Day 53 | Madeleine Dittmer

“Wow. I never would have guessed that. Your dad’s not that scary.”

When I tell people that my dad is a judge, the response is usually something like that.

Some fun facts about my dad:

1. He has, on multiple occasions, dressed up as a cop from the seventies (complete with a wig and a mustache made by a hairnet glued to his face) to create a comedic short film for our school fundraiser.
2. He also wrote and played all the music in that short film

The title, “Judge,” carries with it an element of authority and intimidation. So, it’s not surprising that people have a hard time believing that my musical, goofy dad is the same guy who sits on the bench in a courtroom delivering sentences to people daily.

Similarly, when I read a verse like this,

O God of vengeance, shine forth!
2  Rise up, O judge of the earth;
repay to the proud what they deserve!

my response is usually a struggle to understand how judgement and mercy can both fit in the same God. Judge-God does not sound like merciful God. David’s transition from calling for judgement on the wicked in chapter 94 to his declarations of praise in response to God’s mercy in chapter 95 happens so quickly. And if I don’t read it too closely, it’s tempting for me to read “judgement” in verse 2 and think, “Okay, David’s being dramatic and asking God to smite his enemies again.” But I think these verses are saying something different. I think judgement and mercy are more closely related than I tend to assume. And I appreciate the clarity these psalms bring to that relationship.

O LORD, how long shall the wicked
   how long shall the wicked exult?
4  They pour out their arrogant words;
    all the evildoers boast.
5  They crush your people, O LORD
   and afflict your heritage.
6  They kill the widow and the sojourner,
    and murder the fatherless;

Maybe there are some echoes of vengeance in David’s cries, but I think his pleas are rooted in a heart broken by the injustice he sees around him. His broken-hearted cry for judgement and justice is a simultaneous cry for mercy on the widows, the orphans, the refugee, and the forgotten. And God, in his capacity to be a merciful judge, responds:

For the Lord will not forsake his people;
    he will not abandon his heritage;
15  for justice will return to the righteous,
 and all the upright in heart will follow it.

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