A Just and Compassionate God

A Just and Compassionate God.

Psalm 146.

psalm1465The Psalmist first reminded us by his perceptive appreciation of God’s absolute trustworthiness and almighty creative power by comparing these eternal attributes with man’s innate follies (Ps 146:6). This portrayal of our Creator, as the be-all-and-end-all of man’s ultimate hope is future-oriented, and it possesses colossal ramification concerning who we ultimately and consistently trust in this world. He then turned his attention to a motley group of people who hardly would have been the focus of any consideration – society’s nondescripts! It is not that He is indifferent to the political shenanigans in our broken world, but despite His commitment to care for everyone, He possesses a distinct predilection in His love and concern for the community’s underdogs (c.f., Deut 10:16-21; Is 61: 1-2; James 2:14-17); in providing for their welfare and seeking justice for their causes. It is within this context that the psalmist also exhorts us to continue to worship and keep faith with the One who saves and is faithful to the end (Ps 146:1-6).

psalm-146There are over 400 occasions in Scripture, where the Hebrew noun mishpat generally translated as justice, judgments, just, or ordinances, is used to remind us about God’s laws, His principles of justice, and the need for His people to practice His form of justice to all (cf., Micah 6:8). He then lists who He meant by the oppressed: the poor, the unjustly imprisoned, the alien, the orphans, and the widows (Ps 146:7-9; c.f., Prov 31:8-9). Justice as defined within the context of divine law is meant to be applied equally among the Israelites, as well as strangers, or non-Israelites in their midst (Lev 24:22). It is significant that what God was looking for is certainly not a casual intermittent assistance towards the afflicted and burdened, but a perennial way of life of seeking to intentionally alleviate their distresses – a lifestyle of living justly and aiding those who have been unjustly treated.

walk-humbly-navyJob’s own description in his defence before Yahweh, of his righteous ministry towards society’s underdogs in his days, is exemplary where justice, as he portrays it, was like a robe and a turban – meaning, akin to an everyday responsibility (Job 29:12-17). Today’s societal partialities are no different from the Old Testament era, where many are still being enslaved, incarcerated, persecuted, and murdered by powerful interests in different countries and communities, whether differentiated by politics or religion, race or otherwise. As God’s people, we cannot turn a blind eye towards these evil misdemeanors. Job understood that for him to notice these injustices and not do anything about it, was likened to have God punish him by ‘dislocating his shoulder and breaking his arm’ – not only is it a sin against the Almighty but a personal blight (Job 31:13-23; Prov 14:31).

A self-righteous individual is incapable of contemplating mercy towards another, and therefore to expect him to initiate justice for the oppressed is improbable. Additionally, the peril of a black-and-white mode of impatient justice becomes a form of cognitive distortion, where justice for justice sake is applied irrespective of mercy and compassion. God, on the other hand, would always be gracious and magnanimous in forgiving and encouraging change for the better, and when He does judge, the guilty would unambiguously have had many prior opportunities to reform (cf., Ps 103:6-14).