This morning, I read that since March, in Kuala Terengganu and Besut, 15 traders have been fined a total of RM9,000 for over-pricing chickens. They had violated the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act, 2011.
I read that after I read Psalm 97, included in the lectionary readings for tomorrow.
Justice and righteousness feature in that psalm, which expands on the declaration “The LORD is king.” It says, in verses 1 and 2:
The LORD is king! Let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are all around him.
Rejoice over clouds and thick darkness? I know many who say, “God is love,” and that’s all we need to know about God. Are they right? Should we never represent God as a terror? As a judge? As one to be feared?
What then do we make of the psalmist who says God is awe-inspiring because he announces his “appearance” with thunder and lightning?
Bible scholar James Luther Mays says:
The imagery of [Psalm 97] is largely drawn from the theophany [appearance] of the divine warrior who as the storm-god in the religions of Canaan and Mesopotamia defeated his opponents to gain kingship over other gods and the cosmos.
In Israel’s polytheistic world, the language had the advantage of serving as a polemic against other gods (vv. 7, 9; see 95:3; 96:4–5) and in Israel’s creative use of it, led to the monotheistic reduction of other gods to idols (v. 7; see 115:3–8; Isa. 42:17).
We moderns – unlike Luther – shy away from polemic, from challenging the beliefs of others. But we sing songs with verses like “He is Lord, every knee shall bow to him.” What do such verses actually mean?
I think the answer is clear. God, in his theophany in Sinai, when he appeared in a terrifying way, has spoken. In the law He gave on Sinai, He has shown us how we must live in community, how we must be responsible: We must live out of the awareness that there’s right and wrong and there’s punishment for doing wrong.
Living in love means not profiteering. Living in love means establishing laws. Living in love means enforcing laws.
In the 15 “chicken offences,” we must recognize both the wrong done and the good done. Why? Because it’s the outworking of justice and righteousness, the foundation of the reign of the King of the cosmos. Praise the LORD!