Today’s passage: Psalm 50
Today’s chocolate: Equal Exchange Organic Very Dark Chocolate (71 % Cacao)
The opening of Psalm 50 is a summons issued to the earth, and it conveys God’s power. In the very first verse, it draws the camera back to get a cosmic scope, describing God as “The Mighty One” and picturing the whole earth and the rising and setting sun. Between the power of God’s speech, the “fire [that] devours before Him” (4), and the lines that state, “He summons the heavens above, and the earth, to judge His people” (5), the opening calls to mind Psalm 29’s picture of thunder and lightning as the voice of God. Here, though, God speaks judgment.
In reading this passage, it occurred to me that perhaps being all-powerful is actually part of being all-good–or, for all you classical logicians out there, omnipotence is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for omnibenevolence. After all, if a being wants to do a bunch of genuinely objectively good things but isn’t powerful enough to do them, wouldn’t that being be an even better being if they had the power to do all the good things they wanted to? Think of a person who is pretty good, but would be so much better if they had more power to do the good things they want to do. Maybe you’re thinking of Bernie Sanders. Maybe Gary Johnson. But I’m not here to get political. My point is that God’s goodness is not limited by his power to enact it.
So why does God, doer of every single good thing that he wants to do, allow evil to exist and go unpunished for even a second? As much as I’d love to write the five hundred volumes of theology that would constitute the bare minimum of a response to this question, the answer in a word is: mercy. And to tie it back to the psalm that I almost forgot we were reading here, God’s judgment on the wicked that closes out Psalm 50 is a message of just wrath forestalled by mercy. God tells the liars, thieves, and slanderers of their own families:
These things you have done and I kept silence;
You thought that I was just like you;
I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.
Now consider this, you who forget God,
Or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver. (21-22)
God is the picture of power under control. He has spared the evildoers of the earth, but they shouldn’t neglect him or suppose that he’ll put up with them forever. He’s giving them a chance to repent, remember him, and respect the moral laws by which he governs the world he created. There’s room for mercy in those laws: but don’t push it.
Question of the Day: How is it that I didn’t even get to the part about sacrifices in vv.8-14 and v.23? Also, is Equal Exchange chocolate delicious or what?