The rights and wrongs of judgement
A favourite tune for opening a traditional Presbyterian church service is Psalm 98, writes the Rev Andrew Watson.
The second metrical version goes: "Sing a new song to Jehovah for He wondrous things hath wrought."
It is a cracking piece of music, especially with a choir singing four-part harmony and the organist giving it plenty of volume.
It's an interesting Psalm, written hundreds of years before Christ was born. The writer is enthusiastically celebrating that God will one day come to "judge the world in righteousness".
That might seem strange to modern readers. Perhaps more than ever people resent being judged. We like to do pretty much as we please and well dare anyone tell us we're wrong.
But then we like to criticise governments and others who we think aren't being fair and we're quick to condemn what we see as corruption.
The writer of Psalm 98 is anticipating a time when we won't have to depend on flawed human administration for God will establish justice with perfect "righteousness" and "equity".
He even pictures the natural environment, the sea, rivers and mountains welcoming the Creator's intervention to end abuse and restore good order.
It sounds great in principle but folk might have reason to feel uncomfortable more personally.
If it's true we will all have to account to our Maker for our life choices what if some of them were wrong?
And the Bible makes it clear it's God who decides right and wrong. In the end it's His opinion that matters. We will all have our day in heaven's 'court' but what if the verdict on that day is 'guilty'?
The Psalmist can only be positive and cheerful about God's judgement because he already trusts in God's 'salvation'. That brings us back to Easter, the cross and the empty tomb, back to Jesus.
"Lo. The Lord His great salvation
Openly hath now made known;
In the sight of every nation
He his righteousness hath shown."
Those who have turned from sin to put their trust in God's Son as Saviour need not fear when he comes as judge.
The Rev Andrew Watson is minister of the Presbyterian congregation at Cairncastle, Co Antrim. He blogs at wordsurfers.com