June 3: Searching for Justice
2 Chronicles 6:12–8:18; Titus 1:10–16; Psalm 94:1–23
“Do you favor justice or mercy?” Trick question. Both responses are technically incorrect: God’s ways require mercy and justice. Mercy cannot be fully known without perfect justice, and justice without mercy is harsh and graceless.
God’s mercy is a regular topic in Christian communities, but we often shy away from discussing His justice. This leaves us on our own to confront the injustices we commit against Him and others, those committed against us, and our own unjust nature. Carrying out God’s justice feels scary because it requires making large-scale changes in our world. But we can’t carry out His justice if we act only from the right purpose—we must also act in His way.
The psalmist cries out for justice: “O Yahweh, God of vengeance, God of vengeance, shine forth. Rise up, O Judge of the earth.… They crush your people, O Yahweh; they oppress your inheritance. They kill widow and stranger, and they murder orphans while they say, ‘Yah does not see’ ” (Psa 94:1–2, 5–7).
In this plea, we see that the psalmist both understands God’s nature and realizes His capabilities. The psalmist exhorts Yahweh to act. In doing so, he cites injustices against those to whom God’s people were called to show mercy (e.g., Deut 14:29; 16:11–12; 24:19–20). The widow, orphan, and stranger are also those whom Yahweh cares for and advocates (e.g., Exod 22:22–24; Deut 10:18). Ultimately, the psalmist is reminding Yahweh of His role.
This request teaches us something fundamental about justice. Although the psalmist plays a role in the cause of justice, he is not the primary actor; Yahweh is. Justice is God’s work.
How can you harmonize your views of justice and mercy? How can you act more justly today?
JOHN D. BARRY
- And the king stood before the altar of the Lord, in the presence of all the Congregation of Israel, and stretched out his hands, (For Solomon had made a brazen scaffold, and set it in the midst of the court, of five cubits long, and five cubits broad, and three cubits of height, and upon it he stood, and kneeled down upon his knees before all the Congregation of Israel, and stretched out his hands toward heaven.) And said, O Lord God of Israel, there is no God like thee in heaven nor in earth, which keepest covenant and mercy unto thy servants, that walk before thee with all their heart. Thou that hast kept with thy servant David my father, that thou hast promised him: for thou spakest with thy mouth, and hast fulfilled it with thine hand, as appeareth this day. Therefore now, Lord God of Israel, keep with thy servant David my father, that thou hast promised him, saying, Thou shalt not want a man in my sight, that shall sit upon the throne of Israel, so that thy sons take heed to their ways to walk in my Law, as thou hast walked before me. And now, O Lord God of Israel, let thy word be verified, which thou spakest unto thy servant David. (Is it true indeed that God will dwell with man on earth? behold, the heavens, and the heavens of heavens are not able to contain thee: how much more unable is this house which I have built?) But have thou respect to the prayer of thy servant, and to his supplication, O Lord my God, to hear the cry and prayer which thy servant prayeth before thee, That thine eyes may be open toward this house day and night, even toward the place, whereof thou hast said, that thou wouldest put thy Name there, that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer, which thy servant prayeth in this place. Hear thou therefore the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, which they pray in this place: and hear thou in the place of thine habitation, even in heaven, and when thou hearest, be merciful. When a man shall sin against his neighbor, and he lay upon him an oath to cause him to swear, and the swearer shall come before thine altar in this house, Then hear thou in heaven, and do, and judge thy servants, in recompensing the wicked to bring his way upon his head, and in justifying the righteous to give him according to his righteousness. And when thy people Israel shall be overthrown before the enemy, because they have sinned against thee, and turn again, and confess thy Name, and pray, and make supplication before thee in this house, Then hear thou in heaven, and be merciful unto the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest to them and to their fathers. When heaven shall be shut up, and there shall be no rain, because they have sinned against thee, and shall pray in this place and confess thy Name, and turn from their sin, when thou doest afflict them, Then hear thou in heaven, and pardon the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel (when thou hast taught them the good way wherein they may walk) and give rain upon thy land, which thou hast give unto thy people for an inheritance. When there shall be famine in the land, when there shall be pestilence, blasting, or mildew, when there shall be grasshopper, or caterpillar, when their enemy shall besiege them in the cities of their land, or any plaque or any sickness, Then what prayer and supplication soever shall be made of any man, or of all thy people Israel, when every one shall know his own plague, and his own disease, and shall search forth his hands toward this house, Hear thou then in heaven, thy dwelling place, and be merciful, and give every man according unto all his ways, as thou dost know his heart (for thou only knowest the hearts of the children of men) That they may fear thee, and walk in thy ways, as long as they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers. Moreover, as touching the stranger which is not of thy people Israel, who shall come out of a far country for thy great Name’s sake, and thy mighty hand, and thy stretched out arm: when they shall come and pray in this house, Hear thou in heaven, thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth for unto thee, that all the people of the earth may know thy Name, and fear thee like thy people Israel, and that they may know that thy Name is called upon in this house which I have built. When thy people shall go out to battle against their enemies, by the way that thou shalt send them, and they pray to thee, in the way toward this city, which thou hast chosen, even toward the house which I have built to thy Name, Then hear thou in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and judge their cause. If they sign against thee (for there is no man that sitteth not) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them unto the enemies, and they take them and carry them away captive unto a land far or near. If they turn again to their heart in the land whither they be carried in captives, and turn and pray unto thee in the land of their captivity, saying, We have sinned, we have transgressed and have done wickedly, If they torn again to thee with all their heart, and with all their soul in the land of their captivity, whither they have carried them captives, and pray toward their land, which thou gavest unto their fathers, and toward the city which thou hast chosen, and toward the house which I have built for thy Name, Then hear thou in heaven, in the place of thine habitation, their prayer and their supplication, and judge their cause, and be merciful unto thy people, which have sinned against thee. Now my God, I beseech thee, let thine eyes be open, and thine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place. Now therefore arise, O Lord God, to come into thy rest, thou, and the Ark of thy strength: O Lord God, let thy Priests be clothed with salvation, and let thy Saints rejoice in goodness. O Lord God, refuse not the face of thine anointed: remember the mercies promised to David thy servant. And when Solomon had made and end of praying, fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices: and the glory of the Lord filled the house. So that the Priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house. And when all the children of Israel saw the fire, and the glory of the Lord come down upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the earth upon the pavement, and worshipped and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good, because his mercy lasteth forever. Then the King and all the people offered sacrifices before the Lord. And king Solomon offered a sacrifice of two and twenty thousand bullocks, and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the people dedicated the house of God. And the Priests waited on their offices, and the Levites with the instruments of music of the Lord, which king David had made to praise the Lord, because his mercy lasteth forever: when David praised God by them, the Priests also blew trumpets over against them: and all they of Israel stood by. Moreover, Solomon hallowed the middle of the court that was before the house of the Lord: for there he had prepared burnt offerings, and the fat of the peace offerings, because the brasen altar which Solomon had made, was not able to receive the burnt offering, and the meat offering, and the fat. And Solomon made a feast at that time of seven days, and all Israel with him, a very great Congregation, from the entering in of Hamath, unto the river of Egypt. And in the eight day they made a solemn assembly: for they had made the dedication of the altar seven days, and the feast seven days. And the three and twentieth day of the seventh month, he sent the people away into their tents, joyous and with glad heart, because of the goodness that the Lord had done for David and for Solomon, and for Israel his people. So Solomon finished the house of the Lord, and the king’s house, and all that came into Solomon’s heart to make in the house of the Lord: and he prospered in his house. And the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place for myself to be an house of sacrifice. If I shut the heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the grasshopper to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people, If my people, among whom my Name is called upon, do humble themselves, and pray and seek my presence, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear in heaven and be merciful to their sin, and will heal their land: Then mine eyes shall be open and mine ears attent unto the prayer made in this place. For I have now chosen and sanctified this house, that my Name may be there forever: and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually. And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, to do according unto all that I have commanded thee, and shalt observe my statutes and my judgments, Then will I establish the throne of thy kingdom, according as I made the covenant with David thy father, saying, Thou shalt not want a man to be ruler in Israel. But if ye turn away, and forsake my statutes and my commandments which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods, and worship them, Then will I pluck them up out of my land, which I have given them, and this house which I have sanctified for my Name, will I cast out of my sight, and will make it to be a proverb and a common talk among all people. And this house which is most high, shall be an astonishment to everyone that passeth by it, so that he shall say, Why hath the Lord done thus to this land, and to this house? And they shall answer, Because they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and have taken hold on other gods, and have worshipped them, and served them, therefore hath he brought all this evil upon them. And after twenty years when Solomon had built the house of the Lord, and his own house. Then Solomon built the cities that Huram gave to Solomon, and caused the children of Israel to dwell there. And Solomon went to Hamath Zobah, and overcame it. And he built Tadmor in the wilderness, and repaired all the cities of store which he built in Hamath. And he built Beth Horon the upper, and Beth Horon the nether, cities defensed with walls, gates and bars: Also Baalath, and all the cities of store that Solomon had, and all the chariot cities, and the cities of the horsemen, and every pleasant place that Solomon had a mind to build in Jerusalem, and in Lebanon, and throughout all the land of his dominion. And all the people that were left to the Hittites, and the Amorites, and Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which were not of Israel, But of their children which were left after them in the land, whom the children of Israel had not consumed, even them did Solomon make tributaries until this day. But of the children Israel did Solomon make no servants for his work: for they were men of war, and his chief princes, and the captains of his chariots and of his horsemen. So these were the chief, of the officers which Solomon had, even two hundred and fifty that bare rule over the people. Then Solomon brought up the daughter of Pharoah out of the city of David, into the house that he had built for her: for he said, My wife shall not dwell in the house of David king of Israel: for it is holy, because that the Ark of the Lord came unto it. Then Solomon offered burnt offerings unto the Lord, on the altar of the Lord, which he had built before the porch, To offer according to the commandment of Moses every day, in the Sabbaths, and in the new moons, and in the solemn feasts, three times in the year, that is, in the feast of the Unleavened bread, and in the fear of the Weeks, and in the feast of the Tabernacles. And he set the courses of the Priests to their offices accoding to the order of David his father, and the Levites in their watches, for to praise and minister before the Priests every day, and the porters by their courses, at every gate: for so wasthe commandment of David the man of God. And they declined not from the commandment of the king, concerning the Priests and the Levites, touching all things,a nd touching the treasures. Now Solomon had made provision of all the work from the day of the foundation of the house of the Lord, until it was finished: so the house of the Lord was perfect. Then went Solomon to Ezion Geber, and to Eloth by the Sea side in the land of Edom. And Huram sent him by the hands of his servant, ships and servants that had knowledge of the sea: and they went with the servants of Solomon to Ophir, and brought them to King Solomon. 2 Chronicles 6:12–8:18
- For there are many disobedient and vain talkers and deceivers of minds, chiefly they of the Circumcision, Whose mouths must be stopped, which subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake. One, of themselves, even one of their own Prophets said, The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true: wherefore convince them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith. And not taking heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men, that turn away from the truth. Unto the pure are all things pure, but unto them that be defiled, and unbelieving, is nothing pure, but even their minds and consciences are defiled. They profess that they know God, but by works they deny him, and are abominable and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. Titus 1:10–16
- O Lord God the avenger, O God the avenger, show thyself clearly. Exalt thyself, O Judge of the world, and render a reward to the proud. Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph? They prate and speak fiercely: all the workers of iniquity vaunt themselves. They smite down thy people, O Lord, and trouble thine heritage. They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless. Yet they say, The Lord shall not see: neither will the God of Jacob regard it. Understand, ye unwise among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise? He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? or he that formed the eye, shall he not see? Or he that chastiseth the nations, shall he not correct? he that teacheth man knowledge, shall he not know? The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity. Blessed is the man whom thou chastisest, O Lord, and teachest him in thy Law, That thou mayest give him rest from the days of evil, while the pit is dug for the wicked. Surely the Lord will not fail his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance. For judgment shall return to justice, and all the upright in heart shall follow after it. Who will raise up with me against the wicked? or who will take my part against the workers of iniquity? If the Lord had not helped me, my soul had almost dwelt in silence. When I said, My foot slideth, thy mercy, O Lord, stayed me. In the multitude of my thoughts in mine heart, thy comforts have rejoiced my soul. Hath the throne of iniquity fellowship with thee, which forgeth wrong for a Law? They gather them altogether against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood. But the Lord is my refugte, and my God is the rock of my hope. And he will recompense them their wickedness, and destroy them in their own malice, yea, the Lord our God shall destroy them. Psalm 94:1–23