Sunday, July 20, 2014

God of Justice

Justice

Revelation 16:4-7
Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying: “You are righteous, O Lord, the One who is and who was and who is to be, because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due.” And I heard another from the altar saying, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.” NKJV

Moses after walking with God for a number of years asked God "Please let me meet You; introduce Yourself to me". God did! How would God introduce Himself if you meet Him on the road? Let us use this introduction to begin our short study of an aspect of God’s character – God’s justice. 


“Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. Then he said, “If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance.”  Exodus 34:5-9

The word “justice” occurs twenty-six times in the Authorized Version of the Old Testament; once translated “judgment” in Job 36:17 but in all other places it is the Hebrew word "sedaqa". In some places it is rendered as righteousness so Justice and Righteousness can be looked at as the same word.

What is righteousness?

The Biblical concept of justice exhibits development through nine generally chronological stages:



(1) JUSTICE = UPRIGHTNESS


Etymologically, it appears that the root “sedaqa” (pronounced sedaka) simply means uprightness (Deuteronomy 9:5). When we say God is God of justice we are simply saying He is upright.



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(2) JUSTICE = CONFORMITY


In the Patriarchal age, sedaqa had the abstract meaning of conformity by a given action or object to an accepted standard of values. Moses speaks of just balances, weights and measures (Leviticus 19:36; Deuteronomy 25:15) and insists that Israel’s judges pronounce just judgment (Deuteronomy 16:18-20). In this sense, God of justice means God who conforms to acceptable standards of values.



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(3) JUSTICE = WILL OF GOD


Since life’s highest standard is derived from the character of deity, justice, from the time of Moses and onward, comes to distinguish that which is God’s aim and those activities which result from it. Heavenly choirs in Revelation 15:3 proclaim “Just and true are Your ways”. Job, therefore, in recognizing that God is the ultimate in justice then asked “How should man be just with God?” (Job 9:2). In this sense therefore God of justice means everything that is the will of God and what results from it. How do we fit into this?



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(4) JUSTICE = HOLINESS


By a natural transition, justice then comes to identify with that moral standard by which God measures human conduct (Isaiah 26:7). Men must do justice if they are to walk with God. In this sense the attribute of justice can only be found in the hearts of those who fear God (Luke 18:2) because justice begins with holiness (Micah 6:8; Mark 10:22). You can now understand the statement of Ezekiel in Ezekiel 18:9 when he declared ““If he has walked in My status and kept my judgments faithfully, he is just; he shall surely live!” says the Lord God.






(5) JUSTICE = PUNISHMENT


In reference to divine government, justice becomes descriptive as a particular way of punishment for a moral infraction. Pharaoh declared God just but his people wicked when God brought the plagues on Egypt (Exodus 9:27). In the Island of Malta the inhabitants said of Paul “Justice has not allowed this man to live ... the man is a murderer” (Acts 28:4). God therefore is a God of justice if He punishes the wicked.



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(6) JUSTICE = VINDICATION


From the time of the Judges and onward however, sedaqa comes to describe the Justice of God as that of vindicating the righteous. In this sense God of justice describes God who vindicates the ones who act righteously. David on hearing of the death of Nabal, Abigail’s husband declared that God is righteous – “He has vindicated me”.



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(7) JUSTICE = GRACE


When David prayed in Psalm 51:14 “Deliver me from blood guiltiness O God; You God of my Salvation and my tongue shall sing aloud for Your sedaqa (justice or righteousness)”, David was not asking for vindication for he had just acknowledged his heinous sin and indeed his depravity from birth (51:5). His petition sought rather for an undeserved pardon. This introduces a new aspect of God’s justice – Divine pity, love and grace. He is God who is both just and a Saviour. Look at First John 1:8-9 – we have sinned, yet God is just to forgive us all our sins because He is God our Saviour and gives us undeserved pardon. Does God justify this concept of non-judicial justice? Yes, on the basis of Romans 3:26 – faith in Jesus. This is on the principle of imputation (Jesus paid His justice into my account and I paid all my sins into His account). God respects the law of Double Jeopardy!



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(8) JUSTICE = IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS


As a condition that arises out of God’s forgiving justice, there next appears in Scripture humanly possessed sedaqa (righteousness), which is simultaneously declared to have been God’s own moral attribute but which has now been imputed to those who believe on His grace. Abraham’s faith was reckoned to him as righteousness. He was justified through faith, not because of it. Our own righteousness is totally inadequate (Isaiah 64:6) but in God, we are righteous (Isaiah 45:25), having been made just by the imputed merit of Christ.



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(9) JUSTICE = GOODNESS


But even as God in His grace bestows righteousness upon the unworthy, so the people of God are called upon to “seek justice” (Isaiah 1:17). Justice connotes goodness and loving consideration. God’s justice is typified in the life of Christ. He did no wrong. He walked with the sinners with a view to leading them back to the way of righteousness. He died that they who put their trust in Him would not die any more thus justifying the unjustifiable by paying the full penalty for their sins. Because God is just, all who call on Him should seek to be just like Him. “Be holy for I AM Holy” What does it mean to say – God is God of Justice? He is good in all He does and imparts the same goodness to all that follow Him. All who follow Him should be right in thought, word and action.




What is the Lesson of God’s Justice?


The story is told of a righteous judge who had a boyhood friend who attended the same primary school with the judge. But later in life, the judge went on in his studies and became a judge. His friend on the other hand grew on the wrong side of life and became an armed robber.

The judge was posted to the High court in his area of the country and the first case that came to him was the case of this his boyhood friend facing armed robbery charges.

There was a newspaper editor in the village who did not like the judge. He went into research on the relationship that existed between the judge and the accused before they parted ways. He went back and wrote two editorials with which he wanted to discredit the judge. He titled his two editorials: "Do We Need a Judge Who... forgets his old boyhood friend" if he condemns the accused or "Do we need a Judge who... bends justice in favour of his friends" if he discharges the accused. Whichever way the judge went, the editor would have him nailed!.

The day of the judgment came and the court was packed full and of course the editor was there. The case was called and finally the judge gave his judgment. He found the accused guilty and gave him the maximum penalty for the offense with an option of fine.

The judge left his friend confounded in the dock and before the editor jumped to publish his editorial, the judge emerged from his chambers having removed his Judge’s robe with a receipt in his hand. He had paid the fine for his friend. He then took his friend from the dock out for lunch. It was the turn of the editor to be dumbfounded. He had nothing to publish. The Judge has been just and merciful.

God is that Judge. He has not forgotten that we are made in His image and we are His children. As people of God are we just and fair in all we do? God expects us to but in ourselves we cannot. Thanks to God who reaches down to draw us up because He is our redeeming God.

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