God, History, and Worship - Psalm 119:7
I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments (Ps. 119:7).
As I prepare to teach ancient Greek history this year, I have been reminded yet again that God is at work in history, undoing the curse of death with his justice and mercy. The Greeks were a people under Adam, under the rule of death. And even though they polished their chains to a beautiful shine, they like all of the ancient world, were a cursed and condemned people. And so neither their culture, nor their power structures survived the judgments of God in history.
The Psalmist tells us that learning the righteous judgments of God will change us. When we learn the law, so that is seeps into our whole heart, soul, mind, and body, then our response will be to praise the Lord. In God's righteous law he shows right and wrong.
One of the central ways that morality comes to us in the Bible is through God’s judgments and actions. As he tells us how to make judgments in the law, as he gives us history in which he makes judgments. He gives us proverbs and prophets in order to explain and enact his judgments. God has not just told us what righteousness is. He has shown us He has shown us what true justice is. He has shown us what it is to do right.
The psalmist says that the more we understand God's justice and righteous judgments the more praiseworthy God will seem. He brings low the wicked and lifts his people up. He humbles the proud that set themselves up. He lifts up the humble and the righteous. And the more we understand, the more laudable God becomes in our eyes.
The Spirit of God has always been active in the world. He has given us the Word of God, as a description of the way that God is making all things right in the world by his judgments. He has enacted the salvation of God, teaching Noah to build the ark, and bringing animals two by two. Calling Abraham out of Ur. Speaking to Moses out of the burning bush. Parting the waters of the red sea. Bringing water from the rock. Knocking down the walls of Jericho. All of the way through history, the Spirit has been enacting the judgments of God. And we are given the scriptures so that we can understand and imitate God's righteous judgments.
And when we see God judging and saving all throughout history, if we have learned what we should be learning, our response is to praise God and turn from sin. It is no use trying to praise God without an upright heart. God's judgments are righteous. We will also learn that God's justice, God's righteous judgments, are beautiful. We will find ourselves drawn to worship. The more we know the scriptures, the more we will see our God as praiseworthy.
Just think about the revelation of God in Jesus. What an amazing story. How beautiful are the feet of him who brings the good news. When God is revealed to us in Christ, it is such a shocking and wonderful thing that the sheer beauty of God's holiness causes us to praise the Lord. God judged sin once and for all to be evil and worthy of death by dying on the cross. But he judged life to be stronger than death, love to be stronger than evil, and grace to be stronger than sin, once and for all, by raising Jesus from the dead.
The more you come to understand God's word and his righteous judgments, the more you will seek to praise Him with uprightness of heart.