“Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne.” – Psalm 89:14
Two things are fundamental to all communal life. They are justice and judgment. No government can be secure which ignores them. No throne can be firmly established that is not founded upon them.
The throne which is founded upon justice and judgment is firmly established in the confidence, the esteem, and the respect of those who are subject to it, and will have their support against all malicious attempts to overthrow it. The throne that is established by force and maintained by fear has no stability. It is not founded in the hearts of its subjects, and however it may be buttressed by armies and secret police, it will be desperately unstable.
This necessity for justice and judgment to be the basis and foundation of government lies in the very nature of them. For justice, at least, is an absolute. That is to say, it is not invented by men according to their own notions and is not susceptible of change at the will of men. The modern dictator, who declares that justice shall be determined by the necessities of the state, is lacking in wisdom. Justice is a conception beyond the power of any man to change or tamper with, and it is not man who determines what justice is or shall be.
Justice implies an absolute standard of right, and that standard exists only in the Divine. It is derived essentially from the Divine love which seeks the good of all and seeks it equally for all; the love of absolute righteousness no other interest being allowed to enter into consideration – this is the basis of justice. It desires the good of the individual in the good of the whole, and the common good in the good of the individual. And we know that when the balance is upset in any degree, we have injustice either to the individual or to the community.
If justice is difficult to define, since it belongs to the province of the will and its affections, the processes of judgment, through which the ideal of justice expresses itself, are perfectly clear. Judgment is an intellectual process, and in many of its aspects is a familiar process to us all. For we are all called upon to make judgments. Judgment involves a sifting of evidence and an analysis of facts, that we may reach a true conclusion. It is concerned with the ascertaining of truth. To judge truth and truth only must be the aim. To reach the truth beneath the fallacious appearances or the deliberate falsities which obscure it is the object of judgment. And here again no other consideration can be allowed to enter in. The love of truth is essential to judgment. If some other consideration, some objective other than the truth should enter in, our judgment will be false. For as justice is a Divine concept, not susceptible of human alteration or decision, so also is truth. Truth is that which is, irrespective of what men desire or struggle for.
Justice and judgment are linked together in the Word because they are inseparable. The ultimate aim of judgment is that justice may be done, and justice is secured only by way of judgment. We are apt to think of the legal aspect of these terms, and that this process of judgment belongs primarily to those in the legal profession and the judiciary. But these terms apply to us all in our everyday activities. Every attempt we make to ascertain truth is genuine in so far as our purpose is to do good. And every desire we have to do good is genuine in so far as it leads us to seek truth in order to do it. If we attempt to do good without considering what is genuinely and truly good – good for the community and good for the individual – if, that is to say, we do not attempt to ascertain by a process of judgment what is true in the matter, then we are setting ourselves and our own ideas above the truth. We do not care for truth but for our own views of what the truth should be, and what we ultimately do is neither true or good. And equally, if in the search for truth we have no objective but the acquisition of facts, if there be in us no desire to use for the general good the truth that we discover, then the truth has no life in it. It may be knowledge, even accurate knowledge, but it is wholly dead. Or if our aim be only self-glory or self-satisfaction in the discovery and possession of knowledge, our faculty of judgment will be unsound. The intrusion of false motives will throw the balance out. There must be the desire to perform uses. Justice, therefore, which implies the love of good, is inseparable from judgment, which involves the love of truth. This is what is meant by the Lord’s words, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”
Our text reads, “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne,” or more accurately translated, the establishment or foundation of thy throne. Obviously the Lord’s throne signifies His kingdom and rule. He is King over us when His love and truth are enthroned in our hearts. And wherever the Lord’s throne is set, whether in heaven or in the hearts of men, it is established and founded upon justice and judgment.
In the heavens the Lord alone is King. His law prevails throughout their wide extent. But His throne is not established upon force or fear. The angels submit themselves to His law in love. They do His will not in servile obedience but in the love of good, for they know that His will is good.
We do not live from ourselves. The Psalmist writes, “Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves.” All our faculties and all the good things that we have come from Him. The angels know this. From His Divine love they receive love, and because His love is the love for the highest good and welfare of all, their love also is of that nature. They love the good of others, and in serving uses to others they have all of their delight. So it is said of them that they think from the Lord and not from themselves. This is not because they dare not think from themselves, but because they know that in the Lord and from Him is all truth. This is their wisdom, for they know that if their thought should ever lead them away from the Divine truth, their thought would be false.
The same is true of the Lord’s kingdom in us. “The Lord’s throne is in the heavens,” but also “the kingdom of God is within you.” The Lord is our King, and His throne is established in us as we learn and keep His laws, as we accept His law of truth as the law of our life and the aims of His love as the aims of our love. Those who say that they want to do what is good and true but who have no desire to study the Word and to learn the Divine truths therein are not looking to the Lord as their King. The Lord’s throne, His kingdom in men, is not founded on the efforts of men – however well-meaning – to do what they imagine to be right, but on their effort to do what the Lord in His Divine Word declares to be right. Of ourselves we are too often prone to be misled by our prejudices and by our ignorance, to be swayed by personal likings, by friendships, and by personal antipathies and hatreds.
Our text continues, “Mercy and truth shall go before thy face.” The Lord is love and wisdom itself. These are His very essence. All His characteristics are those of infinite love and wisdom. The Divine love is absolute unselfishness, the limitless desire for the welfare and happiness of others. The Divine wisdom is the law of His operation, the means whereby He carries out His purposes. If we are to be children of God, we must seek constantly to live for the same purposes and by the same law.
To love the good of our fellow men and to seek that good through the Divine truth, these are the essentials of Christian character, and in these the Lord’s throne and kingdom are established in our lives and we find fulfillment, joy, and peace.
“Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.
“Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.”