come to him. He knew himself dependent on God to show lovingkindness and justice. He prayed that the Lord would be with him in that desire.
You will notice that this petition is embedded in the declaration that David was going to keep himself far from evil by leading a blameless life, by walking in his house with blameless heart, by setting no vile thing (probably idols) before his eyes. He knew that his petition would only be answered in the way of perfection. God hears those who love Him and who obey Him. That is why David wrapped the petition for God to come to Him in this declaration. He would do everything to realise his petition.
That is also what we must do, set ourselves to walk in the way of perfection with a perfect heart if we wish to be heard by our Lord that He come to us with His Spirit to guide us in such a way that we show lovingkindness and justice as we judge.
There is another thing David was going to do. People are often influenced by the people around them. David as king had to be especially careful to allow evil people to surround him and so influence his decisions as king of God's people. A king surrounded by evil men will begin to forget to show lovingkindness and justice. He will begin to pervert it. Then the wicked will reign and so the people will be destroyed and perverted. King David was not going to allow people who did not show lovingkindness and were not just and merciful to be near him. He was going to drive them away.
That is also what we must do as we judge on God's behalf - make sure that we do not associate with people who will lead us away from true judgement, whether it is to the right or the left.
A further thing king David was going to do was to remove all the evil doers from his land and the city from God. He was going to destroy the slanderer, the proud, those who practise deceit and the wicked. He was going to do this morning by morning. Morning was the time of judgement, when the elders or the king sat in the gate to judge all matters brought before them. King David was going to remove the wicked from God's city by judging in the gate every morning. Only the faithful and those whose walk was blameless would be allowed to remain in that city, for it was the city of the Lord who shows and loves lovingkindness and justice.
King David was a sinful and weak and fragile man. He often fell far short of the perfection required of Him. However, there is one who never did, and that is our King, the Lord Jesus Christ. He led a blameless life. He walked with perfect heart in His house. He never his desire on any vile thing. He did pray for God's guidance and God did come to Him in full measure.
He too does not allow any wicked to be close to Him, except Judas so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. He drove the wicked away from Him, even Peter when he opposed Jesus by trying to prevent Jesus from walking the path of obedience that led to the cross, saying get behind me Satan. He judges the wicked day by day in a way far better than David, for He knows the hearts, for ultimately He is God, the God who declared His name to Israel saying that He is the "The LORD , the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation."
Let us then begin and complete our work in this same Spirit that David and our Lord Jesus Christ did. Let us judge with lovingkindness and justice in obedience to our Lord.
Hesed is the first word, and it means something like steadfast love and kindness. It has often been tied to the covenant, but it can also be applied to those who are not in covenant.
It means to show mercy and compassion to those in need, faithfulness to one's neighbour and even to the stranger.
It is what we will place under love your neighbour as yourself, however, it is an expected attitude to your neighbour and it should be performed.
Justice is the second element that David mentions. Now the king was the highest judge in the land. His judgement had to be just, but also balanced with mercy. Justice without mercy is no justice, but judgement that did not deal properly with sin was no justice either. Therefore justice is always a balancing act. The symbol of justice, the scales, is a very fine one.
David the king is going to sing of hesed and justice.
Why will He sing of these? Because God is the God who is perfect in hesed and justice. He is the One who is always ready for those in need. He is always faithful. He is always just in the discovery of guilt, the balancing act of proper punishment, proper restitution and the proper showing of mercy is always perfect. Therefore David, the king, who has to show these same qualities sings to Yahweh, which means that he sings of Yahweh, the one from whom he learns, the one whom he strives to imitate when he rules in Yahweh's name. He and the Lord have to act in unison.
David says He will reflect (or behave wisely) on the way of perfection. The word translated by reflect is difficult to translate as it has a broad range of meaning.
" ´'kal relates to an intelligent knowledge of the reason. There is the process of thinking through a complex arrangement of thoughts resulting in a wise dealing and use of good practical common sense. Another end result is the emphasis upon being successful.
´'kal also involves one in what he considers, or pays attention to. God provides for the afflicted and needy that they ponder who is their benefactor (Isa 41:20). The righteous one is said to take note of the house of the wicked; this acting wisely is directed toward a thing, the evil abode (Prov 21:12, a difficult passage, taken as "the righteous one"). The leaders of Israel's household gathered together before Ezra in order to give attention to the words of the Law (Neh 8:13).
Still another usage of the verb is to have insight or comprehension. The man who would boast of anything should boast that he has insight into, and knows the Lord (Jer 9:23).
Whatever, this is not a philosophical reflection as if he will consider it in the abstract. He needs to know how to walk that way and he sets out certain criteria in this psalm for walking on that path, for only on that path will the Lord come to him.
He does not trust in himself to understand (Prv 3:3-8). He knows that He needs the Lord's guidance. He was privy to special assistance from God, and so this coming to Him could be with advice, instruction etc. by way of prophet or Urim and Thummim by the priest, or by vision or dream. Therefore He asks when the Lord will come to Him. He needs guidance. He has God's word, but he needs to govern God's house as God would, and the unaided human can't.
He knows for the Lord to hear this prayer he has to show that he knows and loves the Lord. If he loves Him he will automatically live in a God pleasing way. He says he will walk in the integrity of his heart in the midst of his house. Walking is the hitpael and means to walk to and fro, or to live. The integrity of his heart means that he will walk in the Lord's ways with his heart united and focused on serving God, for he is the Lord's servant bound to serve Him faithfully.
He will do that in the midst of his house, which means as he rules his house in his personal and private life, but ultimately also as he rules God's house, and is a son in it, over which he has been placed, in the nation.
This is preparatory for the coming of His Lord to him. God responds to the requests of those who fear Him. He will continue in the way of obedience and love so that he can hope and expect God's assistance.
The first thing he will do to not cause him to err is to not put before his eyes anything that is false and worthless.
Before his eyes means to set his desire upon, what he sets out to get.
That could of course include anything, but idols would be high on the list of things.
Thing can also be translated as word, so we may think of bribes and false witness to turn justice from its true course as well.
In short anything that is unfaithful to God or neighbour.
Worthless things are things marked by wickedness and rebellion against God.
These are the deeds of those who deviate from God, whose deeds David hates.
Deviants here are those who have turned away from the good path marked out by God.
These deeds will not cleave to David.
The idea of cleaving implies sticking to. He will brush them off, push them away, reject them.
A perverse heart will turn away from me. This paints the reaction of a perverse heart.
Either the heart is viewed as within him, but being driven off, or viewed outside of him and so avoids him as it knows it will get short shift.
Evil I will not know implies that since he will not have any contact with evil he will not have an intimate acquaintance with evil either. To know evil means to practise it, to live in close communion with it in his heart. That is the opposite of 101:2
His determination is to maintain the right attitude before God and one way of doing that is to avoid those who might cause him to do evil and even driving them off, by threat so that they fear and loathe him.
David will also take judicial action against the wicked.
The wickedness spoken of here is, however, not extreme, but insidious and it makes society very difficult. If such people are associated with the king and his rule then the king will also be tainted with the same brush. He will not rule so, nor dispense justice on its basis.
This action begins with destroying him who slanders his neighbour in secret. This will require either a court case, or divine knowledge. Obviously David is speaking of more than himself here. We may think also of the true Son of God, appointed over God's house to govern it. He knows when someone slanders his neighbour and He governs in the church.
This action will also be applied to the haughty of eyes and the wide of heart. The King will not be able to endure him, which means he will be expelled from his sight.
Now David thinks of the faithful ones of the land in contradistinction to the wicked whom he will destroy or drive away.
His eyes will be upon them which means he looks on them with favour. They will dwell with him, in his land. They will not be exiled or hated by him, but loved and favoured.
The one who walks in the way of integrity will serve Him. Serve means as servant of the king. This was and is an enviable position to have.
Again David turns to speak of those who act wickedly, firstly of those who deal deceitfully. Again he speaks of dwelling, this time not in the land, but in the midst of his house.
He also speaks of those who speak deceptively. They will not be established before my eyes, which means they will not remain there, but will be driven out.
Again David turns to what he will do with the wicked - every morning, the time of judgement, he will destroy all the wicked of the land/earth.
His intention is to cut off all the wicked from the city.
The city is of course Jerusalem, which is the city chosen by Yahweh, the city of David, to cause His name to dwell there.
By virtue of the fact that God and His appointed king dwell there that city should be free of the wicked.
The king makes that His aim.
last updated 22 Jun 2009