If there is one image that represents Psalm 75, is the image of the scale. The scales of justice which tip could tip either way. The pagan culture teaches us that ‘Lady Justice’ is often depicted with a set of scales typically suspended from her left hand, upon which she measures the strengths of a case’s support and opposition. Such depiction dates back to ancient Egypt, where Anubis was frequently depicted with a set of scales on which he weighed a deceased’s heart against the Feather of Truth.
The distinction between the scales of the world and of God is clearly stated at vv2 and 6. Firstly, for not from the east or from the west, and not from the wilderness, comes lifting up; but it is God who executed judgment, putting down one and lifting up another. In other words, there is no ‘justice’ that is meted out at random, or that the ‘fate’ of the world wills it, or that one meets a particular ‘destiny’ of a passionless and distant God; the living God is directly involved with our lives, consciously putting down and exalting men. All the while the boastful and the wicked are exalting themselves (vv.4-5), God is the one who lifts up the horns of the righteous (v.10) as the Lord cuts off the horns of the wicked.
Secondly, such judgment with equity is handed out at the set time that the Lord appoints. We are often questioning whether the Lord exists, whether He would be handing down judgment on the wicked, whether He even cares. This Psalm of Asaph reminds us that not only is He present, but that He deliberately withholds judgment until the right time.
Indeed, the Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9). If we were the ones determining when justice should be handed out, I do wonder whether the Lord’s merciful character would shine through us. I wonder if we would be patient with our brothers and sisters? Would we, perhaps, even wish that they should perish? That is why the scales of justice are not weighed on our own perceptions and judgments, but on his divine timing and discernment.
Even in the days of Moses did the Israelites require constant reminder that vengeance is the Lord’s (see Numbers 31:3; Deuteronomy 32; Joshua 22:23; 1 Samuel 20:16; 2 Samuel 22:48; Psalm 94:1, 149:7; Isaiah 34:8, 35:4, 59:17, 61:2, 63:1-4, Jeremiah 51; Nahum 1:2; Hebrews 10:30). Not only that – the Lord has a specific day of vengeance appointed. Because on that day, the Lord will display all the equity and justice that should have been meted out the moment creation was brought into chaos by Satan. The moment man fell to temptation, His creation was no longer ‘good’. The gift of salvation and new creation is a work of complete restoration to right the wrongs since the beginning of the world.
The Day of Judgment; the Day of the Lord’s Vengeance, will be terrible and fearful. V8 foreshadows it. The cup with foaming wine, the cup of wrath. As Spurgeon describes it:
“For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup. The punishment of the wicked is prepared, God himself holds it in readiness; he has collected and concocted woes most dread, and in the chalice of his wrath he holds it. They scoffed his feast of love; they shall be dragged to his table of justice, and made to drink their due deserts. And the wine is red. The retribution is terrible, it is blood for blood, foaming vengeance for foaming malice. The very colour of divine wrath is terrible; what must the taste be? It is full of mixture. Spices of anger, justice, and incensed mercy are there. Their misdeeds, their blasphemies, their persecutions have strengthened the liquor as with potent drugs;
“Mingled, strong, and mantling high;
Behold the wrath divine.”
Ten thousand woes are burning in the depths of that fiery cup, which to the brim is filled with indignation. And he poureth out of the same. The full cup must be quaffed, the wicked cannot refuse the terrible draught, for God himself pours it out for them and into them. Vain are their cries and entreaties. They could once defy him, but that hour is over, and the time to requite them if fully come. But the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them.Even to the bitter end must wrath proceed. They must drink on and on for ever, even to the bottom where lie the lees of deep damnation; these they must suck up, and still must they drain the cup. Oh the anguish and the heart break of the day of wrath! Mark well, it is for all the wicked; all hell for all the ungodly; the dregs for the dregs; bitters for the bitter; wrath for the heirs of wrath. Righteousness is conspicuous, but over all terror spreads a tenfold night, cheerless, without a star. Oh happy they who drink the cup of godly sorrow, and the cup of salvation: these, though now despised, will then be envied by the very men who trod them under foot.”
Our Lord Jesus drank from the cup. The Day of Wrath and Vengeance will pass over us as He has satiated the Father’s wrath. True justice has, on a cosmic and spiritual level, been achieved when we committed ourselves to become children of God through the Christ. The question that remains is not if justice will be given to us. No – that has already happened in Moriah. Rather, the question is when God reveals to the world the true state of things; that the humble will be exalted, and the self-righteous shall be put in their place. In God’s economy, that has already happened. It is just a matter of when that would be revealed.