IN THE DAYS OF HIS POWER SERIES.
TOPIC: ELOHEI MISHPAT, GOD OF JUSTICE
Rev. Innocent Peace-Udochukwu
President Living Fountain Ministries Int’l LIFOM
Summary: During a time of community pain, we need to know that God is a God of Justice.
“Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.”
God has declared that the foundations of His throne are righteousness and justice (Ps. 89:14). In other words, He is Elohei Mishpat, the God of Justice.
Justice is not an abstract principle conjured up by the mere conjectures of naturalists. Justice is rooted in God because He is in Himself just. He defines all things, and imputes meaning to all things. This is important to know because without a standard of justice rooted in God’s own character, we’ll never know what justice looks like, and how justice should function. God is just, His statutes are pure, and in Him there is no such thing as a lie. Only God is truly, fully, and meaningfully just.
One of the fundamental characteristics that set human beings apart from other creatures that God created is their need for justice. Why is it, though, that animals are able to kill their own kind or abandon their children and it be considered natural while humans are held to a much higher moral standard? It turns out that the Bible has an interesting take on this question.
This means to say that humans were created to be God’s representatives on earth and carry out His plan, abiding by the morals and concepts of justice that God himself abides by. According to the Biblical justice that God sets forth, all humans are equal, all humans are created in His image, and all humans deserve to be treated with fairness and justice.
Of course, as we all know, human beings do not always behave this way. Instead, even in the earliest parts of the Bible, we see humans rejecting God’s principles of Biblical justice and instead begin defining good and evil for themselves in a way that gives them advantages over others. The strong take advantage of the vulnerable, both at an individual level and at a societal level. Throughout all of this, the justice that God intended for people to exhibit is nowhere to be found.
Out of this mess, though, God raises up a man named Abraham and positions him to start a new line of people with his family – one that is ruled by both righteousness and justice. So what does God mean when he tells Abraham and his people to live their lives with righteousness and justice? In the Bible, righteousness refers to a state of moral good in which you treat those around you with decency and fairness, recognizing that all of them are made in the image of God just like you.
While justice can be used to talk about retributive justice in which a person is punished for their wrongdoings, most of the time the Bible uses the word justice to refer to restorative justice, in which those who are unrightfully hurt or wronged are restored and given back what was taken from them. Taken this way, the combination of righteousness and justice that God dictates means a selfless way of life in which people do everything they can to ensure that others are treated well and injustices are fixed.
One typical example of God’s justice is how Haman fell from second in command to an enemy of the State and executed as such. He was hung on the gallows he built for someone else. He amassed a huge fortune, lands, houses, money and other possessions. Usually this would be left for his family, but not in this case. Esther receives a bounty, a plunder, she “inherits” Haman’s estate.
So justice is defined by Cicero, an affection of the mind, “Suum cuique tribuens”; giving to everyone his own. Thus God gives or takes to himself what is his due; or does himself justice, by making and doing all things for his own glory; and by not giving his glory to another, nor his praise to graven images: and he gives to his creatures what is due to them by the laws of creation, and governs them in justice and equity, and disposes of them and dispenses to them, in the same manner.
As for the afflictions of God’s people, these are not punishments for sins, but chastisements of them; were they indeed punishments for sin, it would argue injustice, for it would be unjust to punish twice for the same sins; once in their Surety, and again in themselves: but so it is not; their afflictions come not from God as a judge, but as a father; and not from his justice, but his love; and not to their detriment and injury, but for their good. In short, they are chastened by the Lord, that they might not be condemned with the world (1 Cor. 11:32).
And as for the prosperity of the wicked, though their eyes stand out with fatness, and they have more than heart can wish, yet they are like beasts that are fattened for the slaughter; their judgment may seem to linger, and their damnation to slumber, but they do not; sudden destruction will come upon them; the tables will, ere long, be turned, and the saints, who have now their evil things, will be comforted; and the wicked, who have now their good things, will be tormented: justice, though it may not so apparently take place now, it will hereafter; when all things will be set to rights, and the judgments of God will be manifest. There is a future state, when the justice of God will shine in all its glory.
Though God forgives sin, yet not without a satisfaction made to his justice; though it is according to the riches of his grace, yet through the blood of Christ shed for it; and upon the ground of the shedding of that blood, God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”, (1 John 1:9) and so it is both an act of grace and of justice; as is eternal glory and happiness, being the free gift of God, through Christ and his righteousness.
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