For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
Righteous or a doer of evil.
With which group do you identify yourself?
It’s either — or, we are either righteous or a doer of evil.
This question is the most important question we can ever face. The word of our text identify both the righteous and the doer of evil and tell us what attitude Jehovah has toward both. His attitude toward the righteous is, “The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous and his ears are open unto their prayers.” His attitude toward the doer of evil is, “The face of the Lord is against them.”
Search your heart and your life for the answer.
May our meditation on this Word of God aid us in our search.
The line of demarcation is determined by our attitude toward our sins.
The righteous are a crying people. They weep on account of their sin. We are told this directly in our text. The word “prayers” could just as well be translated “cries.” You recall that in Scripture different terms are used to describe prayer. Some prayers are declarations of thanksgiving. Others are petitions of request for daily needs. Still others assume the form of intercession, seeking the guidance and strength of Jehovah on behalf of others. Yet, there also are prayers of supplication. A deep awareness of our needs and our own helplessness drives us to our knees and we lift up our eyes heavenward imploring Jehovah to hear us and supply our lack. These prayers are mentioned in our text and they always assume the form of an urgent cry.
Our righteousness occasions this cry!
This indicates that the righteous surely are not self-righteous. There were many in the days of the apostles that boasted of their being righteous on account of their works. The Pharisees could rattle off a long list of things they did in obedience to Mosaic law. Similarly today, myriads of people console themselves in the delusion that they surely aren’t as bad as some of their fellow human beings and in many ways they are a great deal better. Attend any memorial service and one gets the impression that there isn’t a person on earth that’s bad enough for hell. These are righteous in their own eyes. Peter isn’t speaking of these: they never cry!
The supplicating cry flows from the lips of the righteous as they are burdened with their sins. In the context of this epistle of Peter to the “scattered strangers,” we learn of many reasons for their crying. Many of them were in great affliction; they were distressed because of bodily suffering. They lifted up their souls and cried for grace to bear their pains patiently. Others were weeping because of the effects of persecution, their homes were broken, fathers were taken captive, children were scattered to the winds. Some were in prison, others were tortured. They cried on account of their righteousness, for darkness hates the testimony of the light. Yet in the immediate context, it is obvious that Peter intends to single out those who are distressed because the dark curtain of sin envelopes their soul and they pine beneath it.
Do you weep supplicating tears because of your sins? The righteous do. They know the sweetness of covenant life with God. They have learned that nothing is more precious than to behold the smile of God’s approval upon them. They know from the Word of God that He is righteous, He loves the light and hates darkness. He is Jehovah who punishes evil with evil and rewards the good with good. This knowledge brings them to tears. Casting a searching glance over their life they behold the sordid depths of their sins. These sins stand as a barrier between the righteous God and their filthy souls. Supplicating in the name of Jesus Christ who hath merited righteousness for all His-own, these righteous seek the assurance that for Christ’s sake God will not hate them, but love them and forgive. Their cry is that of confession, they tell God they hate their sins, they are sorry for them, they long to be delivered from them and live constantly to the glory of Jehovah, the God of their salvation. Their prayer is marked with sweat and tears.
In contrast the doer of evil doesn’t know what it is to weep for sins committed. When Peter describes the wicked as the doer of evil he doesn’t simply refer to one who sins. The righteous sin also and yet are not described as an evil doer. Rather, he is one who gives himself wholly to sin. He violates the commandments of God. This doesn’t mean that he is always some notorious and infamous sinner as such. He may even live an outwardly noble life; many people may consider him a worthy example. Yet, in all his thoughts words and deeds he doesn’t have the love of God in his heart. His one goal in life is to satisfy his own lusts and seek his own ambitions. He delights in his evil way of life. When he revels in sin he finds excuses. His pet phrase is, “To err is human.” He looks back at his “mistakes” and says proudly, well, we can’t always succeed. I may not be the ideal man, yet I’m a great deal better than most. Sometimes this even takes on a religious flavor. Did you ever hear someone who professes to be a Christian say, well I couldn’t help it that I fell into sin, after all I still have my sinful nature. Sometimes young people like to imagine they can live in riotous iniquity under the pretense that youth has a license to sin, for after all they have to sow their wild oats, they have to wallow in the filth of sin and rebellion, “to get it out of their system while they are still young.” Natural man likes to find excuses for his evil way of life. Every time he is tempted to sin he grasps at the slightest excuse and tries to suppress the fiery flame of his incensed conscience. How often don’t we hear it said and we sometimes say it ourselves that we were victims of circumstances. We really didn’t want to do this wrong, but this and that happened and we couldn’t help ourselves.
This is how an evil doer speaks. He simply tries to justify sin, and is no different than the Pharisee who pretended to be so religious and yet was filled with dead man’s bones. You can be sure of one thing, if we try to find excuses for sin and point to the so called good in our life as reason why all is well with us, we will never cry the supplicating prayer of the righteous. We will continue in the way of sin.
Jehovah’s attitude toward the righteous is quite different from His attitude toward the doer of evil.
Peter describes His attitude toward the righteous as, “the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous and His ears are open unto their prayer.” In this self description, God pictures Himself as one of us, having eyes and ears. By means of this picture language God reminds us that with all His being He is mindful of His children and ready to hear them and help them when they cry unto Him. The God that stirs the human heart and arouses the cry of supplication is the same God that hears that cry and answers. Jehovah is a merciful God. He never brings to tears without drying them. By sovereign grace He reveals Himself to us as the God of righteousness and holiness. He crushes all our pride and exposes before our human conscience the horror of darkness that crouches within our mortal frame. He causes us to be restless with ourselves and through tears of sorrow to seek His forgiveness. As a tender Father that loves His children He directs our troubled soul to the cross and whispers in our ears, “Forgiven!” He reminds us that we have been clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. By His Spirit He calms the storm and draws us closer to Himself. That’s favor for the righteous.
Jehovah’s attitude toward the doer of evil is quite different, “the face of the Lord is against them.” That’s the opposite. The face is the point of contact we have with each other as friends. While we visit together we don’t sit with our backs to each other, but our faces are directed toward one another. Our whole personality is reflected in our face. Hence a turned face indicates a cessation of friendship. The picture here is simply this, God turns around and looks away from the doer of evil. Through this figure of speech the apostle reminds us that where there is no friendship there is enmity and wrath. Scripture makes clear that God doesn’t simply ignore the doer of evil. He hates him and in His just judgment moves to subject such a one to His righteous indignation against sin. This takes place already in this life. Those who continue in sin are made subject to God’s wrath right now. God presses upon such a one the certain wages of such sin, namely death. The power of death takes hold of such a one and draws him deeper and deeper into the cesspool of filth. Even the good gifts of God are so used by the doer of evil that he refuses to give God the glory, but elevates himself above the rest of mankind in stinking pride. After physical death the doer of evil will be cast away into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Just recall a moment how God demonstrated this truth to Israel as they stood at the edge of the Red Sea. Here this grumbling and sin-laden people lifted up their voices in crying and supplication as the mighty forces of Egypt bore down upon them. Was there not forgiveness with God? Would Israel be slain as helpless sheep entrapped in the snare of greedy Egypt? Not at all, for the eye of the Lord was upon them. The same Shekinah that led them into this apparent trap now began to move behind them. The ear of the Lord had heard their cry. All that night the eye of the Lord shone down upon them, affording them light while the mighty winds of the heaven prepared a dry path through the midst of the sea. Jesus Christ provided safety for them and led them safely out of all their distresses. For Christ’s sake God is faithful to His people and forgives.
Yet it was that very same Shekinah that delivered the death blow to Egypt. Jehovah’s back was turned to Egypt and therefore it was pitch black and the chariot wheels came to a screeching halt. Thinking that they could partake in Jehovah’s goodness to Israel and sneak through the sea on dry ground, Egypt encountered the full wrath of Jehovah. The Israelites found them lying dead upon the shore.
Let’s not confound this glorious truth. Surely it appeared for a long time as if the favor of God was upon Egypt and not on Israel. Israel was in bondage, her sons beaten with many stripes. Egypt prospered outwardly with cucumbers and garlic. God’s favor, however, was not determined by outward things, rather by the inner fellowship of the heart. For awhile Egypt prospered because Israel was in her midst. God’s blessing was upon Israel for He was making of them a great nation. Even the lashes of the whip were spiritual blessings. As soon as Israel was delivered from bondage Pharoah and his hosts were slaughtered in mighty judgment.
Remember Asaph, “Then understood I their end.” Ps. 73:17
Peter know of what he spoke. One night he went out and wept bitterly.
Righteous or a doer of evil, what are you?
Do you weep or do you laugh?
Your sins a burden, so much so that you long for forgiveness and desire to live according to God’s will and to His glory? Be assured that Jehovah is not deaf to your cry, He hears! Gaze upon the cross and behold our Shekinah Who has led us through death and hell into everlasting glory.
Continue in sin, find pleasure in sin? There is only wrath, judgment and hell.
Thank God that we never weep in vain. Jehovah is vigilant.
He hears and answers!