Have you been following the news story about the citizenship question on the U.S. 2020 census? Why is it so hard to determine the answer when the deadline has passed? Attorneys are even scratching their heads over this. The legal battle in “Sycamore Row” (a fictitious story) by John Grisham sounds more realistic than the news stories circulating now. I appreciate any positive insight I can get into the workings of our legal systems. My sister-in-law is a retired judge who still sometimes sits. Every once in a while, she gives me a peek into circuit courts and the judicial system. She has shared about how some judges she knows want to show mercy to younger people arrested for lesser violations of the law. She told me that they (the judges) are often motivated by their desire to keep younger folks out of jail, knowing that they will be strongly influenced by hardened criminals there. I am encouraged by some judges’ desire to protect our youth. Judicial systems are complicated, but at least there are democracies in which each case is determined on its own, depending on the person and context, weighed against the written code of law. But the laws and courts are only as good as sinful people, and since all humankind is corrupt, our legal and justice systems, along with everything else, is more than imperfect—they are immoral. This may seem ironic, but consider the Ten Commandments ability to demand and curse, and not to save—the same thing happens with any laws we might create. The inadequacies of laws to deliver from sin drive us to Christ, the perfect Judge. He will bring his pure justice to bear on the world one day, and with it, our longed-for worldly peace, true shalom. In the meantime, our sovereign God is gracious to many democratic countries and courts, supplying his people for our earthly courts, whether for grace or discipline, as we pray for the peace Christ will bring.
“In his days may the righteous flourish, and peace abound, till the moon be no more!” (Psalms 72:7) In this psalm, the people of God are offering a prayer to the Lord for their king—either Solomon or another of the Davidic kings, who are in the line of the Messiah. “The ideal for the Davidic king is that he promote the well-being of the whole people of God by embodying true piety and by governing in such a way that justice prevails at all times (usually this means protecting the weaker members from the oppressive schemes of the stronger ones). Under such conditions, godliness should thrive among all the people, and thus they would experience the covenant blessings…where the land looks like a renewed Eden and the Gentiles are drawn to worship the true God.” (1) God raised up David and his heirs, just as he provides judges and lawmakers today to govern with justice for the peace of his people. But we know that the only One who can transform our cultures of controversy and debate into those of abundant peace where believers thrive in Jesus Christ. Instead of the discouragement we now have over theological conflicts, political noise, manipulation for power, and military contests, Jesus Christ will one day give us unending worldly peace allowing Christians to thrive. Imagine having Christmas Day peace every day. Can you imagine infinite months and years of that beautiful serenity? The beautiful truth is that we have this peace now, to a limited extent, as Jesus reigns supreme over creation. “Blessings abound where’er he reigns; the prisoner leaps to lose his chains, the weary find eternal rest, and all the sons of want are blessed.” (2)
Under Solomon’s rule, Israel had her only golden years of prosperity and peace. One day the Body of Christ will enjoy infinite fruitfulness, “…being planted in a good soil, in the house and courts of the Lord, where the word is preached, and ordinances administered; being rooted and grounded in the love of God and grace of Christ; being watered continually with the dews of divine favour; enjoying the bright shining of the sun of righteousness, and the refreshing gales of the divine Spirit, like the south wind upon them, causing their spices to flow out.” (3) Even now the Holy Spirit is at work; “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)
As we daily brush up against and are sometimes overtaken by the disputes and waywardness not only of the world, but of our very own minds, we forget that Christ alone is a righteous Judge who can and will resolve all internal and external conflicts. “He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4) We need laws and courts to decide our issues today just as Israel needed judges and kings to settle disputes in biblical times. But what used to be widely known has become strangely obscure in 2019—the definition of what is good and righteous. Are vampires, witches, zombies, sexual confusion, radio-active monsters, comic robbery, and promiscuity really good? Isn’t that what our world is promoting? The top TV series are “Stranger Things,” “Dark,” “Black Mirror,” “Game of Thrones,” “Euphoria,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Witcher,” “Big Little Lies,” and “Lucifer.” (4) What do they all have in common? They are dark and involve lots of crime, sin, and weirdness. I fear that our youth can no longer identify with righteousness and its peace. I was having a conversation with someone recently whose favorite line of her favorite hymn is “Thou hidden source of calm repose…” However, she remarked that most people under the age of 30 might not even know that “calm repose” means peaceful rest. Christ is going to transform our world so utterly that it will be almost unrecognizable to those who never knew his Spirit of tranquility. The way God will judge the nations and disputes between his people will not be as it is now; perhaps conflicts will be settled before they have even become known to those who hold views contrary to his holiness (although the Bible does not state this). There will be no use for weapons of war, only for plows and pruning tools, for farming and productivity. I like to imagine that God will transform he guns, tanks, aircraft carriers, Humvees, and bombs into wind turbines, solar panels, and large farm machinery.
In the meantime, what are we to do? Does ignoring the news give us peace? Should we get involved, even though we might consider it futile? Do you feel guilty about not being an activist in some aspect of social or political life? Sometimes the Lord calls us to act, and other times prayer is all we can and should do, for more peace, and Christ’s return. But we never give up, since the gospel of peace is the only real hope and the only future for those who desire true peace. Perhaps you, like me, feel convicted to learn more about and pray for God to provide us with the best lawyers, lawmakers, and judges. I have listed some websites describing the work of international courts below the notes if you would like to learn more about them. Christians be encouraged, “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, and many nations shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Micah 4:1-2)
(1) English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Psalm 72, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
(2) Hymn “Jesus Shall Reign,” words by Isaac Watts.
(3) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Psalm 72:7, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-72.html
(5) Hymn “Thou Hidden Source of Calm Repose” by Charles Wesley
Websites for international courts:
July 10, 2019