I’ve been thinking A LOT on the subject of justice over the last few months. For me personally, a lot of my reflection stems from the radical differences in the culture I am now facing being back in the United States this year. Seeing and witnessing poverty and social injustices unfortunately seem to be part of an every day occurrence in the kind of life myself and my husband are pursuing in Rwanda. Now, recently here in the States it has become a RADICAL hot topic in the media. I have never been one to swallow everything I hear in the news or even being spoken about by popular leaders, so I decided to do a little study on what God’s Word reveals to me about the topic of justice. The awesome thing about reading the Word of God is that the Holy Spirit can speak through it to minister to us as individuals what part of its message we need to hear right now. I decided to share my study through the verses below. Some of them may appear more relevant or meaningful to you than others, but my hope is that by reading this study, throughout you will find a streamline of truth and peace in the midst of our world’s unstable and always shifting ‘bar of justice’. I challenge you to read all the way to the end.
God’s justice vs. His mercy.
‘And the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the people that when they arrive in the land, Cities of Refuge shall be designated for anyone to flee into if he has killed someone accidentally. These Cities shall be places of protection from the dead man’s relatives who want to avenge his death; for the slayer must not be killed unless a fair trial establishes his guilt.
But if someone is struck and killed by a piece of iron, it must be presumed to be murder, and the murderer must be executed….so if anyone kills another out of hatred by throwing something at him, or ambushing him, or angrily striking him with his fist so that he dies, he is a murderer; and the murderer shall be executed by the avenger.
But if it is an accident—a case in which something is thrown unintentionally, and without wanting to harm an enemy—yet the man dies, then the people shall judge whether or not it was an accident…If it is decided that it was accidental, then the people shall save the killer from the avenger; and the killer shall be permitted to stay in the City of Refuge.
All murderers must be executed, but only if there is more than one witness; no man shall die with only one person testifying against him….In this way the land will not be polluted, for murder pollutes the land. You shall not defile the land where you are going to live, for I, Jehovah will be living there.’ – Numbers 35:11-34
Justice comes from appointing wise officials.
‘Appoint judges and administrative officials for all the cities the Lord your God is giving you. They will administer justice in every part of the land. Never twist justice to benefit a rich man, and never accept bribes. For bribes blind the eyes of the wisest and corrupt their decisions. Justice must prevail. That is the only way you will be successful in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.’ – Deuteronomy 16:18-20
Don’t take advantage of others when seeking justice for yourself.
‘If the man is poor and gives you his cloak as security, you are not to sleep in it. Take it back to him at sundown so that he can use it through the night and bless you; and the Lord your God will count it as righteousness for you.’ – Deuteronomy 24:12-13
David was a King characterized by justice.
‘David reigned with justice over Israel and was fair to everyone.’ – 2 Samuel 8:15
King Jeroboam II abused his authority.
‘The rest of Jeroboam’s biography—all that he did, and his great power, and his wars, and how he recovered Damascus and Hamath is recorded in The Annals of the Kings of Israel.’ – 2 Kings 14:28
Jeroboam had no devotion to God, yet under his warlike policies and skillful administration, Israel enjoyed more national power and material prosperity than at any time since the days of Solomon. But Jeroboam’s administration ignored policies of justice and fairness. As a result, the rich became richer and the poor, poorer. The people became self-centered, relying more on their power, security, and possessions than on God. The poor were so oppressed that it was hard for them to believe that God noticed their plight. Material prosperity is not always an indication of God’s blessing. It can also be a result of self-centeredness. God holds us accountable for how we attain success and how we use our wealth.
Justice is often abused.
‘Justice? You high and mighty politicians don’t even know the meaning of the word! Fairness? Which of you has any left? Not one! All your dealings are crooked: You give “justice” in exchange for bribes.’ – Psalm 58:1
In times of great suffering, don’t turn inward to self-pity or outward to revenge, but upward to God.
Justice will ultimately win over evil.
Read Isaiah 3:10-11
Eventually the faithful will receive God’s reward and the wicked will receive his punishment. It is disheartening to see the wicked prospering while we seem defeated as we follow God’s plan. Yet we must hold on and take heart! God will bring about justice in the end, and we will receive his reward if we have been faithful.
‘Wherever I look there is oppression and bribery and men who love to argue and to fight. The law is not enforced and there is no justice given in the courts, for the wicked far outnumber the righteous, and bribes and trickery prevail.’ – Habakkuk 1:3
Habakkuk was saddened by the corruption he saw around him. In response, he poured out his heart to God. Today, injustice is still rampant, but don’t let your concern cause you to doubt God or rebel against him. Instead consider the message God gave Habakkuk and recognize God’s long-range plans and purposes. Evil is self-destructive, and it is never beyond God’s control. Instead of questioning the ways of God, we should realize that he is totally just, and we should have faith that he is in control and that one-day evil will be utterly destroyed.
‘Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day! Note this: wicked men trust themselves alone, and fail; but the righteous man trusts in me, and lives!’
Habakkuk saw a dying world and it broke his heart. Why is there evil in the world? Why do the wicked seem to be winning? He boldly and confidently took his complaints directly to God. And God answered him with an avalanche of proof and prediction.
Habakkuk declares that he will wait to hear God’s answers to his complaints. Then God begins to speak, telling him to write his answer in large letters so that all will see and understand. It may seem, God says, as though the wicked triumph, but eventually they will be judged, and righteousness will prevail. It may not come quickly, but it will happen.
With questions answered and a new understanding of God’s power and love, Habakkuk rejoices in who God is and in what he will do. We don’t have to be afraid to ask questions of God. The problem is not with God’s ways, but with our limited understanding of him.
‘Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will be happy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my Strength, and he will give me the feet of a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.’– Habakkuk 3:19
At the proper time God will bring about his justice and completely rid the world of evil. In the meantime, God’s people need to live in the strength of his Spirit, confident in his ultimate victory over evil.
Habakkuk had asked God why evil people prosper while the righteous suffer. God’s answer: they don’t, not in the long run. Habakkuk saw his own limitations in contrast to God’s unlimited control of all the world’s events. God is alive and in control of the world and its events. We cannot see all that God is doing, and we cannot see all that God will do. But we can be assured that he is God and will do what is right. Knowing this brings us confidence and hope in the midst of a confusing world.
Why is justice so important to God?
Read Isaiah 3:14
Justice is part of God’s nature; it is the way he runs the universe. Even as sinners we all want justice for ourselves. When government and church leaders are unjust, the poor and powerless suffer. God holds the poor in high regard. They are the ones most likely to turn to him for help and comfort. Injustice, then, attacks God’s children. Because we follow a just God, we must uphold justice.
God’s love vs. His justice.
‘For Moses gave us only the Law with its rigid demands and merciless justice, while Jesus Christ brought us loving forgiveness as well.’ – John 1:17
Love and justice are both aspects of God’s nature that he uses in dealing with us. Moses emphasized God’s Law and justice, while Jesus Christ came to highlight God’s mercy, love, and forgiveness. Moses could only be the vehicle of the Law, while Jesus Christ came to satisfy it.
Some Old Testament (Law) scriptures that reveal Gods heart of mercy in justice:
Proverbs 24:28, 29
What God designed for a system of justice with mercy had been distorted over the years into a license for revenge. It was this misapplication of the law that Jesus confronted.
Jesus new approach to injustice:
‘But I say: Don’t resist violence! If you are slapped on one cheek, turn the other too. If you are ordered to court, and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat too. If the military demand that you carry their gear for a mile, carry it two. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.’
‘There is a saying, ‘Love your friends and hate your enemies.’ But I say: Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way you will be acting as true soms of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust too. If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even scoundrels do that much. If you are friendly only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even the heathen do that. But you are perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.’ – Matthew 5:38-44
Pilate not concerned for justice:
‘Meanwhile the chief priests and Jewish officials persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas’ release, and for Jesus’ death. So when the governor asked again, “Which of these two shall I release to you?” the crowd shouted back their reply: “Barabbas!” – Matthew 27:20
For a leader who was supposed to administer justice, Pilate proved to be concerned more about political expediency than about doing what was right. He had several opportunities to make the right decision. His conscience told him Jesus was innocent; Roman law said an innocent man should not be put to death. Pilate had no good excuse to condemn Jesus, but he was afraid of the mob.
Crowds are fickle. If they loved Jesus on Sunday because they thought he was going to inaugurate his Kingdom, they could easily hate him on Friday when his power appeared broken. In the face of the mass uprising against Jesus, his friends were afraid to speak up.
View of God’s justice:
God himself is the standard of justice. Although he has the power to do whatever he wants, he uses his power according to his own moral perfection. Thus, whatever he does is fair, even if we don’t understand it. Our response is to appeal directly to him.
What the book of Psalm says about justice:
Justice is a major theme in the book of Psalms. The psalmists praise God because he is just; they plead for him to intervene and bring justice where there is oppression and wickedness; they condemn the wicked who trust in their wealth; they extol the righteous who are just toward their neighbors.
Justice in Psalms is more than honesty. It is active intervention on behalf of the helpless, especially the poor. The psalmists do not merely wish the poor could be given what they need, but they plead with God to destroy those nations that are subverting justice and oppressing God’s people.
What do you think about injustice?
Some good questions to ask yourself, “Who is my neighbor? Does my lifestyle—my work, my play, my buying habits, my giving—help or hurt people who have less than I do? What one thing could I do this week to help a helpless person?