Tag Archives: Psalm 122

Human Systems

Human Systems (CaD Ps 122) Wayfarer

There stand the thrones for judgment,
    the thrones of the house of David.

Psalm 122:5 (NIV)

I am happy to say that I have had very little experience with the judicial system along my life journey. Only once have I been sworn in to testify before a judge. I’ll be happy for it to never happen again.

That said, a system of justice has always been a cornerstone of human civilizations. In the ancient Near East, justice typically began and ended with the king who sat on the throne, though there were often larger systems set up in order to disperse the workload so that it didn’t fall solely on the monarch to hear every little dispute.

This is exactly what Moses was dealing with when his father-in-law, Jethro, visited him in Exodus 18. Moses was hearing every dispute from early morning until late at night. Jethro told him to create a judicial system and appoint judges to hear all of the cases, and only the hard cases would work their way up to Moses.

For the ancient Hebrew tribes making pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the seasonal religious festivals, one of the side-benefits to the visit was to bring judicial issues to be decided. It was common for there to be a judgement seat or throne at the gate of the city where these judicial matters were heard and settled.

Today’s chapter, Psalm 122, is another ancient Hebrew pilgrimage song. In the lyrics of this song, the pilgrim is standing at the gates and he sees the thrones of judgment where the pilgrim can find justice. The lyrics then pray a blessing over the city so that the entire nation, including the pilgrims and their families, may live in peace and security.

In the quiet this morning, my heart and mind are meditating on two things that I’ve observed along this life journey, three things I’ve concluded. First, there will never be a perfect system of government or justice if human beings are involved. There is corruption in every human system of government and justice. Based on my experiences and observations, I believe it unreasonable and foolish for me to expect otherwise. This leads to my second observation. The best human systems of government and justice provide checks and balances to help protect the system from corruption and address corruption when it occurs. And, when the system fails to address and correct corruption it is my responsibility to do what I can within my power, citizenship, and rights to address it myself via the voting booth, free speech, and free assembly. Some systemic corruption gets addressed and corrected. Other systemic corruption continues unabated and is even accepted and praised by those who benefit from it. When I see that, I refer myself back to my first observation.

Interestingly, Jesus’ teaching had very little to say with regard to human systems of government and justice. His mission was not to change the kingdoms of this world but to instill the Kingdom of God into the hearts of individuals, into my heart, that I might bring that Kingdom into the human systems in which I interact every day. Jesus addressed individuals with the expectation that I should conduct myself in such a way as to deal honestly, honorably, and justly in my own interpersonal relationships and dealings. To serve others, and consider others more important than myself.

I’m not perfect, but I’m endeavoring to, once again, get better at it today.

Spiritually Acute

I answered the songwriters call to pray for the peace of Jerusalem at the Western wall.
I answered the songwriters call to pray for the peace of Jerusalem at the Western wall.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
    “May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
    and security within your citadels.”
Psalm 122:6-7 (NIV)

The further I progress in this life journey the more I am aware of spiritual conflict that constantly boils below the surface of our physical reality. Jerusalem is a spiritual epicenter. The lyrics of the ancient songwriter of today’s chapter were prescient as they plead for the hearer to pray for peace in the city. As I walked the compacted streets of the old city some 25 centuries later, I could feel the spiritual tension that still exists there.

“I don’t like Jerusalem,” my guide from Nazareth said one day as we stood waiting for a friend in our party.

“Really?” I asked with curiosity. For not liking the city, he obviously spent a lot of time there.

“It is a spiritually dark place,” he responded quietly.

Even Jesus lamented it: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

This morning I am thinking about spiritual realities, largely invisible to physical senses, which nonetheless exist and frame our lives. I find it fascinating that the older I get I feel my physical senses waning (“I’m sorry. I didn’t catch that. What did you say?”), but I find my spiritual senses growing more acute.

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