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A Just God

Taste & see that the Lord is good. Oh the joys of those who take refuge in Him. Psalm 34:8

We’ve spent the last several weeks learning and being reminded of who God really is and what He is really like and what we’ve tasted and seen so far is that God is really good!

For example, we’ve seen that God is a God of joy! In contrast to what many people believe about God, He’s not a grumpy wet blanket here to make life boring and miserable for us – No! He loves it when we experience delight and joy because His very character is joy. In fact, He has created us to experience immeasurable joy with Him forever! Pretty awesome stuff!

And that goes hand-in-hand with God’s generosity. He loves to give! He’s not a stingy, reluctant God that we have to bargain with or try to coerce into giving us what we need and want – No! God loves to provide for us and give us abundantly more than we could ask or even imagine!

And God is intimately involved in every area of our life. We saw last week that God is not some far-away, distant God, but He is so near to us that He even keeps a tally of the hairs on our head. And if God is aware when one little hair falls from your head, then He certainly knows about all the other more pressing issues in your life. And not only does He know, but He cares too!

It’s been pretty awesome to taste and see that the Lord is good – and this morning we’re going to be reminded of yet another aspect of God’s character.

So far, all the attributes of God that we’ve looked at to this point are usually pretty enthusiastically embraced. Everybody’s happy to know that God is generous, for example. No one complains about that. When we read that God will generously provide all we need – we’re good with that! Way to go, God!

Likewise when we read that God is the source of all joy – we’re like “Bring it on!” Bring on the joy!

And when we read that God is near, that God even numbers the hairs our head – that’s pretty cool. We’re pretty glad to have a God like that.

But then there are some aspects of God’s character that not everyone is eager to experience. Some of the things we read about God in Bible can sometimes make us feel a little uncomfortable.

When we read passages in the Old Testament where God commands the Israelites to wipe out an entire nation like He does in 1 Samuel chapter 15 for example. Let me just read one verse from that – this is God’s message for King Saul…

“Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys.” 1 Samuel 15:3

Whoa! Wait a minute, God! I like the joyful, generous God – but I’m not so sure about this aspect of God.

And it’s not just the Old Testament – the New Testament has many passages that talk about God bringing judgement and punishment on those who refuse to obey Him.

He will come with his mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power.

1 Thessalonians 1:7b-8

That’s not side of God people generally like to see. For a lot of people, this aspect of God’s character is a major stumbling block. How can we say “Taste and see that God is good” when we see God destroying entire nations or condemning people to eternal destruction?

How in the world can that be good? Well, that’s exact what I want to look at today.

Today I want us to taste and see that God is just. And hopefully, as we do that, we’re going to see that God being just is probably even more amazing than God being generous or joyful.

So what does it mean to be just? What is justice?  Well, as I discovered this week, justice is actually kinda hard to define. Sure, there’s the standard dictionary definition, but it really depends a lot on your philosophy.

Now for many of us, perhaps your first thought is that justice is punishing the bad guys. It’s not letting someone get away with wrong-doing. Whether it’s batman capturing the Joker or whether it’s your brother being sent to his room for breaking your toys – there’s this idea that justice has been served when they get what’s coming to them. And that’s partly true. That’s one aspect of justice.

You also might think of justice as fairness. It’s not fair that men or women should be enslaved simply because of their colour of their skin, so we could say that abolishing slavery would be another example of justice.

And we could probably come up with a few other aspects of justice, but I think I would say that in it’s very basic form, justice is righting the wrongs. It’s taking a situation where something is wrong and then doing what it takes to make things right again. So perhaps that’s batman making the situation right by capturing the Joker, or perhaps that’s the folks who recognized that slavery was wrong and put an end to it. I think both of those examples would fit under the banner of “righting the wrongs.”

So then if justice is “righting the wrongs”, then to say that God is just means that it is God’s nature to right the wrongs. Just like it is God’s nature to love, to be joyful, to be generous  – in the same way, it is God’s nature to right the wrongs in His Creation because He is just.

And as people created in the image of God, we find that longing in ourselves as well. We long to see justice in our world. We long to see the wrongs of this world made right. In fact, we don’t just long for it – often we demand it!

There are times when we are outraged when we see injustice in the world. When we hear of children being abused or neglected or taken-advantage of, we get angry, don’t we? We demand that somebody do something. This is wrong and somebody needs to make it right. That’s part of our God-given longing for justice. That’s evidence of our being made in the image of God, because that’s how God feels about sin – the root of all that’s wrong in our world.

There’s a good illustration of our desire for justice in the story of David. In 2 Samuel 11 we read about how David sinned by sleeping with Bathsheba, the wife of one of his most loyal friends, Uriah. And if that wasn’t enough, he further sinned by trying to hide what he had done by commanding that Uriah be setup to be killed in battle. It would look like just another casualty of war – but it had all been carefully orchestrated by David so that Uriah would die and David could take Bathsheba as his wife and no one would be the wiser, or so he thought.

Of course, the injustice of this stirred God to action and He sent the prophet Nathan to tell David a little story.

In fact, that’s exactly how 2 Samuel chapter 12 begins:

So the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: “There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor. 2 The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle. 3 The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. 4 One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest.”

So there’s the little story – now look at how David reacts. Verse 5.

5 David was furious. “As surely as the Lord lives,” he vowed, “any man who would do such a thing deserves to die! 6 He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity.”

2 Samuel 12:1-6

Now of course, we know where this story is going, but David didn’t. And he was furious. And rightly so. When he heard what this cruel, rich man had done, his God-given sense of justice kicked in and David was filled with righteous anger – the same kind of anger that God had towards David’s sin. David demanded that the wrong be made right. That rich man deserved to die. At the very least he should repay four times the amount that was stolen. Justice must be served.

And then that’s when Nathan finished the story in verse 7.

Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man! 2 Samuel 12:7

David was passionate about the idea of justice – He demanded it even… Until he realized he was that man.

And I think maybe that’s why we’re a little less enthusiastic about God’s justice than we are about his generosity or his joy. It’s great when God’s justice is directed at someone else – but it’s not so great when it’s directed at us – when we are the ones in the wrong.

But I think it’s important to realize that God’s justice and his love go hand-in-hand. In fact, God would not be a loving God if he were not also just.

Think about it this way: Could we say that God loved Uriah – Bathsheba’s husband –  if there were no consequences for the person who hurt him? Would a loving God simply allow someone to steal your wife and set you up to die in battle without any consequences? Would God’s inaction against that sin be loving?

No, of course not. A God who loves us must oppose and act against the sin that hurts us.

To put it in another context, imagine you had two kids. That shouldn’t be too hard for most of us. I’ll use my boys for the example. Let’s say that Ben was always hitting Nick. (Again, not too hard to imagine….) Would I be a loving father to Nick if I just ignored Ben’s actions? Would it be loving for me not to respond and bring consequences to Ben for his actions? No. Love and justice go hand-in-hand. If I love Nick, then I’m going to oppose and act against anything that hurts him. I need to right the wrongs against him.

And that’s a major part of why God is so opposed to sin. Because God loves us, he doesn’t want to see us destroyed by sin. God knows how destructive sin is and how much it hurts us. Therefore, God must stand in fierce opposition to sin.

Just like how we feel outrage when we hear of someone abusing children, God feels that same outrage (but infinitely more) at any and all of our sins – no matter how small or insignificant we think our sins may be. We probably don’t grasp how destructive even the smallest of our sins are. But God does, and because of that sin, we are subject to God’s righteous anger. Ephesians 2 says…

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

Ephesians 2:1-3

All of us are subject to God’s righteous anger. Like Nathan said to David “You are that man.” I am that man. Everyone of us are the ones who have done wrong. And God’s justice demands that the wrongs we have done be made right.

And if that’s where God left us, we would literally have no hope. The Bible teaches the wages of sin is death. And that’s not just the end of our physical life here on earth – that’s the eternal separation from God and any good thing that we have because of Him.

For God to be just, He must give us the consequences, the wages for our sin. And God’s heart must break at that thought because He loves each one of us so much!

To go back to my illustration of Ben hitting Nick – To being a loving, just Father, I have to oppose and act against that which hurts Nick – but that means opposing and acting against Ben – whom I also love just as much as Nick.

Thankfully, the consequences that I apply to my boys are fairly minor – but imagine if they were more severe. What if justice for Nick meant death for Ben? That would be heart-breaking for me as a father.

And that’s exactly what God feels. The consequences for sin are severe – and sadly, they apply to each one of us, but thankfully, God – in his wisdom and in his mercy – had a plan.

God couldn’t just ignore our sin. Justice had to be served. Because God is love and because God is just, the only way that God could spare us from the consequences of our sin is by allowing His Son, Jesus to die in our place.

Let me read the next few verses in Ephesians 2: We finished off by saying…

By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead.

Ephesians 2:4-5

Jesus took upon himself the sins of all of us, so that justice could be served through his death and we could have life through his resurrection.

That’s amazing grace! That God would love us so much that He would allow His own Son to die in our place so that justice could be served and we could go free – that’s amazing!  All that remains for us to do is to believe and accept God’s amazing gift of grace.

Sadly, not everyone will choose to believe and accept. Some will insist on trying to compensate for their sins by living a good moral life – but that doesn’t remove the consequences of their sin. God still has to be just.

Some will simply choose not to believe in God or not believe that they have sinned or not to believe that the consequences are so severe – but again that doesn’t change anything. God still has to be just. If they refuse to accept Jesus as their Saviour, as their substitute, God has no choice but to allow them to suffer the consequences of their sin.

The Bible is very clear that the time is coming when God will complete His work of justice. He will finish righting every wrong.

And for those who have refused to accept God’s gift, God’s final act of justice will be a dreadful thing. We read earlier in 1 Thessalonians…

He will come with his mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power.

1 Thessalonians 1:7b-8

I wish it wasn’t so, but that’s the reality. By refusing to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus, that’s the choice that they make.

Many times throughout the Scripture we read how God doesn’t want anyone to perish – and He has done everything he can, short of forcing them to accept Jesus as their Saviour – but the choice remains with them. 2 Peter 3:9 says…

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. 2 Peter 3:9

And for those who do repent – for those of us who have accepted God’s gift of forgiveness and grace, God’s final work of justice – or righting every wrong is a very good thing.

Imagine a world with no more wrongs – no more sin – no more injustice. When everything is how it should be. That’s going to be amazing! One of my favourite passages is Revelation 21:3-4. This is what we have to look forward to.

3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

Revelation 21:3-4

When I read that, I’m so glad that God is just – that one day God will right every wrong. And all the things that cause us pain and sorrow and suffering will all be gone!

And I am so glad that God is merciful and generous – I’m so glad that God sent Jesus to pay the price for my sin and for your sin, so that instead of being condemned, you and I can be forgiven and can enjoy life forever with our Creator.

I am so glad that God is just.

When you look at the world around us, we see so much injustice. We see human trafficking, child abuse, elder abuse, abortion, war crimes, criminals that go free after finding legal loopholes, and the list could go on and on. We live in a sin-sick world. Even in your own personal life, I’m sure you’ve experienced different sorts of injustice. No one makes it through this life without feeling the effects of sin first-hand.

But knowing that God is just gives us peace and assurance right in the middle of that. We can be confident, that regardless of what’s going on here and now, our all-powerful, all-knowing God will ultimately make things right. Deuteronomy 32:4 says…

He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect.

    Everything he does is just and fair.

He is a faithful God who does no wrong;

    how just and upright he is!

Deuteronomy 32:4

We don’t always understand why God allows the things He does to happen in the world or to happen in our lives – but we can be confident that He is a faithful God who does no wrong and that everything He does is just and fair. Any injustice that we must face today – God will deal with and He will make it right.

I’ll leave you today with this verse from Psalm 7:17. And maybe this is a verse that you want to keep in mind as you go through those times where you see or experience the injustices of this world. This can be your go-to verse…

17 I will thank the Lord because he is just;

    I will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.

Psalm 7:17

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