You are justified9.  You are justified

“. . . so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.”   Psalm 51:4c

Around the country, people are reconsidering sentencing guidelines that have for the past few decades resulted in people being imprisoned for extended sentences for relatively minor drug offenses.   Politicians on both sides of the aisle (for a variety of reasons) are questioning whether these sentences are justified.

Have you ever been in a situation where you were given a sentence that you felt was unjustified?   Ever receive a grade in school or a performance evaluation on the job that you thought was unfair?  Ever contest a traffic ticket or tax assessment on your home?

One of the most famous figures in scripture who challenged his sentencing was Job.  As we remember, God allows Satan to test Job to see if after suffering  an escalating series of tragedies Job will curse God.    At first Job is resolute in his faith.  But as his losses and afflictions mount, Job questions God.  Scholars liken Job’s questioning of God to a courtroom drama in which Job puts God on trial and proceeds to cross-examine the Almighty.    After Job concludes, the Lord responds.

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind:  “Gird up your loins like a man; I will question you, and you declare to me.   Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be justified?   (Job 40:6-8)

Faced with God’s overwhelming response (which spans two chapters), Job, hat in hand, replies,  I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. (Job 42:3 NRS)

The writer of psalm 51 doesn’t challenge his sentence — whatever that may be.   As the opening verses of the psalm have made abundantly clear, the writer is fully mindful of their sin.   Part of our Lenten walk is acknowledging the sin in our life and in our world.   We too recognize that God would be justified in sentencing us.   As it happens, God has not answered us out of the whirlwind;  God answers us through the cross.

Prayer

Almighty God,

We may have an urge to defend ourselves, to say that we’re living a pretty good life, that we’re seeking to follow you faithfully.   And like Job we might question you from time to time.  Help us to trust in your divine justice, remembering that you are our all-loving and all-merciful judge.  And that while we are guilty, you took the one who was blameless to bear all our sins.

Amen

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