November 5th, 2017
Dt. 16:18-20; 17:8-13; 24:16
“Love and Justice”
Aux Text: James 2:1-13
Call to Worship: Psalm 82
Service Orientation: Justice is righteous actions without regard to status. We don’t know how to love because we don’t know what it means to be just.
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. — Micah 6:8
- (v. 16:18) To Western readers, these three verses appear to change the subject, interrupting various passages about religious observances in order to discuss legal practices briefly. But in the ancient world, law and religion were very closely linked–as of course the whole book of Deuteronomy demonstrates. In fact, this short paragraph tackles yet another side-effect of the law of the single sanctuary. Local temples were not only places of worship but also the law courts; when Deuteronomy closed down all the shrines outside Jerusalem, the result could have been to deprive ordinary citizens of justice (the key term of v. 20); it would have been difficult and expensive to make a long journey to Jerusalem in pursuit of some legal right or claim, or to defend oneself against a charge. So judges and court officers were to be appointed in all the towns where sanctuaries had been. Once again we see how Deuteronomy never forgets the welfare of the man in the street. (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 101-2)
- (v. 17:8) When the Lord selected Jerusalem as the central site for Israel’s worship, judges and priests in Jerusalem gained greater authority in Israel, and a ruling council developed in the capital city. Some scholars suggest that this Jerusalem ruling council later became the Sanhedrin, the ruling body that put Jesus on trial and sentenced him to die. (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 155-6)
The question to be answered is . . . What does Deuteronomy tell us about love and justice?
Answer: Justice is more important than life itself. You love to the extent you are concerned about justice. We learn justice from God, Who is love.
Love has been so sentimentalized in our culture that putting love and justice into the same sentence sounds as dissonant as joining worship and justice. Yet all these things are intertwined in the character of God, none separable from the others. They are qualities intrinsic to God’s being, and each one names God’s life in different ways. None is to be present without the other. (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 180-1)
Thus love creates order first in the family and among neighbors and then, by extension, in the city and the nation. Without this, even the earthly commonwealth cannot exist. It is love that creates justice. (Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks, 104)
When the Bible talks about injustice, this (having a shopper in front of you in a 10 items or less line who obviously has more than this) is not what it’s talking about. Injustice in the Bible is actually a particular kind of sin. Injustice is about the abuse of power. It is the abuse of power to take from other people. The good things that God intended for them; their life, their liberty, their dignity, the fruit of their love and labor. And when someone who is stronger abuses that power to take from those who are weaker, God calls this a sin. The sin of injustice (Eccl 4:1). (Gary Haugen message, “Just Courage: Charging the Darkness”; Bill Hybels Willow Creek Leadership Conference series)
The Word for the Day is . . . Justice
This root basically connotes conformity to an ethical or moral standard. (R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., Bruce K/ Waltke; Theological Wordbook of the OT: Vol II, 752)
The man who is righteous tries to preserve the peace and prosperity of the community by fulfilling the command of God in regard to others. In the supreme sense the righteous man (saddiq) is one who serves God (Mal 3:10). Specifically, he, like Job, delivers the poor and orphan, helps the blind along the way, supports the weak and is the father (provider) to the poor (Job 29:12-15). (R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., Bruce K/ Waltke; Theological Wordbook of the OT: Vol II, 753)
Whether by nations or individuals, righteous conduct can only be secured by plowing up fallow ground, sowing in righteousness, and reaping in mercy, i.e. making a new base for righteousness (Hos 10:12). All must become new persons whose actions are governed by the law of God. Righteous conduct issues from a new heart (Ezk 36:25-27). Habakkuk puts it another way: the just shall live by faith (Hab 2:4). Isaiah (32:15-17) couples righteousness with the work of the Spirt, all resulting in peace and therefore eternal, assured quietness. (R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., Bruce K/ Waltke; Theological Wordbook of the OT: Vol II, 753)
Today a man may transgress a statute but be innocent before God. In the OT law, to be innocent and to be righteous were one and the same. (R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., Bruce K/ Waltke; Theological Wordbook of the OT: Vol II, 753)
- A Hurried Life Numbs You to Injustices
As Kirk Jones said, “Hurry is a desensitizer, snuffing out moments of intimacy with life to the point that we get used to living day after day with little deep feeling.”
When your life moves at freeway speed, you have no time or energy to consider the world outside of your lane. You become desensitized or unaware of brokenness in the world. Your heart becomes calloused to the things that break God’s heart—the Syrian refugee crisis, the abortion of millions around the world, the heinous treatment of God’s people by ISIS.
God’s heart breaks for injustice and oppression. If your heart doesn’t break for the things that break God’s heart, it’s time to slow down and consider the world outside of your life. (Frank Powell; 6 Reasons You Seriously Need to Slow Down: How a hurried, busy life can destroy your relationship with God. September 17, 2015)
I- Justice is from God and can only be advanced through God’s eyes: with God’s heart, mind and values. (Dt 16:18-19; see also: Job 34:12-19; Ps 9:8, 16; 11:7; 33:5; 111:7; 119:160; 140:12-13; 145:17; Prv 17:23; 18:5; Isa 30:18; 61:8; Jer 9:24; Ezek 18:29; Jn 5:30; 17:25; 2 Thess 1:6)
We may not pervert justice with our own view of the truth. –Jerome (Thomas C. Oden, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Vol. 3, 301)
A biblical view of law is one that plays no favorites and shows no partiality. In Dt 16:19, God tells the ancient Israelites: “You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality.”
This biblical ideal is what undergirds the rule of law, where the law applies to everyone equally. James Madison wrote that the great aim of government is to be “neutral between different parts of the Society”–so that the law neither privileges nor penalizes any particular group. (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 298)
Moses says the judges and officers “shall judge the people with righteous judgment” (16:18b). We saw in our discussion of 1:16 that “righteous judgment” means presenting the best solution to the problem so that it is in line with all of God’s nature as holy love. Therefore, it considers both the merits of the case and human compassion. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 435-6)
“Do not accept a bribe” is more vivid in the original Hebrew: “You shall not regard faces.” To human eyes, some faces may look more prosperous or more prominent than others, but the Lord isn’t swayed by appearances. He wanted those who represented him in courts of law to be equally unmoved by externals. (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 151)
A society patterned after God’s will treats even the least and the lowest men and women with fairness. People who mistreat the poor aren’t reflecting the love God has for all people. He doesn’t play favorites. (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 152)
They “shall not show partiality” (v. 19). Literally, this reads, “You shall not recognize faces.” In other words, they were to treat each person as though they had no prior knowledge of him or her. (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 209)
God is merciful as well as just. He has always dealt in mercy with mankind and will always deal in justice when His mercy is despised. (A. W. Tozer; The Knowledge of the Holy, 91)
The tenth benediction in the Eighteen Benedictions of Jewish daily prayer is: “Blessed are you, O Lord, the king who loves justice and righteousness.” (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 522)
Throughout the OT it is expected that judges will administer justice equitably and impartially (Ex 21:22; 34:1-3, 6-8; Lv 19:15, 35; cf. Ps 82:2; Prv 18:5; Mal 2:9; 2 Chr 19:7). Showing partiality is censured repeatedly in both judicial and wisdom material. (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 523)
It is a problem in every age that people of wealth and power get lenient treatment before the law, while poor folk receive harsh treatment or else no hearing at all. Jeremiah complained about cases of the orphans and the needy not even being heard by the judges (Jer 5:28) c.f. in the NT Jesus’ parable about the persistent widow (Lk 18:1-5). Once again, judges are admonished not to show partiality because Yahweh does not (Dt 10:17). (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 523)
Yahweh takes no bribe (10:17). Bribes are solicited and unsolicited gifts given with improper motives. Here they are payoffs to influence judges, thus perverting the cause of righteousness (Mic 3:11; 7:3; Prv 17:23). They are typically given to acquit the guilty (Isa 5:23) or condemn the innocent (Dt 27:25; Ezek 22:12; Ps 15:5). An aged Samuel said in addressing the people that he had never accepted bribes, and the people gave ringing confirmation of his integrity (1 Sm 12:1-4). Years later Isaiah lashed out at Jerusalem’s princes who loved the bribe and ran after gifts, for which reason they would not defend the orphan or take up the widow’s cause (Isa 1:23). (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 524)
In Ex 18:13-26 and Dt 1:9-18, Moses delegates judicial authority to men who conform to high ethical standards, “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness” (Ex 18:21). Their quality of character makes these men fit for deliberating on judicial cases. It is noteworthy that legal training is not stated as a requirement for judges. Integrity of character takes precedence over technical skill as a qualification for judicial office. (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 209)
It is all too easy to confuse what is legal and what is just. Modern governments create new laws at their own whims, some good and some bad. It is of course right and proper that a legal system should be free from corruption, as verse 19 insists; but laws themselves can be unjust at times, and it is important to bear in mind the distinction between legality and justice. Absolute justice is God’s standard, not because of some theoretical desirability, but because he cares for individual people. God’s people should care deeply about injustice wherever they perceive it. (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 102)
Justice also demands impartiality; not compliance with the masses (“crowd,” “many”; v. 2) or favoritism to the poor (v. 3; cf. Lv 19:15). Justice would also best be served by extending that same spirit of impartiality even to one’s enemies (vv. 4-5; cf. Dt 22:1-3). Regardless of the fact that a man was your enemy (v. 4) or if he even hated you (v. 5), kindnesses were still obligatory even as Job 31:29, and Prv 25:21-22 argued. (Walter Kaiser, Jr., Toward OT Ethics, 110)
I’m sure you have seen how people who are usually very sensible in the way they act become erratic when dealing with someone who has given them substantial gifts. Sadly, recent history has shown that even judges can be bought. Sometimes leaders do things that are not good for the organization, the church, or the nation to satisfy people who give them some monetary gratuity. The bribe blinds them so that they are forced to satisfy the donor rather than doing what is right. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 436)
The people of God not only appropriate common views of justice and righteousness, but contribute distinctive understandings based on the character of God, who is uniquely “just” (RSV “righteous”; Neh 9:33; Ps 7:9; Isa 45:21; Zeph 3:5). It is unthinkable that God would pervert either justice or what is right (Job 8:3).
The major point is that God’s justice is no abstraction at odds with an equally abstract mercy. To the contrary, as the description “a righteous God and a Savior” implies (Isa 45:21), God’s justice seeks concretely to express His mercy and to accomplish His salvation (Jdg 5:11; Ps 7:17; 35:23f; 51:14; 71:15; 103:17; Isa 46:13; 51:5f.). The expected Messiah, accordingly, will judge not by the usual criteria (empirical data perceived by his eyes and ears) but by righteousness (Isa 11:4). “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of thy throne” (Ps 89:14). Steadfast love, faithfulness, and righteousness characterize God (Ps 85:10-13). (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol 2, 1167)
In the NT God’s justice remains bound to His mercy. Paul insists, for instance, that God’s justice is not shaken when the sinner, whose wickedness demonstrates (the justice of God” (AV “righteousness”), is forgiven (Rom 3:5). This position is essential to Paul’s thesis that God, who is not unjust (Rom 9:14), has not rejected His people Israel for being disobedient and contrary (10:21-11:1). Later writers described God as One who “judges justly” (1 Pt 2:23), who is “faithful and just” when He forgives us (1 Jn 1:9), and whose ways are “just and true” (Rv 15:3). (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol 2, 1167)
“God is a god of Justice. This means He will make anything that is wrong right.” (Joyce Meyer message, “The Character of God”, series “God is Faithful and True”)
Human law must rest its authority ultimately upon the authority of that law which is Divine… Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters, friends, and mutual assistants. Indeed, these two sciences run into each other. (James Wilson: signer of both the declaration of Independence and the Constitution; Original Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court)
Other human judges might be blinded by gold, but the Israelite must not be. Justice, and only justice is from Yahweh, and only justice shall issue from his people. Jesus used a similar figure in the parable of the unjust judge who could be persuaded against his will by the importunity of the appellant. If then a selfish human judge can do right, now much more shall the unbribable “Judge of all the earth do right” (Gen 18:25). (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2., 436-7)
Righteousness is not served by a system that expects defense attorneys to convince a jury to acquit the guilty of prosecuting attorneys to condemn the innocent by smooth arguments, evasion of evidence to the contrary, and looking for loopholes in the law. Nor is righteousness served when those with means are able to hire the most skillful legal defense team while the economically or ethnically marginalized are at the mercy of assigned lawyers who would rather be on the other side of the case. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 414)
Dt 17:11 establishes the Torah as the basis of all judgments, while 16:21-17:1 and 17:2-13 illustrate the kind of infidelity that Yahweh abhors. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 401)
In verse 19 Moses refocuses on the Israelites as a community. Broadening the scope and reducing the judicial flavor of earlier injunctions, Moses calls on the people to imitate Yahweh in not perverting justice through partiality or bribery. The latter clouds the vision of those who must make judgments and subverts the pronouncements of the righteous (cf. Prv 22:12). (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 403)
Moses suggests that the central sanctuary will not only be a place of worship but also a court of last resort; he thus implies the role of God in the pursuit of righteousness. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 409)
Justice also meant avoiding discriminating against the poor (Ex 23:5) or joining in and sponsoring slanderously false statements against others, even as Jezebel did against Naboth (1 Kgs 21:10-13). The use or acceptance of bribes in verse 8 (Ex 23:8) (almost verbatim law in Dt 16:19) was odious and reprehensible to God and society. The motivation for feeling so strongly about the principle and practice of justice is given in verse 9 (Ex 23:9): remember you too once were aliens in Egypt: you should know what it feels like and therefore act differently; besides, you know God who himself is just. (Walter Kaiser, Jr., Toward OT Ethics, 110)
The specific prohibitions relate to favoring one of the parties, perhaps because they are poor (Ex 23:3), and to taking bribes, which would favor the rich. These warnings are known already in Exodus, including even some of the motive clauses also found here (Ex 23:3, 6-8, esp. 23:8). (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 287)
Why does America need 70 percent of the world’s lawyers when it has only 5 percent of the world’s population? No wonder America is suffering from a litigation explosion. Lawsuits are even driving some businesses out of the country.
What’s behind this staggering increase in lawsuits?
At its root is a change in the concept of law itself. The classical view is that law is based on unchanging principles of justice. The duty of a judge is to apply the law objectively, without being biased by personal feelings or preferences.
But in the 1920s and 1930s a new theory of law appeared: legal realism–so called because it claims to be more realistic than the classical view. The new theory says judges are just ordinary people. They can’t help being influenced by their own concerns. They can’t be completely objective.
So let’s stop asking them to try, legal realism says. Let’s stop talking about objective principles of justice and just admit that judges make decisions according to their own personal or political agendas. Law was redefined as social engineering by judges.
Legal realism took hold in the 1960s, when the judiciary turned to the left. Judges came to believe that the rich were rich because they oppressed the poor. They began treating lawsuits as a means of punishing the rich and redistributing wealth to the little guy.
This new theory is at work in many of today’s far-fetched lawsuits. Take the case some years ago when angry unionists set fire to a large hotel in Puerto Rico. Lawyers for the victims of the fire didn’t sue the individual arsonists. After all, they were union members; they represented the little guy. No, the lawyers went after the companies that made the carpets, the wallpaper, the bar stools–arguing that the companies should have made their products fire-resistant. They even sued the company that made the dice used in the hotel casino.
It was a classic case of using lawsuits to soak the rich.
In the OT law, you won’t find this bias against the rich. In Ex 23:6, Scripture demands justice for the poor. But in the very same context, it warns us not to be partial to the poor either. This is the classical view of law–impartial justice for rich and poor alike.
If lawyers were to recover that view, our nation would not be overrun by lawyers whose hidden agenda is to change the social and economic structures of society. (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 295-6)
II- Justice promotes security and prosperity. (Dt 16:20 & 17:13 see also: Ps 1:5-6; 15:5; 34:19; 45:6; 82:2; 92:12; 106:3; 112:4-6; Prv 3:33; 11:23, 28; 12:21; 13:25; 15:6; 17:23; 24:3; 28:21; Isa 5:23; 26:7; Mal 2:9; 1 Pt 3:12)
Prosperous life in the land could not continue if they abandoned Yahweh. But likewise, it could not continue if judicial corruption set in like a cancer at the social level. The integrity of the judicial system was (and still is) basic to the preservation of society. Any society will have some levels of crime and some levels of injustice, but if the means of restitution and redress themselves become corrupt, then there is only despair. Justice itself turns to wormwood (Amos 5:7, 10). (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 205)
Bribery is one of the terrible ways in which justice is perverted. Perverting justice is a serious thing. When those who are the custodians of the law act in ways that make people think the law will not protect them, they are hitting at the very heart of what makes a society stable and healthy. The law protects the nation by rewarding those who do good and punishing those who do evil (Rom 13:3, 4). Therefore, those who enforce the law are a key ingredient to the health of a nation. This is why contempt of court is dealt with so severely in the law. The honor and esteem in which the court is held must be protected, and this is why those who dishonor the court must be severely punished. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 436)
Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. — John F. Kennedy.
Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope…and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. — Robert F. Kennedy
Frank Bruni, a liberal, writing for the New York Times wrote, “The more economically privileged the circles, the more people assert their identities through the supposed erudition, acuity, and morality of their food choices. . . What a person genuinely, viscerally enjoys , regardless of its cultural bona fides, carries little weight. Food is the new fashion: our outward advertisement of who we are.”
Stated differently, what we eat has become a signal of our virtue. It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that eating organic is the new justice and eating locally-sourced is the new temperance, at least in some exclusive zip codes.
By implication, that means that those who do not consume in this way are vicious, in the original Latin sense of the world, “Corrupt,” and “depraved”.
Or course, these ideas of vice and virtue are literally superficial. As Jesus—remember Him?—said, “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles him.”
And in so many other instances, our post-Christian era has stood the truth about goodness and beauty, virtue and vice on its head. All that’s left is to argue about the condiments. (Eric Metaxas; BreakPoint Daily, Fri, Mar 10, 2017: Colson Center<email@example.com>)
A republic can’t succeed and won’t succeed in the tremendous international stress of the modern world unless its citizens possess that form of high-minded patriotism which consists in putting devotion to duty before the question of individual rights. (Theodore Roosevelt, Fear God and Take Your Own Part, 364-5)
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.” —Thomas Jefferson
I abhor unjust war. I abhor injustice and bullying by the strong at the expense of the weak, whether among nations or individuals. I abhor violence and bloodshed. But it takes strength to put a stop to abhorrent things. (George Grant, Carry a Big Stick: The Uncommon Heroism of Theodore Roosevelt, 131-2)
Israelite compliance with Moses’ instructions in 16:18-17:13 acts of deliverance, providential care, and revelation (Jdg 2:10), resulting in a complete loss of the agenda spelled out here: “righteousness, only righteousness.” By the time of Eli (1 Sm 1-4), the spiritual and judicial system was so compromised that not even those who served at the central shrine knew Yahweh or the “oracle, judgment” of the priests (1 Sm 2:12-13). (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 412)
Because God gave them the land, His people “shall not pervert justice” (Dt 16:18-20; 24:17f.). His reason, the basis, for keeping God’s justice and doing His righteousness is that God’s salvation and deliverance are on the way (Isa 56:1). (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol 2, 1167)
It is equally true that when a people distance themselves from God, a true prophet must write of them: “therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us” (Isa 59:9; cf. 59:2). That is, God’s justice already exists, and it cannot be ignored and denied with impunity (Isa 1:17-20; Hos 2:19; 4:1; Am 5:15). (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol 2, 1167)
III- Justice is more important than life. (Dt 17:8-13; see also: Ps 37:6; 75:10; Prv 1:1-7; 10:16; 11:19; Amos 5:14-15)
For judges righteousness is everything. Here it is said to be the key to life and possession of the land, two important themes in Deuteronomy. The prophets, too, saw justice and righteousness as necessary for Israel’s survival (Isa 1:27; 9:6; 16:5; Hos 2:21 ; Jer 23:5; 33:15). (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 525)
Moses is emphatic when he repeats the term “justice” in verse 20: “Justice, and only justice [literally, justice, justice], you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” The repetition of “justice” points to the urgency of the task. Commitment to justice is a key concern of the people of God, because God is a God of justice. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 437)
Four times Moses declares that the sentence is to be carried out precisely as instructed: “according to the word they declare to you” (v. 10a); “according to all they teach you” (v. 10b); “according to the pronouncement they say to you” (v. 11b; all pers. trans.). (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 410-1)
Tolerance is the enemy of justice. Justice undermines everything that Tolerance stands for. Tolerance and Justice cannot coexist. Justice = moral base. Tolerance is the negation of a moral base. — Josh McDowell
“Tolerance” can be a genuinely harmful force when it becomes a euphemism for moral exhaustion and a rigid or indifferent neutrality in response to every great moral issue—when, in G. K. Chesterton’s phrase, it becomes the virtue of people who do not believe in anything. For that paves the road to injustice. (William J. Bennett; The Death of Outrage, 122)
When we allow rights to trump duty we are displaying the maturity of an adolescent.” (Ken Meyers, Mars Hill Audio Vol 115 – interview with Thomas Berger)
Humans are the only creatures who, by instinct, do not blindly obey the laws of their nature. Instead, humans enjoy the ability to master their passions, their bigotries, their ignorance. Where 250 million citizens are guarded by an ‘inner’ policeman—a conscience—the number of real policemen can be few. Among people without this inner policeman, there aren’t enough policemen in the world to make society civil.” (“All Things are Not Relative” Reader’s Digest, 11/94, 79)
The more the world hollers and screams that things are not right or just, the more they are ignorantly appealing to the reality and henceforth the justice of God. For if there is no God then everything is permissible (Dostoyevsky; The Brothers Karamazov). And the more you appeal to justice, the more you must look to God as the only possible transcendent source of right and wrong for justice to even be logical.— Pastor Keith
Justice- When you get what you deserve.
Mercy- When you don’t get what you deserve.
Grace- When you get what you don’t deserve
Imposing the same rigorous standards of compliance to a specific revelation from God as he does to the Torah in general (5:32; 17:20; 28:14), Moses considers it a deviation “to the right or to the left” to inflict punishment more severely or leniently than the ruling prescribed, or to substitute the prescribed sentence with a different action. Therefore, his instructions here conclude with a stern warning: failure to execute the judgment as prescribed is the height of presumption and defiance against God (v. 12a-b). Refusal to listen to the priest who stands in the service of Yahweh, or to the judge who declares Yahweh’s verdict, is as reprehensible as idolatry itself (cf. 17:5-7a) and deserves the death penalty. (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 411)
The sanction for failure to carry out the decision of the high court is death. This extreme penalty is designed to assert the rights of the high court as an instrument of theocratic rule in Israel. Dissent from its decision is “presumption,” that is, a deliberate defiance of God. The root idea is pride, and when directed against God it deserves the severest punishment (cf. Jer 50:31-32; the term occurs again in Dt 18:22, where it refers to a prophet’s false claim to have spoken in God’s name). (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 292)
Earthly judges represent God in judging humans. Paul said that even a non-Christian judge “is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Rom 13:4). The nature of God that lies behind his laws should resonate with all people who are committed to justice, and humans are all made in the image of God. Therefore, what the Bible says about the character of judges and officers should be applicable to all judges and officers, even if they do not acknowledge God’s lordship over their lives. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 436)
The phrase “shows contempt” is “boils up” in Hebrew, which implies that resentment may have been festering inside a guilty person for some time before he or she reached the “boiling point.” The death penalty for such anger against the Lord’s judgment would deter others from committing such a crime, and it was a suitable sentence for someone who showed contempt for the Lord’s courts. (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 155)
The high duty of judges (16:18-20) is to be matched by a high respect by the people for their words. Anything less will bring evil and wrath on Israel. Hence the strong deterrent policy of verse 12. Sadly, the history of the nation tells us that many prophetic words of condemnation were brought against the judges themselves, for their contempt of the Torah of God and their corruption of justice. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 207)
Not only is it important for people to keep the Law, they must learn to submit to and obey the verdicts of the custodians of the Law. This is because these custodians are God’s agents needed for maintaining the stability and peace and honor of the state. We saw earlier how Paul viewed even non-Christian judges as having such a function (Rom 13:4). If the verdicts are not carried out, that is similar to challenging the constitution of the nation–a serious crime. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 444)
Elsewhere the expression “purge evil” is used for putting to death prophets or dreamers who lead the people to follow other gods (13:1-5) and those who have committed a variety of serious sins, such as premeditated murder (19:11-13), false witness (19:15-21), and sexual sin (22:13-24). Now it is used for those who do not obey the verdict of the courts. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 444)
True freedom is not found by seeking to develop the powers of the self without limit, for the human person is not made for autonomy but for true relatedness in love and obedience; and this also entails the acceptance of limits as a necessary part of what it means to be human. Nor will the quest for equality create real justice, for justice–the giving to each of what is proper–can only be realized in a mutual relatedness in which each gives to the other the love and obedience that enable all to be truly human. Apart from this, the quest for justice becomes self-destructive, since it is of the very essence of fallen human nature that each of us overestimates what is due to the self and underestimates what is due to the other. (Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks, 119)
To be truly good one has to be outraged by evil and utterly and implacably hostile to injustice. No one can call themselves good and have an iota of indifference to evil of any sort. (Rebecca Manley Pippert, Hope Has Its Reasons, 94)
As in 13:11, the Lawgiver plainly asserted that capital punishment would be a deterrent to crime. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 115)
Find out what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them. —Frederick Douglass (Leadership…with a human touch, 11/13/01; 23)
Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College, elaborates on this marvelous truth of equality that retains a difference. He demonstrates that in God’s economy there is an egalitarianism in people but an elitism in ideas. By that he means the equality of all humanity but the inequality of ideas. While human beings are equal, ideas are not. By contrast, in the world’s way of doing things we have created an elitism among people and an egalitarianism of ideas: We have made some people superior to others and rendered all ideas equal. The end result has been the exploitation of people and the death of truth. And that is why we have an epidemic of evil that denudes people but fights for ideas. (Ravi Zacharias, Deliver Us From Evil: Restoring the Soul in a Disintegrating Culture, 207)
America first proclaimed its independence on the basis of self-evident moral truths. America will remain a beacon of freedom for the world as long as it stands by those moral truths which are the very heart of its historical experience…And so America: if you want peace, work for justice. If you want justice, defend life. If you want life, embrace truth—truth revealed by God. (Pope John Paul II, during a prayer service in St. Louis, Missouri, Jan. 26, 1999)
Justice without strength is helpless, strength without justice is tyrannical…Unable to make what is just strong, we have made what is strong just. —Blaise Pascal
There is a strong connection between idolatry and social injustice. (Isa 29:17-21; 46:5-13; 48:17-18; 56:9-57:12; Jer 23:13-14; Ez 16:47-52; Hos 4:1-14; Amos 2:6-8; Mal 3:5)
The point of the regulation seems to be that, when the high court was consulted, its decision must be implemented. The high court is not strictly a court of appeal; there is no second trial here, nor does the responsibility for the trial pass irrevocably to the high court, for the local representatives are charged with implementing the decision. The heart of the command, therefore, comes in vv. 10-11, with its insistence that the high court’s decision be followed in every point. (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 292)
IV- As creatures made in God’s image we are all personally responsible and accountable for promoting justice. (Dt 24:16; see also: Lv 19:15; Dt 24:17-19; Isa 1:17; Ez 3:20-21; ch 18; Amos 5:12; Rom 6:23)
Our real concern is not justice but “just us.” (Os Guinness; Fit Bodies Fat Minds, 17)
The realignment of power is fundamental to the cause of justice because much of the twisted soul of injustice is the abuse of power. Whether the injustice is poverty, bonded slavery, land grabbing, forced prostitution, hunger, rape or racism, we find the abuse of power. Likewise, an abuse of power is at play even in more mundane examples of injustice: gossip, manipulation, coercion, lying, deception or libel. At the core of it all lies an abuse of power. Nothing thwarts God’s purposes more than twisted power; nothing renews God’s purposes more than redeeming power. (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 109)
Some people say . . . I don’t believe really in a god because of the injustice. But, if there is no God there is no basis for being outraged . . . If there is a God evil is a problem. A big problem. But if evil is a problem for you there must be a God. (Tim Keller sermon, “The Search for Justice”)
In the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist–in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless–I found that I was forced to assume that one part of reality–namely my idea of justice–was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 42)
This nation hollered and screamed for justice when over 3000 Americans died at the hands of terrorist on 9-11-01. And yet hardly a word is said when terrorists kill close to that many of our infant Americans, not once a year, not even once a month, but every single day. We truly are a nation that is saturated and drunk with the blood of our young. God have mercy on our souls. — Pastor Keith
Even if law was to be divorced from sanctuaries, it was not to be divorced from God’s standards; and he himself would in the end judge the judges. (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 102)
Hammurabi’s law code contained some statutes in which a son could be punished for his father’s crimes. If a man was a careless builder, for example, and his poor workmanship caused the death of the homeowner’s son, the builder’s son could be put to death.
By contrast, this law prohibited judges or elders from punishing children or grandchildren for sins their fathers commit. Every person stands accountable before God for his or her own actions. “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezek 18:4). Unrepentant men and women will die for their own sins–not for the transgressions of somebody else. (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 227)
Dt 24:16, however, is a principle of jurisprudence to be observed as the normal practice of Israelite courts. The judges in those courts could not render decisions with the omniscient insight of Yahweh himself, so they were bound to limit their application of the law to the people who were directly responsible.
In David’s case, his children were not punished for his sins, but through their waywardness (and the consequent parental anguish) David was punished for his own. There is no suggestion in the narratives about David’s subsequent family history that his children who behaved so badly were coerced into doing so. (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 286-7)
More recently the law has been understood as a prohibition of “vicarious punishment,” which was practiced elsewhere in the ANE but not in Israel. Vicarious punishment occurs when someone other than the guilty party is surrendered to the victim’s family for punishment. Vicarious punishment is called for in the Code of Hammurabi and in the Middle Assyrian Laws. In the former, if a man strikes the pregnant daughter of another and she miscarries and dies, that man’s own daughter must be put to death. And if a house, because of faulty construction, collapses and kills the householder’s son, the builder’s son must be put to death. Greenberg says the present law means to exclude vicarious punishment and that nowhere in the Bible are secular offenses punished vicariously. (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 693)
The OT does attest to cases of collective and vicarious punishment, the most obvious being the punishment carried out by Yahweh for accumulated sin over the generations, which led to the nation’s demise and large numbers of people paying the price with their lives. Greenberg includes in this category the case of Achan’s sons and daughters being put to death in Joshua 7 and Saul’s sons being put to death in 2 Sm 21, both of which in his view are offenses that “touch the realm of the deity directly.” At the time of Korah’s wilderness rebellion, Moses and Aaron cried in desperation to Yahweh: “O God, God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin and you be angry against all the congregation?” (Nm 16:22). In this case, however, the sons of Korah did not die (Nm 26:11). A distinction, nevertheless, has to be made between punishment meted out by God on the one hand and punishment by human judges on the other. God can and does carry out corporate and vicarious punishment, but human courts in Israel may not do likewise. The present law seeks then to limit the scope of punishment permissible in Israelite law courts: only the one who sins shall die. (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 694-5)
Such dissatisfaction with the world as it is is preparation for traveling in the way of Christian discipleship. The dissatisfaction, coupled with a longing for peace and truth, can set us on a pilgrim path of wholeness in God.
A person has to be thoroughly disgusted with the way things are to find the motivation to set out on the Christian way. As long as we think that the next election might eliminate crime and establish justice or another scientific breakthrough might save the environment or another pay raise might push us over the edge of anxiety into a life of tranquility, we are not likely to risk the arduous uncertainties of the life of faith. A person has to get fed up with the ways of the world before he, before she, acquires an appetite for the world of grace. (Eugene H. Peterson; A Long Obedience in the Same Direction discipleship in an Instant Society, 23)
This law must be seen in its proper context–namely, the administration of criminal law in human courts. Deuteronomy elsewhere expresses a deep understanding of corporate solidarity of the people of God, through the covenant that spans the generations. However, while it is true theologically that each generation’s commitments and failures affect those that follow, the basic legal principle of individual responsibility is to be strictly applied. (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 259)
The ancient principle of Dt 24:16 (“Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers: each is to die for his own sin”) states the individual responsibility condition very clearly; however, since there are more factors in the outcome of virtue or calamity in a world of sin than just the nature or quality of a person or a nation, other aspects must be taken into account. “A single word, or a single incident, may bring out one side of the truth more than the other, but both sides must be remembered in any study of the thought and teaching of the Bible.” (Walter Kaiser, Jr., Toward OT Ethics, 70)
This rule was put into practice on at least one occasion. The Judean King Joash was assassinated in a palace conspiracy (2 Kgs 12:20), but when his son Amaziah was firmly in control of the government, “he executed the officials who had murdered his father the king. Yet he did not put the sons of the assassins to death in accordance with what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses where the LORD commanded: ‘Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers: each is to die for his own sins’” (2 Kgs 14:5-6).
Certainly, collective punishment involving group solidarity did appear, but these cases involved either collective guilt (where all the city is drawn into idolatrous worship by certain good-for-nothing fellows, Dt 13:12-16), breaking of an oath (with the Gibeonites in 2 Sm 21), or complicity and involvement in the crime of the royal house against Naboth with no repentance in the interim by any of the royal family (2 Kgs 10:1-11; cf. 1 Kgs 21). Both individual responsibility or worth and group solidarity must be understood and carefully defined in approaching OT ethics. (Walter Kaiser, Jr., Toward Old Testament Ethics, 72)
Moreover, He has not so bound Himself by an inflexible rule as not to be free, if it so pleases Him, to depart from the Law; as, for example, He commanded the whole race of Canaan to be rooted out, because the land would not be purged except by the extermination of their defilements; and, since they were all reprobate, the children, no less than their fathers, were doomed to just destruction. Nay, we read that, after Saul’s death, his guilt was expiated by the death of his children, (2 Sm 21;) still, by this special exception, the Supreme Lawgiver did not abrogate what He had commanded; but would have His own admirable wisdom acquiesced, in which is the fountain from whence all laws proceed. (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. III, 50-1)
This law is sometimes contrasted with the idea that Yahweh’s punishment extends to the third and fourth generation (Ex 20:5-6; Dt 5:9-10), but those statements do not have the law court as their setting. The Book of the Covenant knows that the sin of a father will have bad effects on the next generation of his family, but does not actually involve them in his punishment (Ex 22:23).
The closest affinity with the present verse in the OT is in Ezek 18, but there the basic legal principle is extended into the broader context of the religious-ethical responsibility of the exile generation for its own standing before God (cf. Jer 31:29-31). (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 363)
People don’t base their lives on what is true, but on what they see as attractive. — Porter Paraphrase of Blaise Pascal
I remember driving one day with a man who is a convinced skeptic, a self-confessed atheist. As we approached an intersection, a car ran a red light and headed toward us. Only because I had very good brakes was I able to avoid what would have been a serious accident. My friend started shaking his fist at the other driver, exclaiming, “You’ll get your due someday. You’ll get yours.”
I told him that he was asserting a very problematic proposition for an atheist. If an atheist really believes that there is no God and that the universe is simply cruel, unjust, and random, he has to explain how he gets the idea of just and unjust. If there is no sense of justice or right and wrong, or standard for behavior, no universal judge in the universe, why would you expect wrongdoers to “get their due”? How would you even know they were wrongdoers? My friend was asking a God he didn’t believe in to administer what only God can finally supply: justice. (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 277)
Worship Point: God commands us to be just because He loves us all. We need to learn that promoting justice is life itself. Worship the God Who encourages us to love and enjoy the life that is truly life. (1 Tm 6:19)
A god who loves everyone and everything, no matter what they do, is a god without values, morals, virtue, justice and love. An all accepting god must, by definition, be a god who doesn’t care or doesn’t even exist.
A God who loves, who values right over wrong, good over evil, justice over injustice; a God Who loves instead of showing indifference, must be a God who hates what is contrary to His values and is angry when that which He values is violated, compromised or ignored. Otherwise, he is a god who doesn’t care about that which he said he loves or values. — Pastor Keith 11-28-16
How can we learn to love God and seek justice in a dangerous world in the name of Christ, if in our worship we have only experienced a domesticated God? (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 44)
According to the narrative of Scripture, the very heart of how we show and distinguish true worship from false worship is apparent in how we respond to the poor, the oppressed, the neglected and the forgotten. As of now, I do not see this theme troubling the waters of worship in the American church. But justice and mercy are not add-ons to worship, nor are they the consequences of worship. Justice and mercy are intrinsic to God and therefore intrinsic to the worship of God. (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 37-8)
Worshiping Yahweh involves not only regular periods of rejoicing, but a careful pursuit of the justice that is characteristic of Yahweh himself. (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 204)
Gospel Application: Just Jesus made the unjust just by unjustly being our justification. Just Jesus died for the unjust to make us just. Jesus demonstrated that justice is more important than life itself. (Lk 20:21; 23:47; Acts 3:14; 7:51-52; 8:33; 22:14; Rom 1:17; 3:21-28; 5:1-21; 10:4; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 2:16-17; 5:4; Phil 3:8-10; Tit 3:7; 1 Pt 3:18; 1 Jn 1:9; 2:1, 29)
Judgment proceeds and defines mercy. You have to have judgment before mercy is relevant. Judgment is a pre-requisite of mercy and grace. It is no wonder that the people of America do not understand the message of grace. They have a terribly perverted view of justice. —Steve Brown
Heidelberg Catechism questions 13-19
Q12. According to God’s righteous judgment we deserve punishment both in this world and forever after: how then can we escape this punishment and return to God’s favor?
- God requires that his justice be satisfied (Ex 23:7; Rom 2:1-22). Therefore the claims of his justice must be paid in full, either by ourselves or another (Isa 53:11; Rom 8:3-4).
Q13. Can we pay this debt ourselves?
- Certainly not. Actually, we increase our guilt every day (Mat 6:12; Rom 2:4-5).
14Q. Can another creature—any at all—pay this debt for us?
- No. To begin with, God will not punish another creature for what a human is guilty of (Ezek 18:4, 20; Heb 2:14-18). Besides, no mere creature can bear the weight of God’s eternal anger against sin and release others from it (Ps 49:7-9; 130:3).
Q15. What kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then?
- One who is truly human (Rom 1:3; 1 Cor 15:21; Heb 2:17) and truly righteous (Isa 53:9; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 7:26), yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God (Isa 7:14; 9:6; Jer 23:6; Jn 1:1).
Q16. Why must he be truly human and truly righteous?
- God’s justice demands that human nature, which has sinned, must pay for its sin (Rom 5:12, 15; 1 Cor 15:21; Heb 2:14-16); but a sinner could never pay for others (Heb 7:26-27; 1 Pt 3:18).
Q17. Why must he also be true God?
- So that, by the power of his divinity, he might bear the weight of God’s anger in his humanity and earn for us and restore to us righteousness and life (Isa 53; Jn 3:16; 2 Cor 5:21).
Q18. And who is this mediator—true God and at the same time truly human and truly righteous?
- Our Lord Jesus Christ (Mt 1:21-13; Lk 2:11; 1 Tm 2:5), who was given us to set us completely free and to make us right with God (1 Cor 1:30).
Q19. How do you come to know this?
- The holy gospel tells me. God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise (Gen 3:15); later, he proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs (Gn 22:18; 49:10) and prophets (Isa 53; Jer 23:5-6; Mic 7:18-20; Acts 10:43; Heb 1:1-2), and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law (Lv 1-7; Jn 5:46; Heb 10:1-10); finally, he fulfilled it through his own dear Son (Rom 10:4; Gal 4:4-5; Col 2:17).
If you want to see another version of “no condemnation” no more condemnation, nothing can bring you back under condemnation, nothing can ever bring you back under condemnation . . Take a look at this very famous verse that I have heard people use for years. If you are into Scripture memory, it is usually one of the little Scripture memory verses. It is in 1 John, chapter one, eight and nine. And it says, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’
“Oh,” you say, “See there. It says, ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ Right. Which means that if you sin you are condemned until you confess your sin and then you are forgiven.”
Oh no. Did you listen carefully? That is not the way . . . that might be the way that other religions work, but it is not the way Christianity works. Because it does not say . . . “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and merciful to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” He doesn’t say He is faithful and merciful to forgive us your sins. He doesn’t say, “O Lord, forgive my sins, reconcile with me, cleanse me, and embrace me because of your mercy.” I’m not saying that God is not merciful. But that is not what 1 John is saying.
John is saying He will forgive you your sins, not because of His mercy, but because of His justice. He will be faithful and just to forgive you your sins.
You know that means? It means that if you are a Christian, and you are in Christ Jesus, and you come and ask for forgiveness (and I have to say this reverently – but it is in the Bible . . . But here it is) It would be utterly unjust for God to NOT to forgive you.
Do you know why?
Because when Jesus Christ stands before the Father as our Advocate and as our High Priest, as the Bible says, He is praying for us.
Well, what is He saying?
Is He saying, “When you sin, and you come and you say, O Lord, please forgive me.” Does Jesus turn to the Father and say, “One more time please. I mean I know this is sin number 835 in the same category this year. But please, out of your mercy Father, please one more time.”
That is not what John says He is doing. That is not what Romans 8 indicates He is doing. What Jesus Christ in a sense — This is all metaphorical language to some degree, so we can understand it. When it said, That when we sin, and you pray to God, “Please forgive me . ..” Jesus Christ says, “I have paid for it. And therefore, If you do not forgive that sin, you would be getting two payments. And therefore, embrace this sister of mine, embrace this brother of mine, you know why? Because you need to embrace him or her, not out of your mercy now, it was in your mercy that you put me forth as a substitution, it was in your mercy that you put me forth to pay the penalty out of my own life and blood. But now, embrace them out of justice. It would be unjust. Your Law demands payment! I have paid it. Therefore, righteousness, justice, the very law of God demands, and will eternally demand that You embrace this person.”
And so you see when you as a Christian go to ask for forgiveness, you are not saying, “Oh Lord, I’m under condemnation, get me out.”
When my sons are rude to me, or my wife — when they sin against us; one of the reasons why their rudeness, (in fact, you know rudeness from somebody outside the family isn’t all that big a deal. Rudeness from inside the family is. In other words their sins are sins because they are inside, because they are inseparably linked to us. And when they ask for forgiveness, they are not saying, “Please dad, put me back in the will”. They know that they are not out. They don’t say, “Please dad let me back in the family. You know draw up those papers that make us your legal heirs once again.” They know that is not the issue.
They are saying, Dad, because we are inseparably linked to you, it is so wrong for us to be out of fellowship. They are not asking to be brought back into the family, they are asking for renewal of fellowship. And that is what you are supposed to be doing at the very same time.
. . . And if we as flawed parents know that nothing will ever separate our heart, then how in the world is that going to happen to God. There is no condemnation. There is not more condemnation. (Tim Keller sermon: “Freedom in the Spirit”)
Spiritual Challenge: Endeavor to live out God’s requirements as revealed in Micah 6:8: Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. You can only effectively do this with the mind of Christ that comes by inviting Jesus into your heart as Lord and Master of your life. (Prv 18:5; 21:3; Isa 11:1-5; 41:1-4; Mic 6:8; 1 Tm 5:21; 1 Jn 2:29)
In our personal lives and as a group we should seek to ensure that all people are treated fairly and that none are deprived of their rights. (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 437)
Roosevelt was thoroughly convinced that there could be no standard for the outward life if there were no standard for the inward life. But, simultaneously, there could be no inward standard if there were no outward standard. For him, justice and righteousness were completely inseparable. (George Grant, Carry a Big Stick: The Uncommon Heroism of Theodore Roosevelt, 195)
Only when we show that we have a greater concern about our own sin will we have a right to confront sin in others. This is not tolerance. It is justice. (Thomas E. Schmidt, Straight & Narrow?, 172)
Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights. — John Wooden
Americans should select and prefer Christians as their rulers. (John Jay, The very first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court)
In submission we are at least free to value other people. Their dreams and plans become important to us. We have entered into a new, wonderful, glorious freedom–the freedom to give up our own rights for the good of others. For the first time we can love people unconditionally. We have given up the right to demand that they return our love. No longer do we feel that we have to be treated in a certain way. We rejoice in their successes. We feel genuine sorrow in their failures. It is of little consequence that our plans are frustrated if their plans succeed. We discover that it is far better to serve our neighbor than to have our own way. (Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 112)
It is not that social justice became less important to God in NT times, but rather that the Church was in a very different situation from that of tribal amphictyony or theocratic monarchy. “Masters, treat your slaves justly” (Col 4:1) is not merely an appeal to common sensibilities about slaves, but also a reminder “that you also have a Master in heaven” (4:1b). “Justice and mercy and faith” remain more essential to the law than tithing (Mt 23:23). Luke’s commitment to “the people of the land” is in the same tradition. NT apocalyptic writings abound in this understanding of justice, even if not in the same terminology (Mt 24-25; Mk 13; Lk 21:8-36). (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol 2, 1167)
So What?: You want to enjoy the best possible life? You want your children and grandchildren to enjoy the best possible life? Then promote justice: with yourself, your family, your church, your community and your world. It can only be done by work of the Holy Spirit through God’s Word.
the JUST JUSTIFIER