Social Justice or Kingdom Righteousness? Part 1


What is Social Justice?

My failure to understand social justice begins when I do the logical thing of putting together the two words “social” and “justice” to mean “justice in society.” But when I listen to discussions on social justice I know something is amiss.  Social justice is not about justice in a society. It is a term for a certain view of society. So what does it mean?

Different people understand social justice differently. Yet we can identify certain fundamental concepts in social justice without too much debate.

The first pillar in social justice is the equality of outcome.  Communism stands for the equality of input, and expects the equality of outcome. This has failed miserably for reasons history has already documented. Social justice is more sophisticated in that when the goal is the equality of outcome, it advocates unequal input to arrive at equal outcome.  Thus, social justice is better positioned to reach the goal of equal outcome by advocating unequal input.

Nowhere is this more apparent than “Affirmative Action” in university admissions. A school may decide it has too many successful students of a particular race, and decides that the underrepresented race deserves a leg-up by lowering the admission criteria for the underrepresented race, and conversely, raise the admission criteria for the overrepresented race. By this means, a university is able to admit the exact racial percentages they choose.  Of course, this can be done for graduation too. If not enough students of a certain race is getting a passing grade, they can just lower the passing grade for the underperforming race. That way, the school will get the graduation percentage they want from the races.

The University of Malaysia openly uses race in its admission criteria, ostensibly to give more opportunities to one race. Some other schools do it surreptitiously. A case in point is Harvard University. Experience tells us Harvard sets a much higher bar of admittance for Asians (and there is an ongoing lawsuit to hold them accountable). The same goes with medical schools because they think Asian doctors are overrepresented. Cambridge University does the same thing. A Singapore student with top grades will be rejected in favor of a student from a third world country. If you are in the academic loop, these stories are all too familiar to you.

I will be remiss to omit mention that not all admission restrictions are motivated by social justice. For example, a country has the social responsibility to provide qualified health care professionals, and decide that 95% of the vacancies should go to locals who fill the health care needs of the society.  The action is not motivated by some perceived injustice among people groups, instead it is there to fill a real social need.

Another expression of equality of outcome can be found in the expression “equal work for equal pay.” I have two real life cases that help clarify my thinking.

Many years back, I applied for an employment visa at the US Embassy, and was surprised by the experience of a blind interviewer. It became clear to me that this blind man was extremely competent. It seems to me that this is a strong case to support “equal work for equal pay.”

In another instance, I knew of a handicapped law student, confidently asserting that she did not want charity and she was the equal to any other student. At the same time, friends had to carry her books for her, help her take lecture notes, and even accompany her to the toilet because she had a high risk of falls. When she graduates, she will want equal pay for equal work. She can never do equal work, so should she expect equal pay?

The current peeve of media journalists is the lament over “income inequality” referring to the gap between the rich and the poor of a country (e.g. the Gini index). Hong Kong and Singapore are considered some of the “worst” countries in terms of income gap/inequality. Social justice assumes injustice is involved when the income gap is wide, and justice is found where the gap is narrow. But it does not take a genius to figure out that it is better to be poor in Singapore which has a big income gap than to be poor in Bangladesh which has a narrow income gap. Actual prosperity is clearly more important than the income gap. This obsession with income gap is puzzling to me. Why does concern for income gap take over the concern for quality of life? It takes a better mind than mine to work this out.

The second pillar in social justice is the desire for diversity. This includes concepts related to multiculturalism, and inclusivity.  The argument is that diversity enriches a community or a nation, individuals have a right to maintain their cultural uniqueness, and society needs to create inclusive spaces for the flourishing of diversity, usually without regard to what that diversity may mean.

We can easily see the need for both diversity or homogeneity. Singapore embraced multiculturalism through our official languages, through deliberate governmental efforts in cross-cultural interactions, etc. At the same time, without the homogeneity of a common language of business through which we can communicate with the rest of the world (i.e. English), we will not be able to flourish.  Diversity in social justice is different.  It is commonly used to address the issue of white privilege in America.

White privilege is real. Rich, well-placed white parents open doors for their mediocre children who assume good jobs while higher performing non-whites end up with lower level jobs.  As a tool to rebalance white privilege, social justice advocates diversity as a test. While the goal of moving away from cronyism is good, using diversity as a measure or test of real social justice is foolish. The issue is not race but cronyism. Singapore and China have a tier of social-political elites. The children from this tier compete fiercely for good positions in the best government linked organizations, and for the most part, we can expect them to be at least fairly competent when they secure these positions. The cronyism is not race based, and no measure of diversity will reveal or address the systemic injustice in non-race based cronyism.

While Singapore ranks high in not having corruption as a society, Singapore ranks poorly for cronyism (The Economist, May 7, 2016). Social justice does right in arguing there is a privileged class with access to positions others do not have. But social justice does not do well by incorrectly making racial diversity the measure of justice in society.

I believe social justice uses diversity because their goal is equal outcome. If they advocate true meritocracy rather than diversity, the advocates in America fear what the result will look like. The racial representation they wish to see under the rubric of social justice will not materialize. Even though meritocracy is the obvious instrument of justice in society, it is ignored and race-based diversity is promoted in its place.

The third pillar of social justice is the creation of supportive environments to achieve equal outcome. For instance, ramps are required by law, so those using wheelchairs can access public buildings, restaurants, shops, etc.  The spaces closest to the entrance are reserved for the handicap so they gain easier access. More significant than these conveniences would be supportive environments for people to flourish. The poor may not be able to afford housing, buy food, pay for health care, or utilities, so these are provided for, or heavily subsidized, so they may have an environment that allows them to compete with others in the society. America has done this for decades, but only a small number used these environments to get out of their cycle of poverty. Many have observed that help is not helping the poor move out of poverty.

It is clear the Word of God calls the disciples of Jesus to open our heart and our purse to the poor and the needy. The difference between what Christians do and what social justice does is the execution. Social justice argues the government has the right to tax the rich and give to the poor. The biblical model is for voluntary generosity. There may indeed be a place for both.  We shall presently discuss this. 

 [To continue …]

Pastor Peter Eng


A Certain Way to Return to Joy – Psalm 128

Peter Eng




A Song of Ascents, of Solomon.

Psalm 128

1 How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,
Who walks in His ways
2 When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands,
You will be happy and it will be well with you.
3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
Within your house,
Your children like olive plants
Around your table
4 Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed
Who fears the LORD.
5 The LORD bless you from Zion
And may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
6 Indeed, may you see your children’s children.
Peace be upon Israel!

We are reading the Songs of Ascents, songs sung by Jews returning to the land of Israel from their exile in Babylon, or pilgrims visiting the holy city on a special occasion. So what have they to do with us?

They are more relevant for us than for them!

Zion is more than a place. Jesus told the woman at the well “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain [Mt Gerizim] or in Jerusalem.  … But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. (John 4:21,23, NLT).

There is a New Jerusalem; it is the Kingdom of God. In the consummation, we will see the New Jerusalem come from heaven to earth figuratively (Revelation 21:2). It will be the fulfillment of our prayers when we say “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

The blessings expressed here for OT saints are ours in fuller measure because we are called to return from a more deadly exile to a more glorious city. From the kingdom of death to the new heaven and the new earth.

Therefore, Jesus reminds us to “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). In this psalm we have a description of the life of one who lives in acute consciousness of God. In the OT the term “fear of the Lord” is used. We find this call to “fear” God alien and say it is “reverence.” But when we do that, we water things down. We water down how we ought to live before God (in fear) and then expect a full measure of blessing from him.

The fear of the Lord is the consciousness, awareness, accountability to God who is able to take away our life in a moment if he so chooses. We are totally dependent on him for life, health, and every single joy in life.


There is a certain way to live so that we appropriate the fullness of what the Jews experience only in part. They return from national exile; we return from the kingdom of sin and death to everlasting life. The Lord blesses them out of Zion, that is, through the good administration in Zion. The blessings of God will flow to us through the growing realization of the Kingdom of God on earth, and most fully when he brings in the new heaven and the new earth! Kingdom blessings are here now, and will be hereafter.

This psalm looks at God’s blessing from a husband’s perspective, and from a family with grown children. He will have a fruitful wife. She will bless the home with children and with many other good things. The children will be like olive trees around the table, meaning that they will help supply the need of the home. They will grow up strong, independent, and bless the home when they are grown up. And the mature couple are at that point in life when they are about to become grandparents and see their children’s children.

This bucolic picture of prosperity and happiness can be easily adjusted to an urban lifestyle. The point is that there is a certain way of life that brings in God’s blessings. It is the life that is lived in a healthy “fear of the Lord,” and when we “walk in his ways.”

Many of us are so blind to our own faults that we do not even know when you are not walking in the way of the Lord, and then wonder why we are deprived of blessings others seem to have.

Many of us are also blind to the blessings that God has already bestowed on us, and we do not realize that even hardships are blessings from him. Hardships as blessings are hard to understand, but they come from the same loving hands that give us the blessings we do understand.

There are years of plenty and years of leanness. The patriarchs of old were not spared from drought or famine regardless of their spiritual condition. But even in lean times, there is a blessing for God’s people that others cannot have.

In times of plenty, when we leave the kingdom of death, we can expect blessings of plenty from the Lord, under ordinary circumstances. Many of us are not counted worthy to suffer for Christ, and if we should be called to this great blessing, it purifies us and prepares us for the eternal kingdom as nothing else can.

We do not seek the blessing of persecution, but let us then seek that blessing of peace and plenty from our sovereign Lord. We do so in the fear of the Lord, knowing that we don’t even deserve what we have. We seek the blessings in humility and not as spoilt children. We seek the blessing always checking on the condition of our heart.

FREE subscription – click button below.


SEND the subscription email that’ll be auto-generated in your own email program when you click this SUBSCRIBE button.

A Victim of Failure Returns to Joy – Psalm 127

Peter Eng




A Song of Ascents, of Solomon.

Psalm 127

1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman keeps awake in vain.
2 It is vain for you to rise up early,
To retire late,
To eat the bread of painful labors;
For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.

3 Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
5 How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They will not be ashamed
When they speak with their enemies in the gate.

Unbearable Intensity. There are times when the truth of God comes upon me with such unbearable intensity that I become spiritually and mentally floored. I feel exhausted by the enormity of truth and there is no way I can speak about it, much less share it meaningfully. I was writing the series “Return to Joy” and became floored by Psalm 127. This is because I had experienced crushing failure and this psalm calls me to a joy that seems so far from personal reality and yet it strikes home with such intensity. Until I internalize it, until the Word of God has done its work in me, I cannot talk about it.

The Holy Spirit of God calls to my mind this psalm as we enter this New Year, and this article is first a lesson I need to articulate for myself, and then a lesson that may also bless your heart.

King Solomon built the first temple to the LORD, built a fledging nation, built his own palace, etc. This great builder of buildings is not talking about stone, brick or mortar. We know his emphasis when we see his exhortation to us about children in the second half of the psalm. There is truth here relevant to physical buildings and the defense of a city, but the normal person is to understand this psalm as the building of a household. This includes a physical home, but goes far beyond that. The home is for the development of the people, the children, in the home.

This psalm is placed in the collection called “Songs of Ascents,” songs used by Israelites when they journey to the temple in Jerusalem as returnees from the exile or as pilgrims. It is a song that celebrates God’s blessing after the experience of crippling failure.

The Israelites lost the war against the Babylonians. They were captured and sent into exile, and had only the clothes on their back. Some have enjoyed a measure of success after seventy years in exile, but they were all acutely aware of devastating loss experienced by their parents.

“We need to build our household in such a manner that God will bless.” That is the lesson that personal and national judgment from God has taught them. Some may have been obedient to God, but there is a national judgment and no one is spared the pain of that devastation. “Therefore, as a family and as a nation, we must now build with God’s blessings in view,” would be the singular resolve of a humbled people.

We can experience loss as the result of personal foolishness, or through the wrongs done by other people. Even when we did not do wrong, it is hard not to escape the feeling that God has not been good to us. We can see what we lose, but cannot see what we retain. We can see what we want, but cannot see what we have. And when we finally recognize the kindness of God even in the midst of adversity, we are ready to rebuild under a new commitment to live and work in such a way as to actively seek God’s blessings in what we do.

We Lose Our Joy When We

The life and work of a person living outside of God’s blessing is an incredibly busy life with little to show for it. We lose what we make. We rise up early and retire late. The food we eat is the meager wage of painful labor. But the one who is blessed by God is able to work in confidence, and sleep in peace. “For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” The Lord’s beloved is like an investor who continues to enjoy growth as he sleeps. He is like the farmer who does not have to watch his crops grow. He is the mom or dad who does not have to supervise the children’s education or the company they keep.

The truth of this psalm comes to us more powerfully in our modernity than at other times. We are so connected that there is no rest from work. We are reachable 24/7. We are reachable even when we are on vacation, when we are resting, or spending time with family. The curse of toilsome labor in place of fruitful labor comes with the fall of man, and with each passing year, we pierce ourselves with more rest-depriving technology.

Let 2014 be different. Let us discover the blessing of the Lord, even the blessing of rest.

But the courage to rest can be difficult. Solomon tells us that our hearts must be tuned right before we can rest. We must internalize the reality that “Unless the Lord builds the house, / They labor in vain who build it.” I know I tend to make “me” the first reference point in my labors, but I need to change that. The blessing of Yahweh has to be the first reference point. All my labor can be reduced to busy work unless the Lord builds my household. When we do God’s will, and do it God’s way, “He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.”

I often hear investment trainers boast of how they make money work for them, or how others work for them. They do nothing and the money keeps coming in. God had already revealed this to Solomon 3,000 years ago. And the key to this is who builds the house. If God builds our household, which is focused more on the family than the assets used to run the family, the work continues even when we sleep. I find it amazing that God is saying, “I love, you, I don’t want you to be anxious, I want you to sleep well, and to this end I will continue to bless you even as you sleep.”

If I do not find 24 hours enough, it is not because God has made a mistake by creating days that are too short. I am not spending my time rightly. This is especially true if you are already very well organized and there is still not enough time in a day. The issue is then not organization but much deeper.

The blessing of the Lord that gives rest does not refer to cushy jobs. Some jobs will be tough! But even tough jobs must give way to rest; especially tough jobs—they must give way to rest.

Some Christians choose to believe that when they tithe, God will give them a good easy life. Other Christians choose to work as though God wants them to burn out and die prematurely. Neither is true. Labor is necessary for our well-being; so is rest.

How we labor and what we labor over are both vital. We cannot really labor and rest rightly until we know the object of our labor. One simple word defines out labor: children.

For people with biological children, the point is self-explanatory. We love our children and more than any other motivation for work, we are motivated by our children’s success in life. As much as this is natural, it is also inadequate.

Take a look at singles, the best example being Jesus himself. He had no biological children, but he labored, rested and unhurriedly did the work of God. And if skeptics will not believe him, just have them look at what he accomplished in 3½ years of work! Has any human, or can any mere mortal work 3½ years and accomplish what he did?

All the armies that have ever marched
All the navies that have ever sailed
All the parliaments that have ever sat
All the kings that ever reigned put together
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that one solitary life.
James Allen

Today, 2.2 billion people, a third of the world’s population call themselves Christians. Jesus is the perfect example of how a person can be without biological children, and yet have more spiritual children than any biological act can produce.

In truth, he calls us to the same path when he says, “Go and make disciples of all peoples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Behold, I am with your always, even to the end of the age.”(Matthew 28:19-10).

The victim of failure returns to joy when he restarts his life with God’s blessings in view. In view of the strong delusion going around Singapore, I need to specify that the life of success in our children (biological and spiritual), and in the ability to rest, is not the materialism that some preachers promise you. They say God will make you rich. That is not God’s reference point to bless you. He will bless you when you focus your life on raising godly children and give you the means to do so, including material means. And as you fulfill his will in your life, he will give you rest.

In New Testament language, raising godly children is called “discipleship.” When “making disciples” becomes the goal in our life, the blessings of fruitful labor and restful sleep described in Psalm 127 become our lot.

Failure is a call to reboot our life to live in the blessing of God, to realign and find success in building a household that is also the household of God.

FREE subscription – click button below.


SEND the subscription email that’ll be auto-generated in your own email program when you click this SUBSCRIBE button.

.True Happiness Among Kingdom People – Part 2/2

Bible References:

  • Acts 4:32-37
  • Acts 11:22-26
  • Acts 15:36-41
PowerPoint: DOWNLOAD


Video Reference:



.True Happiness Among Kingdom People – Part 1/2

Bible References:

  • Revelations 19:7-8
  • James 2:18-19
  • Ephesians 5:15-21
  • Matthew 6:33
  • Matthew 6:1
  • Matthew 35:37-38
  • Romans 4:13-18
  • Matthew 5:12
PowerPoint: DOWNLOAD



.Making Your Happiness Complete

Bible References:

  • 1 Peter 1:3-5
  • 1 Peter 6-9
  • Hebrews 2:10
  • Hebrews 10:34
  • Hebrews 12:1-2
  • Matthew 5:12
PowerPoint: DOWNLOAD


Video References:


Reference in the message taken from video time segment 12.07-14.30




.Be Happy! Stay Happy!

Bible References:


God’s Restoration Returns Me to Joy – Psalm 126

By Peter Eng




A Song of Ascents.

Psalm 126 

When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter
And our tongue with joyful shouting;
Then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us;
We are glad.

4 Restore our captivity, O Lord,
As the streams in the South.
5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.
6 He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed,
Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.


Hallelujah! The dry spell has ended! God has restored the sinner! In this case, it is the nation of the Jewish people who sinned. They brought the calamity on themselves, but the Lord in his great mercy has forgiven them and restored them as a nation. Without Yahweh, they would not be a nation, called out of Egypt. But when they possessed the land, they immediately went their own way. Their rejection of Yahweh as God required God to show them the great evil of their idolatry.

They were not simply Jews, but they were “the captive ones of Zion.” They belong to Zion, but the captivity of their hearts to the idols of prosperity (in the worship of Baal, etc.) caused them to lose everything. God’s blessings were not enough for them, so they have to learn what life is like when separated from the blessing of the land God gave them.

Cast in Christian terms, they were like Christians who refuse to find joy in God’s blessings and become envious of what others have. They then pursued money, sex and power like the rest of the world, and chose idols rather than Jesus.

When we do that, we become alienated from God. We are like those who want to belong to the kingdom of God where there is freedom from sin, and sell ourselves to the devil because of the pleasures of this world.

The just course of action for God is to reject us for good. But God in his great mercy and forbearance towards us restores us. What joy!

The immoral woman crept up to Jesus while he was dining at the home of a Pharisee. She poured out perfume at his feet, kissed them and wiped them with her hair. She knew she was not worthy to be a daughter of Zion. But she came humbly to seek forgiveness. And Jesus explained, “her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47).

The psalmist felt like he was in a dream. It’s so good, it was too good to be true. “Then our mouth was filled with laughter / And our tongue with joyful shouting.” They could now return to the Promised Land, the Kingdom where Yahweh rules.

Wall built by the Olim under the leadership of Nehemiah

There was, however, a sobering thought. The Olim (Hebrew term of those who immigrate back to Israel) were ecstatic. But they were fully aware of another reality. There were hard times ahead. They repossessed the land, but it had become barren. We have a powerful image in “the streams of the South.” The South (Negev) is a dry area crossed by wadi (Arabic) or nahal (Hebrew). These are mainly dry river beds except for the occasional rain. The denuded land cannot hold water, and the rain runs off into these river beds. The water becomes a torrent that washes away land and fails to nourish it. When nobody owns the land, herders will graze their livestock on the land and denude the land of vegetation. This turns the entire area into a moonscape, quite unsuitable for agriculture.

The psalmist asks God to restore them from their captivity to the land. And may the scattered (diaspora) return as the torrential rain that fills the riverbeds in the South. However, they were looking to farm the land and use it, not abuse it. The water from the rain would be a destructive force because of the abuse of the land. But God’s people will restore the land, preserve the water, plant crops, and will enjoy rich harvests.

The Olim will sow in tears, but they will reap in joy. This is just a poetic way of saying that they will face very tough beginnings with the abused land. They would have land back, but it had be rejuvenated. The starting will be extremely tough, but they will be rewarded.

Divine approval was seen in the return from exile. They were not to read the challenges of rejuvenating the land and rebuilding the city to be evidence of God’s displeasure. God does not magically remove the challenges of life because we are in his will. We will see him leading us, but we will need to labor on with tears as we address the challenges one at a time. He will give us the wherewithal to see us through. There can be tough times even when we are obedient to God.

The apostle Paul was obedient to Christ. But he suffered rejection by the brethren, the physical hardship of travel, of hunger and cold, of shipwreck and stoning, of beatings and imprisonments. If we judge our spiritual connection with God by how well we live, Paul must be considered a total failure given the hardships in his life.

The psalmist talks of one who went to and fro sowing and doing it in tears. Sowing is not a tearful task – ordinarily. And when the sowing is broadcasted, the going to and fro is much less that at harvest. What we have is a picture of sowing and re-sowing. The farmer sows but the seeds do not take for various reasons. He sows again, perhaps trying a different seed, or a different method to water the plants. He meets with partial success and sows again and again until he gets it right.

God does not suspend the laws of nature because we are obedient to him. He does not keep us from mistakes if our ignorance leads us to them. He does not auto-correct our mistakes. What he does is to give us the strength to overcome the challenges placed before us. And what we need to do is to enjoy walking in obedience to God.

There is another group of people not mentioned here, but they must have been very much in the mind of the psalmist. They were those who chose not to return to the land, but to remain in Babylon and Persia. If we compare the Olim when they had just returned, to those who remained behind, we can guess that the Olim did not fare as well. Perhaps some may even be tempted to question why they who return to the land to fulfill God’s declared will for them were struggling while their brothers who took the easy route were faring a lot better.

It was not wrong to remain in Babylon or Persia. But those who returned were fired with a higher ideal, committed to a closer obedience to God, aligned their hearts to God’s best for them in the kingdom. Yet they were worse off.

Some Christians ask why the Lord blesses the nominal, less committed Christian more than them. One error of such thinking is that they look at blessing only in material terms. There is great joy in obeying God and living out his plan for our life. The one who chooses to live for himself has a form of godliness, but has denied himself the power and joy found in one who is truly surrendered to God. At the same time, if we think this way, it shows we are not surrendered to God, we give the appearance of surrender only because we want God’s material blessing.

The psalmist does not end here. He tells us that those who sow in tears will reap in joy. And that is indeed true. In our day, we see Jews who returned to the land of their forefathers. The initial years were difficult, but they live in safety compared to their comfortable European Jews, who then suffered the wrath of Hitler or the pogroms of the Russians.

Things may look better for those who remain compared to the Olim. But they were thinking only in material terms. If they could foresee the sufferings of their children, they would have returned.

Jesus taught his disciples, “Seek first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be yours as well” (Matthew 6:33 own). While we must not measure God’s reward to us only in material terms, we see that God is not our debtor. What will we give him that he will not repay in great abundance?

FREE subscription – click button below.

SEND the subscription email that’ll be auto-generated in your own email program when you click this SUBSCRIBE button.

The Life that Fell Apart Returns to Joy – Psalm 125

By Peter Eng




Psalm 125, NASB

A Song of Ascents

1 “Those who trust in the Lord
Are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever.
2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
So the Lord surrounds His people
From this time forth and forever.
3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest upon the land of the righteous;
That the righteous may not put forth their hands to do wrong.

4 Do good, O Lord, to those who are good,
And to those who are upright in their hearts.
5 But as for those who turn aside to their crooked ways,
The Lord will lead them away with the doers of iniquity.
Peace be upon Israel.

The Babylonians came. They destroyed the city, killed the warriors, and brought the flower of the land to Babylon. The Jews were no strangers to displacement. Their life fell apart when the Babylonians defeated them. They knew what it was like to lose everything and to restart life from scratch. This psalm describes the return to joy from this devastation.

We have no wish for such loss. But we have encountered lighter shades of that night. There can come a time in our life when God gives liberty to the wicked to pluck us out of our comfort zone. Even though some of our suffering may be due to our own sins or failure, the rod of God’s chastisement have done worse. In addition, some of the righteous in the land were swept up with the chastisement meant for the wayward.

A tidy life can fall apart in a flash. This psalm recalls an earlier desperate time of exile, and affirms those who trust in God are unmovable like Mount Zion. This seems such an ironic assertion in the face of what the Jews faced in their exile. And for many of us, our displacement makes it impossible to think of ourselves as unmovable in Christ.

Our life can be like Jesus’ warning to Peter, 31 Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded [permission] to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22). Peter was going to be crushed and tossed into the air like wheat with chaff. He will not know earth from sky as he tumbles about in the air. He will desperately seek direction and not find it. After being tossed in the air, he will land on the sifting tray, he would think it is over, only to find himself tossed into the air once more—helpless, desperate for this ordeal to stop.

Such things happen to God’s people.

But not without God’s permission!

In the spiritual realm to which we are not privy, Satan could demand in some way, that we are sifted. And when God gives the go-ahead, we experience our displacement. This psalm returns us to joy in the Lord. “Look at Mount Zion,” the psalmist says. “It’s going nowhere is it?” “When you trust in Yahweh, you are not going anywhere. You are staying right here where he is.” And standing on Mount Zion, he looks around and sees even higher mountains around Jerusalem. He uses this image to tell us that the Lord (Yahweh) surrounds his people.

When we are tossed about, displaced by events beyond our control, we must recall a reality larger than our situation. For Simon Peter, it was larger reality that Satan had to ask permission to sift him. For Job, it was the larger reality that all his life, God had placed a hedge around him to keep Satan out (Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side?  Job 1:10.)

A larger reality is working around our turmoil. Even though Satan may sift us and confusion prevails, he does not control our life. His actions remain circumscribed by God’s sovereign control.

When the Jews were exiled to Babylon, those who trusted in the Lord did not move from Mount Zion (figuratively). While the scepter (rule) of the wicked descended on the land, it shall not rest there. It would be a passing moment. As the prophet Jeremiah had told them, it would be for seventy years. This was an entire generation or two, but that rule of the wicked over the land shall pass. We may want it to pass faster, and we may not like God’s timeline. But God is sovereign – and good.

He tells us our wind-tossed life is under his sovereign control. He has not abandoned us even though we may feel that way. The heart that finds confidence in the Lord is unmovable, like Mount Zion. As a song of ascent, the pilgrims to Jerusalem recount with wonder God’s fulfillment of his promise to restore them. Jerusalem has been restored and the temple rebuilt. The scepter of the wicked passed over the land, but did not rest on it.

Even the righteous need the promise of victory to stay true. If we are told, “Do everything right, and in the end, wrong shall triumph, and the wicked shall rule”, what ordinary person can find the fortitude to persevere?

We need to know the triumph of God to find our joy and not lose hope. We need the promise that when the wicked rule, God remains in control and that wicked rule will pass, “So that the righteous will not put forth their hands to do wrong.

When Jesus came with the Good News of the Kingdom, he taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come.” We are to pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth. Our goal in life is not to leave the earth and be transported to heaven. Human destiny is here on earth. We are to ask God to realize his will “on earth as it is in heaven.” God will have the victory. We are not escaping a world where the devil has the victory and we escape to heaven through death. Satan does not have the last laugh. Jesus Christ our Lord defeated death by rising from the dead. And he will COME to earth to reclaim it for himself. He will rule the earth and we will reign with him. In the meantime, we declare and live out the Good News of God’s kingdom here on earth.

Too many Christians live as though there is no hope in life, and their only hope is in death. There is nothing further from the truth. The Good News of the Kingdom is that we will have victory over death in God’s kingdom. Even when we die, we will rise from the dead and defeat death. The way of the ungodly will perish, and the way of the righteous will prevail.

When it comes to hope, again too many of us give up on our world as though God is calling us to heaven to escape earth. He is not. He is calling us to victory here on earth. God’s will on earth will be as in heaven “So that the righteous will not put forth their hands to do wrong.

When we are surrounded by the prosperity of the wicked, we must remember that God wants to bless us with good gifts even in the midst of our turmoil. We come boldly before the throne of grace and ask, “Do good, O Lord, to those who are good / And to those who are upright in their hearts.”

We find strength when we see the goodness of God in the midst of our struggles. God has not called us to stoically bear our pain while he remains silent. There may indeed be such times, but even in these times, we can call on him to “do good” for us, to show us his good hand and bless us with reprieve from our suffering. We come to the throne of grace to seek good from God.

Scripture teaches us, “No trial has overtaken you except what others also experienced. And God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tried beyond what you can bear. When you are tried, he will provide a way out so you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13, own).

The right response in times of suffering is to call on God, “Do good, O Lord, to those who are good / And to those who are upright in their hearts.” But some Jews gave up on God and “turn[ed] aside to their crooked way,” that is, the way of the Babylonians. These were the ones who said, “Since being righteous does not work for me, I will now turn to the dark side.”

These could not see that if they would trust in the Lord, they would remain unmovable. For these, “The Lord will lead them away with the doers of iniquity.” When the time of reckoning comes, these who claim they belong to God, but do not, will be counted with the enemies of God. God’s people and God’s kingdom will have peace. But God’s enemies and the kingdom of this age will be led away to judgment.

The Good News of the Kingdom is good news to God’s people. The Bible makes it clear that God’s kingdom is not a free-for-all. “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:5). God honors the choice of those who choose the kingdom of this age, and when Jesus returns they will not have a part in his kingdom.

In the midst of turmoil, we return to God’s joy as we return to God’s peace. This psalm ends with a blessing, “Peace be upon Israel.” Our confidence in God takes us through pain, uncertainty, and leads us to the path of peace in God. Let peace and joy be yours, my beloved, even all you who are called by the name of Christ, peace and mercy to “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).

(Unless indicated, Scripture quotes are from NASB.)

Notes on Mount Zion

Mount Zion (sometimes spelled Sion), is located within the city of Jerusalem, not a separate mountain as the name may suggest. It lies at the southwest corner of Jerusalem. Below is a map showing Mount Zion (and the area of an archeological dig).

To the south of Zion lies the Hinnom Valley. To the east lies the Tyropoeon Valley which drops to the City of David and then to the Kidron Valley. The Mount of Olives, across from the Kidron Valley, is higher than Jerusalem.


FREE subscription – click button below.

SEND the subscription email that’ll be auto-generated in your own email program when you click this SUBSCRIBE button.

.That Your Joy May be Full (John 15:1-11)

Bible References:

  • John 15:1-11