The Justice of God
Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day. Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly. (Nehemiah 9:32–33)
Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:28–31)
Surely one of the most persistent complaints of childhood is: “it’s not fair”. Whether it’s bedtime, the choice of food or visiting a distant aunt the youthful sense of justice is often offended. If a teacher dare rebuke a child, then they can expect the counter-challenge of being unfair since, inevitably, it was someone else’s fault. It’s just not fair!
This sense of fairness continues into adulthood, and much of modern debate centres around justice. Justice must be seen to be done, and should you find yourself in a queue on the ring road you will notice that the County Court in Hereford has been renamed the “Justice Centre”. Justice is a noble ideal, and one which is an echo of the character of the God who is just, and who deals justly. As we are judged by God, so we seek justice in our wider society.
Yet this should give us some pause. I wonder if you’ve considered what it would be to be judged by God, the God who knows the secrets of our hearts (Psalm 44:21). Jesus urges us: “you therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), yet who can say they are perfect, except Christ himself? The problem with justice is that we ourselves often fail to live by the standards we demand of others, let alone the standard God demands of us.
We might like to demand justice, but do we want to receive it? “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
It is as we come to terms with the justice of God that we begin to grasp the wonderful, deep grace of his forgiveness. As we realise how far short we have fallen, the bloody, reconciling sacrifice of Christ on the cross becomes more precious. Justice will be done. But forgiveness is offered.