Anaheim SDA Church
Mid-week Pastor’s Update
February 16th, 2022
“Vindicate me, O LORD my God, according to Your righteousness; And let [my enemies] not rejoice over me.” Psalm 35:24
Hello dear church members & friends, I hope your week is going well. Hope you had a good Valentines’ day on Monday: let’s remember that all forms of pure love under God’s umbrella are worth elevating, savoring, and celebrating every day of the year. (This stands out in stark contrast to the mere 2-dimensional representations of hearts, flowers, chocolates, teddy bears, etc. These things aren’t ‘bad’ in-and-of-themselves, but fall far short of the bonded unity and helpfulness that true love consists of.) 🙂
For my devotional thought today, I’d like to go back to my jury duty experience from early last week. Beyond the thoughts that seeing the wall of judges’ pictures gave me that I discussed last week, there was another aspect of that day that really impacted me in my soul.
About 50 of us, prospective jurors, were assembled into a courtroom, and the judge, among saying many things about procedures and equity, mentioned that the case to be tried was going to be regarding theft. Then he put a series of questions on a screen that, in addition to asking our occupations, children and spouses and their occupations, asked each juror to identify if they or a close relative had ever been a victim of theft or violent crime. It was clarified that answering in the affirmative wouldn’t exclude someone from the possibility of being a juror, but that it needed to be disclosed to the court.
So the judge began to proceed through the jurors. Our juror numbers were assigned based on last name, so my number was most of the way toward the end. Folks went through listing their occupations, family members, disclosing anyone who had ever worked for law enforcement, etc. But then that question inevitably came about regarding you or someone close to you being a victim of crime, and I’ve got to say that roughly 80% of the prospective jurors had something to disclose. Many were thefts, but there were also examples of child abuse, rapes, murder of family member(s), etc. It was anguishing to hear some of these accounts described!
To each of these examples the judge would quickly ask “Was the person apprehended?” “Did they go to trial?” “Did you have to testify?” And again, I’d have to say that about 80% of the responses to those secondary questions was “No”, meaning that the vast majority of the perpetrators had gotten away with their crimes. This meant that the majority of prospective jurors had unresolved offenses against them, that they just had to deal with psychologically, hoping that time would minimize the sting of them.
And I just thought “Isn’t this why we need a judgment?” Because, despite our best efforts as an earthly society to pursue and execute justice, a large percentage of violators get away with their crimes, and people are left to go on with their victimizations unanswered for.
I resisted the urge in the moment to stand up and proclaim “This is why we need God’s judgment!”, though when my turn did come to discuss my occupation, I made it clear I was a minister of the Gospel, thinking that, if someone wanted to talk to me afterward, they could certainly approach me (though no-one did). I left that experience reconvicted that so many, religious or not, have unresolved wrongs that need righting. And that the yearning in the soul is, though possibly unknowingly, a longing for an Authority to come and make things right.
The judgment is a big topic, so we won’t be able to thoroughly explore it here, but I just want to say to any Christian who is ambivalent against the judgment: stop your worrying! God’s judgment is not against you! Judgment is made “in favor of the saints” in Daniel 7. The righteous cry out in Revelation 6 for God’s vindication, as does King David in the Psalm verse quoted above (as well as several other places in the Psalms). Judgment is against those who have committed and perpetuated evil, who have victimized others in their selfishness & greed, and particularly for those who feel they’ve gotten away with it.
I assure you, friends: when God has His way, nobody will have ever gotten away with anything. “Everything done in secret will be brought to light” says Luke 8:17.
Actually, amazingly, the only ones who will get away scott-free will be those who bear no burden for their sins, having given them to Jesus on the cross, and having received His perfect righteousness in return (Revelation 7:14) What an amazing deal! So if we’ve taken up God on His incredible offer, why would we dread or fear His judgment?
I am sure that if I had asked each of those jurors upon leaving “Would you like the crime you were a victim of from however many years ago to be resolved?” I’m sure that, to a person, they would agree that, yes, that is what they’d want. And that’s exactly what God offers! No (unforgiven) perpetrator of evil will get away unscathed, nor will any (forgiven) victim be denied the justice they deserve.
I hope that you, along with the Psalmist, the martyrs in Revelation 6, and with God’s faithful people throughout the centuries will similarly cry out “Come and judge (vindicate) us, O Lord!”. May He keep us faithful until that day.
May God bless you and your families the remainder of this week and beyond.
Pastor Mark Tatum