Justice & Mercy
The majority of this information comes from an article written by Brian Rosner. I have edited down his three-page article into some key thoughts for us, as we consider the bookends of justice and mercy.
The theme of justice in the Bible reveals God’s loving and upright character, our own failure to act justly, the means by which we can be justified, and the need for God’s people to love justice. We find in the Old Testament the terms for judge, justice, and (civil) laws all derive from the same root. In other words, justice is closely related to and administered as an ideal legal standard. Yet the concept of justice in the Bible covers more than punishing wrongdoing. It includes treating all people not only with fairness but also with protection and care. God calls all people to seek justice for those most vulnerable to suffering injustice. The Bible regularly pairs justice with acting righteously and behaving with mercy, love, kindness, and compassion. Justice is rooted in God’s character and creation: “He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4). “The Lord is righteous, He loves justice” (Psalms 11:7). “The Lord Almighty will be exalted by His justice” (Isaiah 5:16). God’s character includes a zeal for justice that leads Him to love tenderly those who are socially powerless (Psalms 10:14 – 18). Similarly, the prophets rail against injustice and insist that the right worship of God cannot exist without loving justice. Amos threatens judgment on “those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts” (Amos 5:12). Zechariah exhorts God’s people to “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor” (Zechariah 7:9 – 10). Jesus echoes the Old Testament prophets when He calls out the Pharisees for concentrating on religious observance while neglecting “justice and the love of God” (Luke 11:42). For Jesus, a lack of concern for the poor is not a minor oversight but reveals a person is at odds with God. This is illustrated in the parable of the sheep and goats where the true sheep are those who have a heart for the hungry, the stranger, the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned (Matthew 25:35 – 36). Habakkuk complains to God that His people are ignoring His demand for justice, and he wonders why God allows the unjust to continue in their wickedness: “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails” (Habakkuk 1:3 – 4). Habakkuk asks how God’s justice can reconcile with his experience of the world. God answers that He has appointed “the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people” (Habakkuk 1:6), to punish His rebellious children by taking them into exile. Not surprisingly, this raises another moral dilemma for the prophet: Babylon is even more wicked than Judah (Habakkuk 1:13)! How could God use such a vile tool, those who are “a law to themselves” (Habakkuk 1:7)? God assures Habakkuk that He will eventually judge the Babylonians. In the meantime, the just must wait patiently, remain loyal to God, and trust God to show himself as just.
For us living in 2020 and navigating a global epidemic, racial strife, and a divisive national election, how do we maintain our joy and peace? And at the same time live a life of justice and mercy, knowing we may not receive it because of the wickedness of the present Babylonian mindset trying to control our nation? Consider the 220,000 Americans who have died during the COVID-19 crisis. Are we more upset with the false reporting of many of these deaths or knowing many of them entered into eternity not knowing Christ as their Savior? Let’s love Justice and Mercy now more than ever even if we don’t receive it in return!