vindication from God our Savior

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.

They will receive blessing from the Lord
and vindication from God their Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Jacob.

Psalm 24

When I read in the psalms about God vindicating his people, I think how undeserving I am of such vindication. And this is a psalm of David, who doesn’t seem that worthy of vindication when you consider his great sin of adultery and murder. But maybe that is meant to be an encouragement to the rest of us who, while we may have not committed such an act, still know we’re so undeserving because of what we have done, left undone, and because of grievous attitudes in our heart at times.

Just to make it clear what vindication means, it involves someone being proven to be in the right. When one thinks about that, one can’t help but think of God’s grace without which none of us would ever be in the right in the first place.

What especially stood out to me today in reading this great psalm is the line: “They will receive…vindication from God their Savior.” I think that helps us understand how God’s people are vindicated. It’s not because of them, but the God who saves them.

N. T. Wright helped me see from the psalms how God’s righteousness is tied to God’s salvation of his people. God’s saving act includes vindicating his people, who apart from that would never be vindicated. Of course this goes beyond what we deserve, because when we read all of the psalms and the rest of Scripture we understand that no one deserves vindication in themselves. We’re all sinners.

We receive vindication from God because of our faith and the difference God makes in our lives. We are different through and through, not wanting to do what is wrong, but wanting to do what’s right, even while we do fail along the way. It’s God’s working that makes us want to face our true selves, repent, and walk in God’s way, and keep doing that again and again with our ongoing confession of our sins, and endeavor to walk anew and afresh in God’s will for us in Christ.

And so we can be encouraged with this thought. God’s vindication of us is completely not because of us, but because of God, as by faith he credits righteousness to us, and helps us to want to live accordingly, even in the midst of our inevitable stumbling. God will vindicate us, yes, each one of us, in and through Jesus.

 

avoiding consequences

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

Psalm 34:8-14

Some people may think it’s less than holy to abstain from bad behavior out of fear of the consequences. But scripture doesn’t seem to agree with that objection. Yes, we want high motives, above all love for God and for people. But it is wise to simply avoid impulses to respond one way or another, as we trust in God, and let God vindicate what is good. Otherwise we’re in for some rough sledding, if nothing more, God’s loving disciplining hand.

A big one we practice is being passive aggressive. We react to perceived slights, maybe even obvious enough. It is better for us to hold back. Make no reaction, but bring such to God in prayer. To turn such occasions into times of talking with God. And refusing to respond in kind, and especially avoiding the deceptive evil of being passive aggressive which really is the same heart as being actively aggressive. Maybe it’s more subtle, but consequences, even if seemingly subtle, will come.

As the passage above tells us, we’re to turn from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it. This requires discipline on our part, but especially faith, we could say a disciplined faith. We do our best to do what we’re called to do, and entrust ourselves to God. We refuse to act or react out of fear. We trust in God, and continue to do good. Believing in God’s vindication, and that God is at work for good. In and through Jesus.

God’s vindication

Vindicate me, Lord,
    for I have led a blameless life;
I have trusted in the Lord
    and have not faltered.
Test me, Lord, and try me,
    examine my heart and my mind;
for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love
    and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.

Psalm 26

To vindicate means to declare someone innocent (NLT). In fact, read the NLT rendering of the psalm found in the link above.

We are not talking about sinless perfection, because if we were, God could vindicate no one, except of course, Jesus. And we’re not talking about a person who has no room for growth, perhaps especially in certain areas. If Paul didn’t think he had arrived at the goal to which God had called him heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3), how much less, we?

We are referring to a life of integrity, which actually would necessarily include making things right when one does wrong. A life devoted to God, growing in and through Christ. While we initially need to confine ourselves to the words of this psalm, we shouldn’t stop there. We also need to consider all of scripture, and particularly in the light of the revelation of Christ and the gospel.

Only God can vindicate. Self-vindication is not what we’re after. Although there are times quite trying, when we do speak in defense of ourselves and our lives and conduct, which is certainly the case of the psalmist here. Even though he is asking God for God’s vindication of his life, he is laying out his best case in defense of himself, even while asking God to probe his heart, and test whether or not these things are true.

Jesus is the one God vindicated, ultimately through his resurrection from the dead. And we are in Jesus, so that God’s vindication on us is through him. But within that declaration of innocence or righteousness, which begins by faith in this life, is a life of not only dependence on God, but devotion to him and his will in Jesus. Certainly a life in which ongoing confession of sin will be necessary, both to God and to others we have hurt.

God is the one who will vindicate us, our lives, our sincerity, and the reality of our walk in him in and through Jesus.

defending others, but not ourselves

Father Michael Cupp made the important point to us on the Sunday of the Passion, Palm Sunday, that like Jesus we should not seek to vindicate ourselves when we are accused or condemned. Instead we’re to wait for God’s vindication and salvation. And in our Lord’s case, that vindication brought salvation not only for him in the resurrection, but through that death and resurrection, for the entire world, even for those who condemned and crucified him, if by grace they would have repented and believed.

And unlike our Lord’s disciples, we as those on the other side of both Easter- our Lord’s resurrection, and Pentecost, as those who are resurrection, Spirit-endowed people, we should speak up and act appropriately, so as to defend others. Father Michael’s thoughts make me wonder just what the Lord would have had the disciples do on Holy Week when darkness reigned. I’m rather of the thought that they had to go through all the weakness and failure to prepare them for what was to come. Not that by watching and praying in Gethsemane with the Lord, they wouldn’t have been better prepared to overcome the weakness of the flesh in what followed. And be an encouragement to Jesus himself, though through prayer Jesus gained the strength that he needed for the great trial which he alone was to endure.

Somehow their failure would perhaps prepare them to receive God’s grace. It is God’s grace preveniently, that makes the difference; it’s not about God’s grace and the human will together, but God’s grace changing the human will in conformity with his will. We still have to choose, but we are dependent on God’s grace to be in God’s will in our choosing and living. A subject perhaps for another time.

I think Father Michael’s words are quite germane in our lives in a number of ways. When we think we should not say something, even though we’re inclined to say it and have, so as to make ourselves look better, that is at least an indication that we may be off track. Better, in fact it may be God’s will for us to be quiet. To not vindicate ourselves, but to leave that in God’s hands, and be willing to be looked down on, or perhaps misunderstood, maybe for a long time. But when others are wronged, we need to appropriately address it, not the way the world does. But with an ear to mercy and justice for all, hoping to see the perpetrator come to repentance and life, that there might be full reconciliation.

Good points to continue to think about as we read the gospel accounts of what happened on that most difficult, most glorious week.

Christmastide and God’s honoring of his people in and through King Jesus

I delight greatly in the Lord;
my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
and praise spring up before all nations.

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet,
till her vindication shines out like the dawn,
her salvation like a blazing torch.
The nations will see your vindication,
and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.
You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

We remember that he was to be given “the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins,” (Matthew 1:21), the NIV footnote telling us that “Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means the LORD saves.” God saves his people from their sins and for his glory and their good. In God’s love, he honors his people. Although God won’t give his glory to another, in the case of his people in and through Jesus, God does share something of his glory, which ends up redounding completely back to him. But in that process his people are both blessed and honored.

This salvation is completely a gift, unadulterated, 100%, never something we can earn or deserve for a moment. Yet in that gift, God takes us up in his grace into something of his own glory, and makes us partake of his beauty and splendor in and through King Jesus. It’s a beauty that humans were meant to partake of as those in God’s image, Jesus being the restorer and perfection of that.

And so “the gift that keeps on giving” in Jesus, is one that fills our lives, and ultimately is to fill the earth in the love and to the glory of God in and through King Jesus.

vindication from God

Hear me, Lord, my plea is just;
listen to my cry.
Hear my prayer—
it does not rise from deceitful lips.
Let my vindication come from you;
may your eyes see what is right.

This psalm is attributed to David who strictly speaking, even apart from his great sin in his adultery of Bathsheba and murder of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, was hardly a blameless man. That begs the question as to what kind of vindication David or the psalmist sought.

Certainly no where in the psalms or in scripture does any of the faithful brush lightly over sin or simply sweep it under the rug. For a time maybe, but not over the longer haul. A psalm indeed acknowledges that if God kept a strict account of our sins and acted according to that then none of us would stand.

We certainly are not talking about some Augustinian perspective of sin in which we’re all condemned and vindication is only in and through the Just one, Jesus. Indeed that’s true, but that is not the perspective of these prayers. Another such prayer of the psalms, here.

The vindication is in terms of life as it is lived in the present, again not excusing sin, and we can say eventually dealing with hidden faults. But a vindication given to those who are seriously endeavoring to follow the Lord, in spite of themselves and their sins. Of course the sacrificial system was set in place so that all who were penitent could live in the forgiveness of God. Now fulfilled in Christ so that by his death and resurrection, we can do the same.

This prayer in the psalms, then, is not just for that time, but for today as well. It is for those who seek to do their best in living in God’s grace in Jesus, we might say making every effort to enter God’s rest, learning to walk in the Spirit, all in God’s grace in Jesus.

The prayer can be an encouragement to us, because none of us have arrived, we all sin. And yet we can live blameless lives or lives of integrity, being true to God’s call to us in Jesus. Which involves ongoing confession of sin to be sure. We need to seek to live fully in the light we have. God will give us more as we’re ready and able to receive it, and in his will. We seek to live in the light we have. To do what is right in every circumstance. Mindful that any righteousness found in us is strictly from God and because of God’s grace at work in our lives in and through Jesus.

Vindication means being proved right when one is accused of wrong. So the context here is conflict. If we’re not undergoing that with people, and inevitably if we look far enough we usually will find some accusers or those who think we do less than well along the way, so that we likely will be experiencing this on some level with another. But even if not, we certainly are in the spiritual realm against the accuser of the brethren. That accuser, the Satan is surely right often enough with the charge that we’ve sinned. But again we will be vindicated in and through Jesus in this life. Because of the cross we can go on and do better. To the very end.

vindication

 1 Vindicate me, LORD,
for I have led a blameless life;
I have trusted in the LORD
and have not faltered.

This psalm is about living in the real world. The psalmist certainly would not claim sinless perfection. But in a certain way, or regarding some issue, they lived blamelessly in their limited sense. And the prayer for vindication, or God’s defense and approval of them, that such would be made known to all, seems indeed a legitimate prayer.

The problem with us is that we often want to vindicate ourselves. We want to prove to others that we are in the right, or that a certain character evaluation of us is unfair, or untrue. We do well to leave all of that in God’s hands, and to go our way, seeking to live in God’s good will in Jesus.

In the end it is Jesus who is vindicated, and all who are in him. We end up in this together. There is no competition. But during this difficult time in which our view is often hazy, and in which we know in part, as well as often struggle against sin, we need in God’s grace and working to see God’s hand at work, to see the good from God in each other. The beginning of vindication which is actually even now a gift in God’s grace in Jesus. Our only true vindication is found in him, though there may be gracious provisions of that along the way for humanity. God is a good Judge. And we can entrust ourselves completely to him in and through Jesus.