When I practised as a barrister most of the judges I appeared before were extremely good. However, I remember one occasion when I appeared before a judge who was not good. It was a terrible experience.
I was representing the defendant in a criminal case. It was only the second case I had ever done in front of a jury. I was young and inexperienced. Nevertheless, it seemed to me that there was something very wrong with the way in which the judge was conducting the case. She kept interrupting me whenever I was speaking. She intervened over and over again with her own questions. I ended up having what the court usher described as a ‘stand up row with the judge’.
The judge’s summing up was more like a second prosecution speech; my client was duly convicted and sent to prison. We appealed, on the basis that the defendant was entitled to a fair trial and he had not been given one.
When I appeared before three very senior judges in the Court of Appeal, I was extremely nervous that they might not approve of my part in the ‘stand up row with the judge’! To my relief they were as appalled as I had been by her conduct of the trial. They overturned the original decision and my confidence in the British legal system was restored.
Good judges are scarce. In many parts of the world, judges are subject to bribery and corruption. There is no rule of law. The result is terrible injustice. The poor, in particular, tend to be the victims.
Judge of the earthPsalm 94:1-11
The Lord God is ‘Judge of the earth’ (v.2). At the moment, we do not always see justice. We see wickedness (v.3), arrogance and boasting (v.4). We see people being crushed and oppressed (v.5). In particular, we see the poor – the widow, outsider and fatherless (v.6) – suffering.
The psalmist cries out for justice. God is a God of justice. He ‘avenges’ (v.1). This is not vindictive but the appropriate and just response to evil and wickedness. He will ‘pay back to the proud what they deserve’ (v.2b). The wicked will not get away with it any longer. The poor will no longer be oppressed.
God’s judgment is an aspect of his love. He loves the marginalised. Therefore, he acts on their behalf to judge their oppressors.
Injustice is the cause of so much suffering in the world. In order to protect the innocent, it is an act of love to bring to justice those who, for example, traffic people for sex.
Sometimes we might be tempted to think that ‘God does not notice’ or ‘God does not mind’. However, the reality is that God, ‘who implanted the ear’, hears and, ‘who formed the eye’, sees (v.9). This means that God’s judgment will be loving and perfect. God has total knowledge for ‘the Lord knows all human thoughts’ (v.11a), and so he is able to, and will, administer perfect justice.
Lord, thank you that one day we will see perfect justice executed by a perfect Judge. In the meantime, Lord, help us to seek justice on this earth, especially for the marginalised.
Judges in the church1 Corinthians 6:1-20
The general rule in the New Testament is that Christians should never take each other to court.
The apostle Paul was shocked that the believers in Corinth were taking one another to court (v.1a). He writes, ‘How dare you take each other to court!’ (v.1a, MSG). This is a terrible witness for the church. Believers were fighting each other in front of the ‘ungodly’ (v.1): ‘Does it make any sense to go before a court that knows nothing of God’s ways instead of a family of Christians?’ (v.1b, MSG).
It is better to be wronged or cheated than to get involved in lawsuits (vv.7–8). However, Paul appeals to them that if they do get involved in disputes, they should settle the matter between themselves (vv.4–6).
If it really is necessary to settle a dispute, then they should appoint judges from the church. Paul points out that one day the ‘saints will judge the world’ (v.2): ‘The day is coming when the world is going to stand before a jury made up of followers of Jesus’ (v.2, MSG). This judgment, Paul suggests, will include the judgment of fallen angels (v.3).
Paul’s argument is that if one day we are to be involved in this great day of judgment, surely we are capable of judging relatively trivial cases now (vv.2–3). Do anything to avoid ‘going to law’ against each other in front of ‘unbelievers’ (v.6).
There will be a final judgment: ‘The wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God’ (v.9). Paul lists various types of sinners: ‘Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom’ (vv.9–10, MSG).
A number of those to whom Paul was writing would have been involved in these kinds of lifestyles in the recent past and would have been on Paul’s list. But he writes, ‘Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit’ (v.11, MSG).
All of us deserve to be condemned at the final judgment. We have no cause for self-righteousness or boasting. Through the death of Jesus for you, you were washed, sanctified and justified. To be justified means to be acquitted before the great court of God. The judgment is brought forward and you receive this verdict now.
You can have great confidence about the future. Death is not the end: ‘By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also’ (v.14). Not only can you be sure that one day you will be raised to eternal life, but through Jesus you can also be assured that you can appear with confidence before the judge of all the earth ‘sanctified’ and ‘justified’ (v.11).
This does not mean that you can go off and do anything you like. Rather, the reverse. Your body is now a temple of the Holy Spirit (v.19). You were ‘bought at a price’ (v.20). Therefore, ‘flee from sexual immorality’ (v.18). ‘We must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy leaving us more lonely than ever’ (v.16, MSG). ‘Your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit’ (v.19, MSG).
Do ‘not be mastered by anything’ (v.12). Your body belongs to God. Use it to honour him (v.20).
Lord, thank you that through the blood of Jesus, I am washed and cleansed. Thank you that I have already been acquitted. Help me to live as someone who has been set free and to honour you in everything I do.
Judgment of Solomon2 Chronicles 1:1-17
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by something you are supposed to be doing? I certainly do. Solomon was faced with a ‘staggering task’ (v.9, MSG).
Solomon’s kingdom was firmly established (v.1). He spoke to all Israel including the ‘judges’ (v.2).
He himself was also to act as a judge. In fact, throughout history Solomon has been known for his good judgment. The people held him ‘in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice’ (1 Kings 3:28).
Where did this wisdom come from? It was an answer to his prayer. God said to him, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give to you’ (2 Chronicles 1:7). He prayed as I often do, ‘Give me wisdom and knowledge as I come and go among this people – for who on his own is capable of leading these, your glorious people?’ (v.10, MSG).
‘God answered Solomon, “This is what has come out of your heart: You didn’t grasp for money, wealth, fame, and the doom of your enemies; you didn’t even ask for a long life. You asked for wisdom and knowledge so you could govern well my people over whom I’ve made you king. Because of this, you get what you asked for – wisdom and knowledge. And I’m presenting you the rest as a bonus – money, wealth, and fame beyond anything the kings before or after you had or will have”’ (vv.11–12, MSG).
As Jesus said, ‘Seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’ (Matthew 6:33). And as the apostle James said, ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you’ (James 1:5).
Lord, I pray for good judgment, wisdom and knowledge for myself and for all those who are required to lead and govern. I pray also that you would raise up good judges and that there would be a transformation in the justice systems around the world.
2 Chronicles 1:10
‘Give me wisdom and knowledge…’
I am constantly in need of wisdom. There are so many decisions to make just in one day – what to do in a situation, what to say to somebody, whether to go to a certain event or not… Please, Lord, give me wisdom today.
Verse of the Day
‘Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?’ (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.