THE JUSTICE OF GOD
by Bob Wheeler
The great paradox of human existence is the conflict between good and evil. We can see that we live in a rationally ordered universe. Moreover, we have within ourselves a moral consciousness – an awareness that there is an essential difference between right and wrong. And yet all around us we see violence, cruelty and oppression – not to mention disease, poverty and natural disasters.
This, in turn, raises a question about God Himself. Is this all a reflection of His own character? The pagan deities of the ancient world shared the same faults as their human devotees. The prophets of Israel, however, asserted that there is only one God, the Maker of heaven and earth. Does He, then, share these contradictory traits?
Psalm 11 addresses the issue. It is attributed to David, and it describes a crisis in his life in which his physical life was threatened by his enemies. David describes the situation this way:
“For, behold, the wicked bend the bow,
They make ready their arrow upon the string
To shoot in darkness at the upright in heart.”
(v. 2: NASV)
Here it will be noted that we have persons who are “wicked” threatening the life of someone who is “upright in heart” – a scene all too familiar in human history.
David’s response was to look to God Himself:
“The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord’s throne
is in heaven;
His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.”
The Hebrew word translated “test” (bachan) means “to examine to determine essential qualities” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament). God, as the Supreme Judge of all mankind, carefully scrutinizes all of our behavior, and is aware of everything we do. He does not look the other way.
But what will God do about what He sees?
“The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked,
And the one who loves violence His soul hates.”
God hates “the one who loves violence.” God is a God of love and compassion; but that means that cruelty, injustice and oppression are utterly repulsive to Him. Hatred of evil is the logical corollary of love for what is good.
What we have, then, is a God who is perfectly just and holy, examining the behavior of human beings who are often cruel and unjust. What will He do about it?
“Upon the wicked He will rain snares;
Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion
of their cup.”
“The portion of their cup” is the destiny that God has allotted someone in life, as if He handed you a cup and told you to drink whatever was in it. In the case of the wicked, as described here, it is “snares, fire and brimstone and burning wind.” What David may very well have had in mind was the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah: “Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven” (Gen. 19:24). David would also have known that there were penalties for violating the Mosaic Covenant, curses that included physical disasters such as severe drought (Deut. 28:21-24). And there are also a number of passages throughout Scripture foretelling a future “Day of the Lord” which will be accompanied by celestial portents and physical calamities (e.g., Matt. 24:29; Rev. 16:1-11).
The “bottom line” is that evil will not prevail forever. The day is coming when God will punish the wicked for their evil deeds. What that says about God, then, is this:
“For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness;
The upright will behold His face.”
God is righteous in His own character. As the Supreme Ruler of heaven and earth He is just, fair and equitable. Moreover, He “loves righteousness” – He wants to see the same qualities in us.
David bend the psalm by saying, “In the Lord I take refuge” (v. 1a). With his life being threatened by his enemies, he refused to cave in or resort to expediency. Instead he put his trust in the Lord, his “refuge.” God would know what was going on, and could take care of him.
The practical application for us is obvious. We do not live in an impersonal, irrational and amoral universe. God is the Supreme Being. He is the final Judge. He is absolutely just in His own character, and He requires that be just in ours as well. And in the end He is coming to judge the world. We need to live lives that are in accordance with His will no matter what we see going on in human society at any given moment in time. May God grant us the grace to live lives that are pleasing to Him!