God Is Just
- Understand what God says about justice.
- Sense that God requires us to care for people who are poor, weak, and oppressed.
- Identify ways people are treated unjustly in your community.
Many Christians today understand God's plan for the justification of sinners through Jesus Christ. But they don't fully understand God's justice and God's call for justice in human life.
First of all, God is just. God embodies justice in his very being. God is the "Judge of all" (Heb. 12:23), which means that the Creator God is the final arbiter of right and wrong, good and evil. God is the "supreme court" of heaven and earth, before whose courtroom all people will one day stand. Now, to some this sounds like bad news rather than good news. But when you think about it, it's truly good news! It means that in the end justice will be done. Evil will be punished, and all things will be made right.
Psalm 82 pictures God as the judge of all. The "great assembly" in verse 1 is a gathering before the God of all "gods," which is a way of talking about the kings of the nations. In other words, all those responsible for justice in the world stand before the ultimate Judge, and he indicts them. They "defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked," which is something we often see in the world of power and politics. Instead God calls them to "defend the weak and fatherless" and to "uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed" (v. 3).
It's important to note what justice looks like to God: it's defending, protecting, and guarding those in society who are the weakest and most vulnerable. God's standard of justice is not "It will all work out." Rather, it's that those in power have a responsibility to defend and protect the people who are most needy. In this way, we can think of justice as the proper use of power. Psalm 82 ends with a cry for justice: "Rise up, O God, judge the earth" (v. 8). God's justice is something we long for and pray for.
Psalm 72 is widely recognized as a "messianic psalm"---a prophecy of the coming Messiah, whom we now know is none other than Jesus Christ. Again, note the focus on justice: "He will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help." In other words, the work of the Messiah is not only to bring salvation from sin, but to be God's agent in establishing justice on the earth. We see how Jesus, in his earthly ministry, took the side of those whom society marginalized.
Nowhere in the Bible is this picture of God's justice more pervasive than in the prophets. Prophets like Amos and Micah pinpointed the social injustices of Israel---their trampling on the poor and favoring the rich and powerful. At one point, after Amos indicts the injustices of Israelite society, he weighs the relative importance of Israel's religious practices against the practices of injustice: "I hate, I despise, your festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. . . . Away with the noise of your songs. . . . But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!" (Amos 5:21-24). Those can (and should!) be challenging words for us still today.
And when Micah seeks to sum up what is truly pleasing to God, he contrasts the typical value of religious practices, such as the offerings in the temple, with what God truly seeks: "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Mic. 6:6-8).
Take a little time to look through an online concordance (like biblegateway.com) and plug in judge or justice to see how often the Bible refers to the word. You may note that in Greek, the word for righteousness and justice is the same word. What does it look like if we replace justice with righteousness in some of our passages? Does it change the way we read them? What does that say about the relationship between righteousness and justice?
How do you react to the idea of God as just or as the Judge? Why?
Why do you think the prophets place the pursuit of justice over the practice of worship?
Consider spending some time discussing what injustices your group members see in society or even in their community. It’s often easier to define injustice than it is to define justice.
In order to help them grasp how deeply important the idea of God’s justice is, ask your group what the world would be like without judges or courts of law. Note that even these, too, can be corrupt. What a comfort it is to know that God will finally bring a far-reaching justice that is not just the administration of divine law, but speaks to an alternate reality [shalom] and way of living.
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