Sweet Vindication: Letting God Judge
Nobody likes to be judged. Even Jesus says, “Judge not, lest you be judged.” At the same time, it seems like we reserve the right to judge, if only silently, just about everyone. On their looks, by their politics, for their behavior or worldview or speech.
And when we feel like we’ve been wronged? Then we clamber up on the imaginary bench in the courtroom of our mind and render swift justice. When someone offends us, whether the slight is real or perceived, we lean towards immediate judgment. Of course, because our perspective is limited to our own point of view, our conclusions are often wrong.
During the dedication of Solomon’s temple, he prays a series of prayers. They are hopes for what the temple will be: a place of worship, of confession, of healing and reconciliation. Maybe this is why Solomon asks, “When anyone wrongs their neighbor and is required to take an oath and they come and swear the oath before your altar in this temple, then hear from heaven and act. Judge between your servants, condemning the guilty and bringing down on their heads what they have done, and vindicating the innocent by treating them in accordance with their innocence” (2 Chronicles 6:22-23).
Notice how Solomon spells out specific steps for healing a relational rift.
1. The offended neighbor alleges that an offense has been committed.
2. The alleged offending neighbor comes to the altar to give his side of the story.
3. Both parties stand at the altar, in the presence of God and others.
4. Everyone present, the neighbors and the priests, ask God for clarity on how to proceed.
5. God answers: He identifies the guilty and innocent parties.
6. The guilty feels conviction and seeks to make amends for their actions.
7. The innocent get vindication and receive the guilty’s overtures for reconciliation with grace.
Of course, this is not always how this plays out. In many ways, we’ve lost the communal accountability the people of God had in Solomon’s days. Personal disputes today are “private matters,” and “it’s best just not to get involved.” But when we wash our hands of conflicts in this way, we forfeit our call to pursuing God’s healing in such cases.
This whole idea of asking God to judge between sparring parties is a little strange to us. But there’s a precedent for it in the story of Jacob (the guy Israel is named after) and his father-in-law, Laban. In his early years, Jacob had quite the reputation for cutting corners when it came to character. And Laban? He could have taught a master’s course in Flexible Ethics. Over time, however, Jacob matured. But Laban kept cheating, manipulating and misleading Jacob. Finally, they decide to divide the land they are fighting over.
Jacob prays a similar prayer to Solomon’s, “May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.” So Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac. He offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there” (Genesis 31:53-54). Jacob is saying “God, I’m tired of policing this guy. I’m tired of sifting through buckets of lies for nuggets of truth. I give up. Will you referee here? I can’t do it anymore.”
He offers a sacrifice (like they would later do at the temple) and threw a party for his extended family (which likely included Laban). Jacob didn’t malign Laban, he just made a public statement to anyone who was watching that he wasn’t going to take matters into his own hands, he was asking God to judge between them- and call them both to account for their actions.
Yes, our natural tendency is to judge. But God does it better than we do. It’s something best left in His righteous hands.