Last night I read Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. In this long, articulate, heart-breaking letter, Dr. King logically and passionately appeals to his white, fellow-pastors who are urging him against opposition to segregation. This is a very, small part of his defense of nonviolent protests:
“I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation – and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demand.”
Justice is the will of God; this was the argument of Dr. King again and again in his letter as he reasoned with other believers. This sat with me as I read through this section of Psalms. I noticed a theme: Psalms 93-101 all focus on who God is and what He has done.
In Psalm 94 the writer begins by calling God an avenger (v.1); He will judge the proud and wicked (v.2-3). In verses 4-7, we hear of the injustice of “evildoers” who oppress the widow, the foreigner and fatherless. These arrogant people do not believe God sees or cares (v. 7). Verses 8-11 are a warning that God does in fact see and that human plans are futile when they oppose God’s will. They will not last. Continuing in verses 12-18, we read that God’s people will not be forsaken and “judgment will again be founded on righteousness” (v.15). The Lord’s love will prevail and be a fortress for His people, all His people, including the widow, foreigner and fatherless, the lowest in society. The wicked will be repaid for their sins (v.23) because corruption cannot stand with or against God (v.20).
We see throughout these Psalms that despite temporary human actions, God will bring goodness and justice to His people. He made the universe, He rules it and He is just. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reasoned that God’s people have a spiritual responsibility to enter into this work for justice on the Earth, but that whether he had the support he hoped for, he was confident justice would prevail because it is in line with God’s ultimate will.
In many ways God frequently reminds me I have great privileges and my response should be both of gratitude and use of these gifts. I have to ask myself again and again: How can I be a part of furthering justice in the world today? How do I take part in relieving suffering in my community? How will my life line up with the character of God?
As we study, let us worship God in His might and love of justice; let us be led into His higher purposes.
“The Lord reigns, let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! The Lord is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples. Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he! The King in his might loves justice. You have established equity; and righteousness in Jacob. Exalt the Lord our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!” ~Psalm 99: 1-5