Justice like the ocean depths

From the beginning to the end of Scriptures, God shows Himself as a god of justice, of rightness and goodness. He set His laws in place as a structure in which His creation could fully, peacefully, and joyfully live, but we have failed to respect and rely on that structure. Even the system we call “justice” on earth today is flawed and, sometimes, horribly twisted by evil.

Yet, the Sovereign Lord loves what is good and just (Psalm 33:5), and He asks His people to live according to His standards:

…the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right [just], to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

The promise of Scripture is that His justice will always have the last word. Sometimes, He acts immediately. We see it in Scriptures, and we have seen it in our current world. Sometimes, justice is yet to come. We wait for that day. (See 2 Thessalonians 1:8)

His justice is as certain and as immeasurable as His love, His faithfulness, and His righteousness.

Your unfailing love, O LORD, is as vast as the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.

Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the ocean depths.
(Psalm 36:5, 6)

We may not be able to comprehend the vastness of these things now, but one day, God promises to give His people a life ruled and filled by His goodness and justice. The prophecies we have of the future kingdom of Christ picture a world where

…the wolf and the lamb will live together;
the leopard will lie down with the baby goat.
The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion…
and a little child will lead them all.

Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,
for as the waters fill the sea,
so the earth will be filled with people who know the LORD.
(from Isaiah 11:6, 9)

It’s an amazing thing to walk the beach in south Lubec, Maine, as the tide comes in. From what seems to be a thin silver thread far out in the channel, the waters move in, rapidly and inexorably transforming vast mud flats into a beautiful expanse of glittering sea. That promised day, when the earth fills with knowledge and reverence of the Lord will be an even more wonderful transformation.

I wonder, will our new world be even more glorious than the Garden of Eden, that perfect place first designed for us?

Probably!

My hope knows it’s coming.

 

 

 

Psalm Prayer:

Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.
(from Psalm 25:5)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

What the children of the God of justice are called to do

The Spirit and the living Word of God often surprise us. That could be because we get complacent and “stuck” in our thinking and living. We need a jolt sometimes as God pushes us toward growth.

I had such a jolt this week. I did not expect it.

The constant theme of God’s just and righteous rule runs throughout the entire Bible, even to the prophecies of our future life in another realm. God loves justice. He will see that those who are treated wrongly and those who suffer will see justice—either immediately in this world or in the next.

The Scriptures this week spoke strongly to me in two different areas.

First was God’s concern that His children practice justice in our own lives. I think we are too apt to ignore His constant word that the poor, the aliens, the widows and orphans are to be treated justly and fairly. There are many, many in this world today who fall into those categories—and many live in my immediate sphere.

“He does not ignore the cries of those who suffer,” says the psalmist (see Psalm 9:12).

Have I, God’s child and Christ’s partner in work here, been ignoring the cries of those who suffer? Has God’s love and mercy flowed from me toward anyone in these groups?

God wants His children to live justly toward others, but I’ve also seen in a clearer way that He does not want us to seek justice on our own behalf. Justice is in His hands, and His alone.

That’s crazy, isn’t it? Most people would think so.

Here is what the Word of God says:

Don’t say, “I will get even for this wrong.” Wait for the LORD to handle the matter. (Proverbs 20:22)

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD. (Romans 12:19)

And Jesus’ words:
“But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too…” (Matthew 5:39-40)

Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it. (1 Peter 3:9)

I’ve been part of a proclaimed pacifist church all my life, but these familiar Scriptures took on new dimensions for me this week. And when we look at Christ, who is our example and in whose steps we are to follow, he “did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly” (1 Peter 3:23).

Justice is in the Sovereign Lord’s hands—and in His hands alone.

My hope will rest in that.

 

 

Psalm Prayer:

Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.
(from Psalm 25:5)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Standing before the throne of justice…joy or terror?

How can there be any hope for me? If the sovereign God on the throne of justice has given us His laws that determine what is right and what is wrong, and if He judges each one of us impartially and metes out justice accordingly, and if He will not be mocked and we will reap what we sow—then how can there be any hope for me?

One of the Proverbs says that justice is a joy to the godly, but terrifies evildoers. On which side of that comma are you?

Here is the greatest hope—the sure confidence—that the children of God hang onto: Because Christ died and bore my punishment for breaking God’s law, I stand before the throne of justice and I’m acquitted.

A just man died to pay for my unjust deeds, and I’m released from the guilt of my wrongdoing.
It goes against all human logic and reasoning.

It’s a gift. Because the righteous, holy God loves the people He created.

Amazing grace.

I have been talking with another daughter of God about diving into a project that is much, much bigger than either of us. If we look at it with earth-dimmed sight, it’s overwhelming. But we’ve got our eyes of faith wide open. She said, her face beaming, “I’m not afraid to take this on, because I’m holding the hand of the One who created the universe!”

You are too, my sisters and brothers. That is what Jesus did for us. Instead of living in fear and terror of God’s justice (which we deserve, admit it), we walk our journeys with Him holding our hands.

Our wrongdoings have been wiped from His sight and His memory.

Amazing grace.

Jeremiah recorded these words from the Lord:

“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
or the powerful boast in their power,
or the rich boast in their riches.

But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the LORD
who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.
I, the LORD, have spoken!”
(Jeremiah 9:23, 24)

These words are for us, today. This is the most important thing in our lives — to acknowledge and know the sovereign Lord. More important than wisdom, power, or riches is your relationship with the One who sits on the throne of righteousness and justice—and also demonstrates His unfailing love.

Unfailing love, demonstrated on the cross.

Amazing.

 

 

Psalm Prayer:

Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.
(from Psalm 25:5)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

When our just God seems absent

Just checking up on you…did you do the assignment on Tuesday, reading Psalm 89? If you did, was your reaction the same as mine?

We begin the song, carried along in awe and worship of the Lord who sits on the throne of justice and righteousness, attended by unfailing love and truth. Yes, that’s our God, who rules in His almighty sovereignty!

But then, abruptly, the tone changes and we hear of lots of trouble, and life is not going so well…and the songwriter cannot help but ask, “How long is this going to go on, Lord? Where is your justice? Why aren’t you intervening?”

We ask the same questions.

How long will this wickedness go on? Why aren’t you acting against this injustice? Why do you allow this to happen to your people, Lord?

The sure and certain and true justice of God is not always apparent to earth-bound eyes.

Yet we believe His Word that says He holds each person accountable. He knows everything everyone has done; nothing can be hidden from Him. In the end, His justice will always have the last word.

Our hope knows this, even though we cannot see evidence of it now. Even though, in the earthly realm, it looks like God’s justice is nothing more than a fairy tale.

But we do not live by what we can see with our earthly eyes. We live on the Word of God. We live by the eyesight of faith.

Hebrews 11 gives us a great example. Moses renounced the rich life of a prince to suffer with the Israelite people because he was “looking ahead to his great reward.” He led the people out of Egypt, “not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.”

We keep right on going, with our eyes on the invisible. We listen, with ears that hear what the world cannot hear. Our feet of faith take us forward over bridges the rest of the world knows nothing of. Our expectations are based not on “evidence” in the world around us, but on what the invisible One has said.

Even when we wonder how long it will be until evil is served God’s justice.

But we know it is coming! It will happen. God is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do.

And so our hope still can say, just as the psalmist does at the end of Psalm 89,

Praise the Lord forever! Amen and amen!

 

 

Psalm Prayer:

Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.
(from Psalm 25:5)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

God of justice

The man accused me of something I did not do. I knew that he had mistaken me for someone else; I could not have possibly done what he was describing. And if he would have stopped to think about the facts of the matter, he would have realized he was speaking to the wrong person. Yet he is one of those folks who is sure he is right, and no one will convince him otherwise. I saw it would be useless to argue my innocence. Still, it smarted a bit that I had to walk away from that conversation and leave him believing an untruth about me, knowing that I will probably never see him again and he will carry that impression of me to his grave.

A few days later, I told my daughter about the conversation. It really was not a serious matter, but the sting of false accusation was still there, and I was exaggerating my dismay at the incident. She smiled at me. “Don’t worry, Mom. God will set him straight eventually.”

Her comment was a reminder of another great hope we have—that part of God’s great plan for His creation is that His justice will prevail and “set things right.”

(And maybe God has already worked through that man’s thinking and set him straight?)

Throughout all of Scripture, unfailing love and faithful justice go hand in hand. There are countless assurances that God is a god of justice and righteousness. Righteousness deals with personal “rightness” or goodness and integrity. Justice refers more to “rightness” in interactions between people or parties.

Almost everywhere that God’s great love is mentioned, we also find His faithful justice mentioned in the same sentence.

He promises rewards to His people who suffer, blessings to those who uphold justice, and sure judgment for those who twist justice for their own evil purposes. He repeatedly mentions certain groups for whom His justice is especially at work: widows, orphans, aliens in our midst, the poor, and those who are mistreated. And woe to those who do not provide justice for these people! (This constant emphasis has caused me to rethink some of my own actions and attitudes.)

He says, straight out, “For I the Lord love justice. I hate robbery and wrongdoing” (Isaiah 61:8).

He shows no partiality, and lets us know that we can expect consequences from our actions. Those who choose wicked ways will reap the results; those who choose righteous ways will reap the results.

We don’t hear much about the sure and good justice of God these days. Why not? Jesus’ sharpest criticisms came against the Pharisees who, He said, were so meticulous about tithing every penny, but neglected the most important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and the love of God. (See Matthew 23:23). (Again, I have to check my own life…)

As a matter of fact, at one of the few times when Jesus does say that He has the authority to judge the world, He says, “I judge as God tells me. Therefore my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will” (John 5:30).

So the will of God is that justice reigns. The prophecies describing the Messiah’s rule look forward to a kingdom ruled by justice and fairness. (See Isaiah 9:7)

Our hope is built on promises from a God who loves justice and whose justice is faithful and unending. He will set things right. He will reward those who live in “rightness,” and punish those who do not. He will bring justice for those who suffer or are treated wrongly.

Along with God’s love, His justice is central to the message of the Scriptures and God’s plan for His creation.

And on His love and justice we build a bridge of hope that keeps us going forward.

 

 

Psalm Prayer:

Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.
(from Psalm 25:5)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)