Do me a favor and please read Psalm 125.
As the people of Israel climb up to the Lord they reflect on the goodness and security of the Lord. A frequent image we see throughout the psalms is Mount Zion and how it is used as an image of stability, strength, and immovability. But what really stands out, at least for me, is the patience the people have. We read in verse 3 that “the scepter of the wicked will not remain over the land allotted to the righteous…” That is some patience! They are declaring that the wicked ARE CURRENTLY HERE but their power, strength, and governing rule will not always be. Because at some point, whenever that is, the Lord will return and remove the wicked from their place.
But the psalmist doesn’t end there. The latter half of 3 (3b) declares that those deemed righteous, should the wicked remain, those “righteous people” would/could/can/will use their own hands to do evil. The power and strength of evil is so strong that should the Lord allow it to remain…all would be corrupted. All would do evil. All would be shaken and turn from God.
Sin runs deep…even deep into those who have the best intentions, the holiest of views and ways, and the godliest of desires.
Simply put: people are broken. ALL PEOPLE.
My wife and I try to do our best with our children and we constantly tell them that we love them and that all we do and say is for the best of them. And at this point our kids (10 and 14) still think highly of us even though we tell them we are not perfect and that we are all full of sin and destruction. But at this point we’ve never done anything (that they can remember) that was wrong and harmful to them. But one day we will. One day we will NOT act in love. One day we will NOT do what’s best for them and instead we will do what WE want. Because no matter how strong our love is, no matter how focused on God we are…sin runs deep. The people of God knew it. As they ascended to Jerusalem, to the city of God, they knew that the wicked were all around them. And I’m sure they had seen their close friends and family fall victim to its rule. But the people of God know something that evil doers do not: The scepter will not remain. But not only will it not remain those in Jesus know that the scepter of evil is broken.
When Christ died upon the cross and rose 3 days later he snapped the scepter of sin and death that ruled over the world. By his grace, love, and mercy, he removed the hand of death and sin that ran deep within us. Now this doesn’t mean that sin is no more for that tainted blood is still here today – but its rule is no longer. Its power is no more. This is why sin works in the shadows and darkness. Light has come…Christ has come…and so sin is now that wounded animal that hides only to snap when we get too close.
What this psalm also does for me? It reminds me just how dependent I am on the scepter of the Lord, the protection of God, the love and mercy of Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit to keep me close. Since sin runs deep within us all we all fall into the temptations of evil. We are to keep our focus on God and commit our lives to him – and yet that snapping of sin and temptation are around every corner. Scratch that – they aren’t at every corner they actually are with us, walking with us, and speaking lies into our lives. But I say it once more, sin runs deep and so you and I actually tend to listen to those lies, obey those crooked ways, and allow sin to act. Which is why verse 5 stings so much and yet gives us hope.
Verse 5 declares that all those who turn to crooked ways will be banished. Well…I guess I’ll see you in eternal damnation! But wait! While the depths of sin runs deep and eternal damnation is where we should go let us go back to a few paragraphs before as we remember Christ! Because Christ came, because he broke the scepter, we also know that Christ embraces and gives eternal life to all those that the Father has given to him (John 17:2). Because even though we “turn to crooked ways”, even though we have zero ability to turn to Christ, God turns to face US and the Holy Spirit lifts up our head so we can gaze into the eyes of hope, truth, love, grace, mercy, forgiveness and all those things that broke the scepter of wickedness. Because grace wins. Forgiveness rules the land. Love and hope have pushed sin into the shadows and when Christ returns, when the King of kings and Lord of lords returns HIS scepter will not only break and banish…but it will completely remove all that is opposed to him.
So hold fast, people of God! The wicked may be here, wickedness may run deep within each of us…but God’s truth and love runs deeper and cleanses us from our sins.