"If The Foundations Be Destroyed,
What Can The Righteous Do?"
by Ken Gardner

A nineteen-year-old young man was convicted of murder recently. Last fall he and his buddies had been drinking and doing drugs all day and most of the night. When they ran out of money (they had beaten and robbed someone earlier that day), they started looking for someone else to rob so they could buy more beer and cocaine. They saw two men at a bus stop and beat them up and robbed them. One of the victims died. He had received 11 severe blows to the head, probably from a two-foot-long metal bar found near his body. The nineteen-year-old admitted his involvement in the murder--he even grinned when jurors found him guilty. He grinned and asked his attorney how soon he would be returned to jail: "Will they get me back over there before dinner?"

Now, I don't mean to be insensitive, unfair or overly critical. I know I don't know what it's like to come from a broken home, or to be in dire poverty, or to face daily offers of drugs and alcohol. I don't know what kind of environment this young man may have been brought up in. It's true, also, that as all of us reflect on such atrocities we should look at ourselves and ask some questions. Are we doing enough to help those in need? Are we doing as much as we can to eliminate conditions that spawn depravity and despair? Are we responsibly punishing criminals?

However, we still must face the facts. Despite whatever adverse circumstances some may find themselves in, despite whatever shortcomings you and I may have, murder is still murder and should be punished accordingly. We have every right to be outraged, and we should be shocked and horrified by such senseless violence. It is not wrong for us to be righteously indignant. People are responsible for their actions and God holds them accountable for their conduct--and society should. Whatever hardships life throws at us we still must do the right thing and make right decisions.

The Bible speaks of and harshly condemns extreme wickedness. In Psalm 74 the psalmist calls upon God to execute justice upon those who desecrate the temple, who have "done wickedly in the sanctuary," who destroy "the carved work . . . with axes and hammers." They destroy the temple, they burn synagogues and they threaten God's people: "Let us destroy them together." According to one translation Proverbs 21:10 says the "wicked man craves evil." Some do indeed "rejoice to do evil" (Proverbs 2:14) and "devise evil" (Proverb 12:2, MLB). They say that God will not see them, He has forsaken the earth (Ezekiel 8:12; 9:9). They feel they will not be punished: "neither shall evil come upon us" (Jeremiah 5:12). They say to themselves that they will never be moved or shaken, they will never be in adversity, that God has "forgotten," He hides or covers His face, He will never "require it," that is, He will never call them into account for their actions (Psalm 10). They say to God, "Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways" (Job 21:14). They can't even sleep if they haven't done something evil: "For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence" (Proverbs 4:16-17). Evil doers are compared to a deaf cobra that will not heed the voice of charmers in Psalm 58. As we witness the evil around us we can related to Psalm 119:53: "Horror [or burning indignation, MLB] hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law."

Yes, we are outraged. But let remember what the psalmist said when he felt the "foundations" were being "destroyed," that all was lost spiritually, morally and religiously: "The Lord is in his holy temple" (Psalm 11). God is still there, and He still reigns.