The Place Where Perfect Justice and Mercy Meet: Psalm 28


September 24, 2017

A note to readers: Today’s post is part of a Sunday Voice Series by Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, a close friend, mentor and colleague of mine. He serves as the President of Asbury Theological Seminary among other posts he holds across the global church. This Sunday Voice Series will cover the Psalms, beginning to end, by focusing on a Psalm each Sunday. I can’t tell you how excited I am for his interest in contributing here. This will be a huge blessing to us all.

Psalm 28 (NIV)

To you, LORD, I call;
you are my Rock,
do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Hear my cry for mercy
as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
toward your Most Holy Place.

Do not drag me away with the wicked,
with those who do evil,
who speak cordially with their neighbors
but harbor malice in their hearts.
Repay them for their deeds
and for their evil work;
repay them for what their hands have done
and bring back on them what they deserve.

Because they have no regard for the deeds of the LORD
and what his hands have done,
he will tear them down
and never build them up again.

Praise be to the LORD,
for he has heard my cry for mercy.
The LORD is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
and with my song I praise him.

The LORD is the strength of his people,
a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
Save your people and bless your inheritance;
be their shepherd and carry them forever.


Even young children cry out “it’s not fair” when something is not right. There is a deep longing in all of us for the scales of justice to be balanced and for things to be set right. As parents, we try to maintain justice in our homes. As a society, we have an elaborate system of laws and courts and appeals processes and various protections in place to assure that wrongs will be set right and that truth and justice prevail. We also know how imperfectly all of our attempts to secure justice really are. Crimes go unpunished. Innocent people sit on death row. The evil perpetuators of human trafficking go unchecked. Dictators do as they please. The “checks and balances” of government get mired in gridlock and partisanship.

We live in a world which longs for justice, but despite our efforts cannot fully realize it. The psalmist sees evil around him and cries out for God to “repay them for their evil deeds” and to “bring back upon them what they deserve” (vs. 4). He wants to see God’s justice brought about, but he also cries out for mercy (vs. 2 and 6), acknowledging gratefully that mercy is also part of God’s character.

The psalmist knew what we know; namely, that in the end, final and complete justice must be rendered by God, for only “the Judge of the earth” (Psalm 94:2) will be able to set things right. However, what we know that the psalmist did not fully understand is that the cost of this judgment would be greater than anything the psalmist could have imagined. Because God is perfect in both his judgment and his mercy, the only way to perfectly balance both the cries of judgment and our need for mercy (for we are all guilty before God), is for God to take upon himself the judgment of sin.

The cross becomes the place where God’s perfect justice meets God’s perfect mercy. (For more on this, see meditation on Psalm 85). The psalmist prays for God to set things right. He ends the psalm with praise that the LORD is a “fortress of salvation for his Anointed One” (vs. 8). Indeed, it was through God’s anointed One bearing the sins of the world that the fortress of salvation was established: the only true fortress of justice and mercy.


Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.