3 The eyes of the Lord are everywhere,
keeping watch on the wicked and the good.
4 The soothing tongue is a tree of life,
but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.
Ever since Adam and Eve hid themselves in the garden, part of the human condition is the desire to conceal our shame. Yet we also long for injustice to be exposed, for evil to be avenged, for corruption to be uprooted. If we are able to hide our wrongdoing, others are also able to hide theirs. But if there is ultimate justice for them, how can we escape it? “If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?”
“But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.” Our dilemma is only enhanced by the Lord’s forgiveness. In forgiveness there is hope for us, and in justice there is hope for the world. But surely these things cancel each other out? How can the Lord destroy evil without destroying us? How can he forgive us without forgiving those who have wronged us?
For justice to be upheld, someone has to pay. For forgiveness to be available, someone must absorb the debt. The only God of any religion that resolves this tension is the one we encounter in the Judaeo-Christian scriptures. His resolution is alluded to in many places, perhaps the clearest written by the prophet Isaiah in the 8th century B.C. In chapter 53, the one who “took up our pain and bore our suffering” is spoken of. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him.”
Do you long to come out of hiding? To be liberated from your shame and rescued from your flaws? The man spoken of in Isaiah sacrificed himself that justice and forgiveness may be upheld without contradiction. “He poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors” so that we don’t have to be. “He bore the sin of many, and made intercession” for all who find themselves on the wrong side of justice.
“The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” The lord speaks to us of the tree of life, and we are soothed by the fruit of forgiveness we find there. When you are discouraged by the thought of justice without forgiveness, when your spirit is crushed by the perversity of the world, turn your ear to him and be comforted.