Some months ago, a woman wrote to the editor of a New Orleans area newspaper, upset that someone had suggested that homosexuality is forbidden in the Bible. “My God,” she wrote, “is a God of love, and not a God of judgment.” That is a very common sentiment these days.
A couple of months ago, when we began this series, “Our Great God”, I mentioned that many people today serve a God of their own imagination, not relying upon the truths God revealed to us about Himself in His word. There is perhaps no concept that people understand least about God today than the concept of His justice. People think that God is just a God of love. And He IS a God of love. But they overlook the vital fact that He is also a God of justice, and they overlook it to their own detriment. It is an integral part of who He is. In Genesis 18, Abraham said, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” The answer to that question is, “YES!” He is “Our Just God.”
I. The Doctrine of Our Just God
Last week we saw how in Genesis 18 the Lord had come to visit Abraham and Sarah, and tell them that nothing was too difficult for Him, and that at that time next year, Sarah would have a son. He is the Omnipotent God. But after that conversation, God told Abraham that He was going to judge Sodom. Abraham famously begins to intercede: “Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city?” etc. And he makes the plea in :25, “Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” Here Abraham makes an extremely important statement: He calls God “The Judge of all the earth.” God is indeed the Judge of all the earth. The Bible says in Hebrews, “It is appointed unto man once to die, and then the judgment.” And God is the One who will judge us. We are all accountable to Him. But one thing we may be confident of: The Judge of all the earth WILL indeed judge rightly. Abraham exhorted the Lord: “Surely You won’t treat the righteous and the wicked alike; surely You will spare those righteous. Surely the Judge of all the earth will deal justly.” And of course the answer to that is “YES!” He WILL judge justly. There are certainly unjust judges in the world, but the Lord is not one of them! We can be confident that “The Judge of all the earth will deal justly.” He is “Our Just God.” We see this evidenced throughout scripture:
— At the end of his ministry, Moses gave a song of praise to God in Deuteronomy 32:4-5 “For I proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God, the Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.” Several times in that song, Moses emphasized the just nature of God: “His work is perfect”; “ALL His ways are just” – there is nothing that God will do that is not just. As the song says: “Everything He’s done is just and true.” He is “without injustice.”
The Hebrew word for “justice” (and “righteousness”) is “tzedek”, which literally means “straight.” If you picture justice and righteousness as a straight line, God never deviates from that straight line. You’ve heard people use the expression, “Be straight with me”, or “give it to me straight.” They mean, tell me the truth; be honest with me; be right and just. You’ve heard honest people described as “straight as an arrow”, and a holy life as “the straight and narrow way.” That is what this word “just” means when it describes God. The Bible says that God is absolutely “straight.” He is totally just. He never deviates from what is right. As the song says, “Everything He does is just and true.” “ALL His ways are just.”
— Isaiah the prophet speaks of the just nature of God: “For the LORD is a God of justice.” (30:18)
In the Book of Psalms, God’s just nature is repeatedly referenced:
— Psalm 33:5 “He loves righteousness and justice;”
— Psalm 37:28 “For the LORD loves justice …”
— Psalm 89:14 “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne”
— Psalm 97:2 “Clouds and thick darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.”
Those last two statements are crucial ones in our understanding of the Person and Nature of God: “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.” God’s whole throne, His whole rule, is founded on justice. Justice is at the very heart of Who He is. Just as He “IS” a God of love, God is also a God of justice. He doesn’t just “do” some just things; He IS just. It is at the heart of Who He is.
A.W. Tozer said that sometimes we say things like, “Justice requires God to do this”, as if there were some force outside of God which was requiring Him to do something. There is no justice outside of God making Him do anything, or that would be greater than He is. Justice comes from God Himself! Tozer says that justice is simply the way God IS, nothing more. It is “simply acting like Himself in a given situation.” God IS just. It is “The foundation of His throne.” God cannot do that which is unjust – we will see that this has all kinds of implications for us – especially regarding salvation!
Sometimes there is a false dichotomy expressed between God the Father and God the Sond — as if God the Father is just towards us, but that in contrast, Jesus just came to love us. This is a distorted picture, with no basis in scripture. The Triune God is a God of justice. Isaiah 42, prophesying of the coming of Jesus as Messiah says: “ Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.” :3 “He will faithfully bring forth justice”; :4 “He will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice in the earth”. THREE TIMES in the span of those 4 verses, it is prophesied that the Christ will bring justice to the earth. And notice, not coincidentally, that each Person of the Triune God is described here: God the Father speaks about Jesus as “My Servant”; God the Son is the Servant He is sending to earth; and His Spirit will be upon Him to bring forth justice. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are all about bringing justice to the world. Our Triune God is by nature a just God! It is at the foundation of who He is.
The nature of God and justice was, in fact, one of the things that C.S. Lewis said led to his conversion:
“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”
Lewis was saying that the very idea of right and wrong that you have – that each of us has – deep inside of us, has its source in the justice that is at the very foundation of the throne and the personal nature of God. He is indeed “Our Just God.”
II. Applications of the Justice of God
As with each of the attributes of God we have been studying, the just nature of God is not just a “theology lesson”; it applies to each of our lives in pertinent ways:
A. Personal Ethics
Because God is a just God, we are to be just in all our dealings.
— Leviticus 19:36, “You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin; I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from thelandofEgypt.” Here God commanded His people to be “just” – that word is repeated FOUR TIMES in this verse! – and the reason behind it is that HE is their God. Because God is a just God, He commands His people to be just as well – in ALL of our dealings. (The ephah and the hin were measurements of things they bought and sold, like our “bushel” or “pint”).
— Proverbs 11:1 “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight.”
— Proverbs 16:11 “A just balance and scales belong to the Lord; all the weights of the bag are His concern.”
Many people seem to labor under the erroneous impression that God only cares about whether you come to church or not; that He is not interested in your business dealings. But here God says that He is concerned about every one of your business transactions – “all the weights of the bag are His concern”! That means that He is concerned about every business deal, every one of your transactions, everything you do in sale and trade with anyone else; you are to be “straight” – “just” as He is just.
I got a note from a pastor last week, who was about to lose his position because his church is colluding with some of their vendors on some transactions they have with the church, so that they don’t have to pay taxes. You might say, “That’s wrong for a church to do that.” You are correct; it is wrong. But what you need to see is that it is just as wrong for YOU to do things like that in your business! “All the weights of the bag are His concern.” Everything transaction you make in your business is to reflect the justice of God.
Now, if you think: “Well, maybe I don’t always do everything ‘just right’ in my business deals, but I’ll ‘make it up’ to God by coming to church, and tithing on what I get.” Jesus said in Matthew 23:23 “You tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the Law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” Proverbs 21:3 says: “To do righteousness and justice is desired by the Lord more than sacrifice.” In other words, God is saying: I don’t want your filthy money; I want you to treat people justly in the first place! God is a just God, and demands justice from His people in the way we deal with others in business and personal ethics.
B. Treatment of others
Many times in scripture, God tells us that we are to treat people justly – especially those less fortunate than we are – because He is a just God.
— Colossians 4:1 “Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.” You have someone under your authority on the job? You are a business owner with employees who work for you? God commands you to treat those people with justice.
— Deuteronomy 24:17 “You shall not pervert the justice due an alien or an orphan, nor take a widow’s garment in pledge.” We could read dozens of verses just like this from all through scripture. God repeatedly commands us to treat widows and orphans and aliens in the land with justice, because He is a just God. Don’t you dare take advantage of someone who seems to be helpless – for God is a just God, and He will require justice from you!
— James 2 tells us that this applies to the opposite end of the spectrum too: we are not to show favoritism to those who are rich or powerful. James says, “Do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.” He says if a man comes into your church with a gold ring and fine clothing, you are not to pay special attention to them, and not to poor people. Romans 2 says “There is no partiality with God.” In other words, God does not treat you differently because you have more money, or less money, are “important” in the eyes of the world, or are “the least of these.” He treats us all with the same just standard.
Back when Michael Jordan was playing basketball in the NBA, it was said that there was an unspoken set of what they called “The Jordan Rules” – a separate set of rules that just applied to him; he was a “superstar”, and so he wasn’t treated like everyone else.
But the Bible say that God has no “Jordan Rules.” He treats us all the same, with the same just standards. And He commands us to do the same. We as God’s people are not to show favoritism to those who have money, power or position – the same standard is to be applied to everyone. God is just to all; Romans 2 says “There is no partiality with God” – and the same thing should be said of us as well.
C. Personal Justice
Isaiah 40:27 “Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God?” Sometimes we look at our situations, like Israel was doing there, and say: “It seems like God doesn’t see what is happening to me, and I am not getting justice!” And what is worse, we are often tempted to “take things into our own hands” to get the “justice” we want to see done – or the revenge, or whatever.
But if we really believe in the justice of God, then we will NOT take things into our own hands, and try to get our own revenge, but rather we will trust HIM. God is a God of justice. No one is going to “get away” with anything. Justice will be done. God will see to that.
In I Samuel 24, King Saul had falsely accused David of trying to overthrow his kingdom, and he had gone with his army to hunt him down. During the manhunt, Saul went into a cave to rest – not knowing that David was hiding in that very cave with his men! David’s men told him to kill Saul, but David refused. But after Saul left the cave, David shouted out to him: “May the LORD judge between you and me.” He said, I am not going to take revenge in my own hands; I am not going to shed your blood; I am not going to try to do to you what you did to me.” He said, I am going to entrust this situation to God instead.
That is a good word for all of us: “May the Lord judge between me and you”. If someone has hurt you, or offended you, or harmed you in some way, don’t try to take matters into your own hands. Don’t try to seek revenge. Trust in God. He is just. You may not get justice from men – but you will from God. This is what Psalm 37 is all about: “Trust in the Lord and do good.” It says “evildoers will be cut off.” Several times in that Psalm it refers to the judgment of God. That is precisely WHY we can “trust in the Lord and do good.” HE has the justice end taken care of. You don’t need to take things into your own hands. YOU “Trust in the Lord and do good” – and leave the justice to Him. He is MORE than able to exercise the justice that needs to be done in every situation! The Judge of all the earth will deal justly.
Over the last weeks, we have seen that God is omniscient, and omnipotent, and now that He is just. If you really believe that those things are true, then you should entrust your situation to God: for it means that He sees your situation (nothing gets by Him; He is omniscient), He has the power to do whatever He wants to regarding your situation (He is omnipotent; nothing is limiting Him); and He will do what is JUST about your situation. So don’t take it into your own hands and do anything wrong. Entrust justice to Him who is omniscient, omnipotent, and just!
There is surely NO other application of the just nature of God which is more important than that regarding our salvation. God is just. It is foundational to His character. This has enormous implications for how we must be saved.
SO many people seem to think that God is just going to “skip over” their sins, and will not judge them, or send them to hell. This is a grave miscalculation. God cannot do that. It is offensive to the justice that is “the foundation of (His) throne” and is at the heart of His character. God can’t just say of our sins, “Oh, just forget them; I’ll just look over them and forgive you and take you to heaven.” What judge can look at someone who has egregiously broken the law, and let them go, and still be considered righteous? Can you imagine the furor in the press, if there were a person who had committed thousands of crimes, and stood before a judge who said, “Well, I think this is basically a pretty good person”, and just let them go? People would be upset – and for good reason! Just letting someone go without paying for the crime is not just! We would not tolerate that from an earthly judge. And as Abraham said, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” You and I have committed thousands – perhaps millions – of infractions against God: all the thoughts, words and deeds and omissions that have been sins against His law. God cannot merely “let you off” from those. The foundation of His character is justice.
Now someone may ask: “But isn’t God a God of love? Doesn’t He want to forgive us?” The answer is, yes! He IS a God of love. He loves us, and He made us to spend eternity with Him in heaven. But here is this great dilemma: God loves us, and wants us with Him. But we have sinned, and He cannot just “let us off” without seeing justice done. What is the solution?
The solution is found in Jesus Christ. Turn to Romans 3; the Bible expresses it better there than perhaps anywhere else. In verse 23 it says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift, by His grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood …”. That word “propitiation” means “payment.” Jesus paid for our sins with His blood when He died for us on the cross. So now, Romans 3:26 say that God can be “Just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus”. UNDERLINE that expression; it is one of the most important in all of the word of God. Because of what God did in Jesus, God can be both “Just” AND “the Justifier” when He forgives those who come to Jesus. He is “just”, because He did not just “skip over” our sins. But He is the “Justifier” because He can forgive us through Him. Through Jesus, both God’s love and His justice are satisfied when we are saved. He is “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
But that last phrase is a key one: you MUST have “faith in Jesus.” There is no other just way your sins can be forgiven than through His death on the cross. No other solution satisfies the justice of God. That is why Jesus went to the cross after He asked the Father if there was any other way, to let that cup pass from Him. There was no other just way of salvation for us. That is why Jesus said, “I am THE way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus is the only way to God because only the salvation He brought us allows God to be both “Just and the Justifier”. You must know for certain today that Jesus is your Savior, or you have no hope of just being “let off” of your sins by a Just God!
E. Ultimate Questions
There are always people who ask: “But what about people who haven’t heard”, or “what about this situation?” or “what about that situation?” We can give some basic answers to some of those questions – for example Romans 1 tells us that people who have not heard the gospel will be judged on the basis of what they HAVE seen and heard in creation, and that is enough to condemn any of us. But here is the bottom line: if you have any question, any problem, anything you can’t see how it will be or work out, just know this: when all is said and done, the Judge of all the earth is gong to deal justly. Jesus said in John 5:30, “My judgment is just.” You can place your faith solidly in this. The Judge of all the earth will deal justly. When the dust clears on all of history, and final judgment is rendered, no one will get a “raw deal” with God. He will deal justly. If you don’t have confidence in anything else, you can put your trust in that. God will deal with you – and with everyone else – justly.
You can know that it is true for the trials you face in your life; for how God deals with you. In Jeremiah 30:11 God said: “‘I will chasten you justly.” Whatever He brings into our lives to chasten us, we deserved and needed. Whatever He allows to come into our lives, He has a purpose for, which we will see in the end, and it will be just. We may not understand it now, but none of us will ever say to God in the end: “I did not deserve what I got.” The Judge of all the earth will deal justly with you.
After the end of some serious trials in his life, King Nebuchadnezzar would say in Daniel 4:37 “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just …”
When all the smoke of history has cleared, every one of us will respond in exactly this same way towards God. When all is said and done, after all we have been through, when the end results are seen, we will all exalt the God of heaven, and say, “All His ways are just!” We will all sing that song: “Everything You’ve done is just and true.” All of us in heaven will praise God for His salvation plan in Jesus, how He is “just and the justifier” of all of us who have faith in Him. And all of those in hell will acknowledge the justice of God. The thief on the cross in Luke 23:41 said: “and we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds”. Everyone in hell will echo those same words: “We are receiving what we deserve.” There will be NONE who will say in the end: “God did not treat me fairly. I did not get what I deserve.” We do not hold in our hands right now the answers to every question; but one thing we so know should satisfy our hearts: in the end, the Judge of all the earth will do justly. For He is “Our Just God.”