A few days ago, an elderly man and his wife walked to their car after a late lunch in a local buffet restaurant. Suddenly another man approached, drew out a knife, and began stabbing the older man. His wife tried to stop it but could not. By the time bystanders came to their aid, the attacker was gone and the victim lay in a pool of blood. He later died in hospital.
This is not from an episode of Law & Order. It happened in our city at an outdoor mall where we often shop. In fact, I was at that location about four hours after this happened and before I knew about this horrible event.
Even though I was oblivious to the tragedy, something odd happened. As I was leaving the store I’d stopped at, I noticed a man outside the door. He was just standing there, a cigarette in one hand. I’ve not done this often, but as soon as I saw him, I prayed, “Lord, protect me.” I went to my car without incident, and the next morning learned about the stabbing.
Today, my devotional reading points me to a verse in Psalm 37, but I read the entire Psalm. It begins, “Do not fret because of evildoers. . . .”
The psalmist struggled with the age-old question, “Why do the ungodly prosper while those who trust the Lord struggle through life?” In some ways that parallels my question, “How can anyone kill another person who is absolutely no threat to them, and then walk away?”
I’ve been thinking of the elderly man’s wife who witnessed this horror, and his family who are asking these questions. I’m thinking also of the people who live and work around that area, who know that there is not only a killer in their midst, but one without any conscience or reason for doing what he did. I’m sure they are in great sorrow, but also angry and wanting justice.
While immediate justice sometimes happens, this Psalm does not offer justice in their lifetime for those who are victims of wicked people. Instead it pulls back and takes a larger look. It says “evildoers shall be cut off: but those who wait on the LORD, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; indeed, you will look carefully for his place, but it shall be no more.”
I don’t know the spiritual status of the man who died, but God says, “The wicked plots against the just, and gnashes at him with his teeth. The Lord laughs at him, for He sees that his day is coming. The wicked have drawn the sword and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, to slay those who are of upright conduct. Their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken.”
As believers in Christ, we are never encouraged to retaliate or take matters into our own hands. This psalm says we are to “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him” because the wicked will be “cut off” and pass away. Then the righteous will “inherit the land” and enjoy great prosperity and peace.
This promise to Israel extends to all who trust the Lord. This future utopia could be about our eternal inheritance lived out on a renewed earth. Some might call it “pie in the sky” but as I read the psalm, I was given great comfort. Regardless of whether or not this person who killed this man is caught and punished this week or this year, someday he will stand before God and answer for what he has done. I’m very certain of that judgment, even to the point that whatever our justice system does with him, it cannot compare with God’s justice nor with His eternal punishment for unrepentant evil.
Yet knowing all these things, and trusting in God to do right, I still find myself grieving for a person I never met and a family who is in pain. May God comfort them, and may this person who did this awful thing be found, captured and brought to justice.