According to Calvin, he better! Without it, the throne becomes empty, an honorable name with a dishonorable pseudo-inhabitant–which is to say, a tyrant. The throne is held by God to be worthless when “abused by wicked men,” because God is just and can have no part in iniquity. If the king is just, he will not pretend that he has the cover of the law to “persecute the Lord’s people,” because law properly so called–that is, named as such in its relation to true justice–could never condone such a thing. Calvin on Psalm 94:20:
20 Shall the throne of iniquities have fellowship with thee? He again derives an argument for confidence from the nature of God, it being impossible that he should show favor to the wicked, or sanction their evil devices. With God for their enemy, how could they escape being destroyed? The words have greater force from being thrown into the form of a question, to show how completely opposed all sin is to the divine nature. The term throne is used, because those against whom the present charge is brought were not common robbers or assassins, who are universally recognized as infamous, but tyrants who persecuted the Lord’s people under color of law. These, although occupying the throne which has been consecrated to God,have stained and polluted it with their crimes, and therefore have nothing in common with it. The meaning is brought out more clearly in the subsequent clause of the verse, where they are declared to be persons utterly estranged from God, who frame molestation for law, or, as the Hebrew word חק, chok, signifies, decree of law, or statute order. The Psalmist aims at those profligate judges who, under pretense of pursuing the strict course of office, perpetrate the worst species of enormities. Judges of this abandoned character, as we know, with no other view than to retain possession of a specious name for integrity, invent various excuses to defend their infamous oppressions. The meaning of the Psalmist is apparent then; and it is this, that honorable as a throne may be, so far as the name goes, it ceases to have any worth or estimation with God when abused by wicked men; for iniquity can never meet with his approbation.
Nevertheless, and unsurprisingly, Calvin believes that the proper response to such oppression is to bear it submissively in God’s providence until He brings judgment (on v. 21):
Melancholy and disgraceful must the state of matters have been, when the wicked thus ruled in lawful assembly, and those who formed the college of judges were no better than a band of robbers. The case becomes doubly vexatious, when the innocent victims of oppression are not only injured, but have a stigma fixed upon their character. And what more unseemly spectacle, than when the whole course of judicial administration is just a foul conspiracy against good and innocent men? 40 The instance here recorded should prepare us for a like emergency, if it chance to occur in our own day, when the wicked may be permitted, in the providence of God, to mount the seat of judgment, and launch destruction upon the upright and the righteous, under color of law. Intolerable as it might seem at first sight, that persons innocent of any crime should meet with cruel persecution, even from the hands of judges, so as to be loaded with ignominy, we see that God tried his children in other times by this double species of oppression, and that we must learn to bear submissively not only with unrighteous violence, but with charges most injurious to our character, and most undeserved. 41
E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.
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