Judgment, Justification, and a Witness against Us
“Listen to me, my people, and I will speak — Israel, and I will witness against you; I am God, your God.”
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 8:33: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” Indeed! Who can do so? Only God himself! And this is exactly what we find God doing here. His people have been disobedient in their actions and with their words and God is bringing them to task within this psalm. In particular, the verses that follow will chastise the people for bringing offerings out of habit and routine rather than out of a desire to offer thanksgiving. Secondly, God will chastise them for using the words of liturgy without submitting to their authority. These things God hates.
How often churches fall into habits and patterns of going through the motions and doing things just because that is the way people always remember doing them (of course, memories are always fallible). How often spiritual disciplines become routine and are not done from a spirit of thanksgiving to our God. How regularly God’s people do not know (or really care to know) the God they profess to worship. How often the people of God read the Scriptures but never apply those scriptures to themselves or seek understanding therein. Woe to the church today, for the condemnation that God brings in this psalm is as applicable to the church today as it was to ancient Israel in the days of David.
And thus God comes in judgment…and he has the right to stand in judgment over his people. Why? Because He is God and he has elected his people for himself. One might ask, if the people were not part of the covenant, would they not be under God’s judgment? The answer is no, for God is the creator of all that is and the standard of all that is good, thus He is the judge of all creation. Further, we don’t get a say in the matter. God has chosen us; we did not choose him. It doesn’t matter what we think we might want, God elected a people for himself from before the foundations of the earth and he will effectively bring his people to himself through his Son, Jesus Christ. And he will do so if he has to bring us to faith kicking and screaming. He is God; He has the right to do so. Praise the Lord that in the process, he changes our hearts so that we can see the wonder and beauty of his Son. Yet, when we rebel against the Covenant that God has graciously brought us into, he stands over us in judgment, which is a frightful thing.
And so, where are we left? As believers we are left with the rest of Romans 8:33. Yes, none but God can bring charges against God’s elect, but Paul also tells us why this is the case. “It is God who justifies.” Because of the completed work of Christ, God declares us to be righteous as to the Law, not because we have done it, but because Jesus has done it on our behalf, redeeming us from our condemnation. Does that mean we can live however we like? No, most certainly not! What it means is that we have been delivered from the morass of sin by the sacrificial and substitutionary work of Jesus and praise be to God, we are called to live like it.