Read | Psalm 99

The Lord reigns,

    let the nations tremble;

he sits enthroned between the cherubim,

    let the earth shake.

Great is the Lord in Zion;

    he is exalted over all the nations.

Let them praise your great and awesome name—

    he is holy.

The King is mighty, he loves justice—

    you have established equity;

in Jacob you have done

    what is just and right.

Exalt the Lord our God

    and worship at his footstool;

    he is holy.

Moses and Aaron were among his priests,

    Samuel was among those who called on his name;

they called on the Lord

    and he answered them.

He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud;

    they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them.

Lord our God,

    you answered them;

you were to Israel a forgiving God,

    though you punished their misdeeds.

Exalt the Lord our God

    and worship at his holy mountain,

    for the Lord our God is holy.

Respond | Derek Wu

Psalm 99vv6-8


O LORD our God, you answered them;

            you were a forgiving God to them,

            but an avenger of their wrongdoings.


The Lord God is pictured in this Psalm as sitting “enthroned upon the cherubim” (v.1) which according to Ex. 25vv17-22 was the “mercy seat” of the Ark of the Covenant. From the mercy seat God issued his commands and decrees.


The Psalmist goes on to proclaim the holiness of God, exalted as the mighty king who executes justice. As evidence, Psalmist names Moses, Aaron, and Samuel, and through them he finds that God is forgiving, yet avenging.


It can be hard for us to put mercy and judgment together in the same sentence. We know from history class and personal experience that there have been far too many political, religious, and parental authoritarians—far too many times do they fall to the poison of power-lust, leaving destruction in their wake.


So, many of us prefer mercy over any extension of authority. It’s better to love than to discipline, we think. Yet God is both. How is that possible?


In Jonah, the prophet reluctantly marches to Nineveh, a city characterized by their acts of incredible injustice and pagan malfeasance—“utterly deceitful”—to declare their judgment. He expectantly waits atop a hill for God to destroy the city in a violent flash of his holy power, much like Sodom and Gomorrah. But God surprisingly withholds his judgement, and the prophet is left astounded by God’s mercy and abundant patience. Yet in the book of Nahum, Nineveh suffers the judgment they deserve—described in graphic prose. (Don’t read this at night!) Israel is ultimately avenged by the hand of their God.


God is of both mercy and judgment—but more importantly, he is a God of patience and of perfect timing. In moments of fervor and zeal, perhaps well-deserved, we do well to hesitate. We must act alongside God, exercising mercy and judgment only under his prerogative. A difficult task indeed. May we pray now for wisdom and guidance in all our actions of love and justice.