The Double-Edged Justice Of God

Psalm 146.

The Biblical narrative is replete with quotations and stories that are illustrative of both justice and unfairness. It also informs us of how God handled this critically dynamic quality. Without doubt, Yahweh expected His people to emulate His character trait when He said, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8); where life just flows enthusiastically out of a heart that cherishes mercy and love and walking before God and man in humility. The Hebrew word, ‘mishpat’ for ‘justice’ means a judicial verdict, right or privilege, or judgment; to equitably give a person their due when they were criminally liable or to award someone their right. Justice in God’s view is to be dispensed with absolute impartiality, whether one is a citizen or a foreigner (Lev 24:22).

In Scripture, justice is often paired with four groups of vulnerable personages: the poor, the alien, the orphan, and the widow (Ps 146:7-9; Prov 31:8-9; in Jesus’ ministry), where their physical and social vulnerability exposes them to prejudice and potential maltreatment. So, what does justice over the defenceless encompass? Job’s exemplary behaviour towards his servants and the needy provided us with a perspective quite apart from the obvious that we should do no wrong against them. Job paid particular attention to them, he did not ignore them; for if we did, it is an injustice towards them and we are considered as being unfaithful towards God (Job 29:12-17; Job 31:13-23, 32). So, charity is not an option and justice is all about taking action for the hungry, the imprisoned, the disabled, the immigrant, the orphans, and the widows (Prov 14:31; Ps 146:7-9). Psalm 146 revealed how God uses His supreme powers over His people, with special mention over the weakest and the defenceless (Ps 146:5-7).

How do we embrace God’s justice? The psalmist appeared to intentionally arouse himself awake spiritually by affirming his need to focus his entire being in the realisation that his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, is the only faithful Helper, compared to everyone else and everything we may have trusted. He tells himself to first praise and worship God – to immerse himself in worship in His Presence (Ps 146:1-2). For to worship is to move from his passivity to engage the totality of his heart and soul with the God of justice towards action; that is, to become more like Jesus in His compassion for people (c.f., Isa 61:1). The Apostle James reminded us that faith without works is indicative of a dead faith (James 2:17). The basis for our belief, as a result of God’s ultimate justice for sin, is in the sacrifice of Jesus at the cross. The cross signified the importance and demands of God’s judgment for sin. Being confronted with Christ is to realise humbly the extent of Divine mercy, grace, and power that inhabits His people in forgiveness and reconciliation.