|CHRISTIAN LIFE AND DOCTRINE||May 1998|
Justice, the Foundation of God’s Throne
“Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.” —Psalm 89:14
THE TESTIMONY OF the Scriptures concerning God’s character is that “God is love.” (I John 4:16) This is a marvelous statement! Some say that since love is a principle, God is a principle too. But the Bible speaks of God as a personality. A demonstration of the way the principle of love is used by the personality of God is found in John 3:16: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The question that is asked by many is, “How could God manifest his love by sacrificing his Son on the cross?” Since another feature of God’s character is justice, another question asked is, “Could God in justice sacrifice his Son?”
Such questions ignore the personality of Jesus, and his willingness to cooperate with the Father in executing his plan. When Father Adam sinned and caused all his progeny to become victims of sin and death, the laws of justice required that a perfect human life be used to offset the forfeited perfect human life of Adam. God did not compel anyone to do this. “The Word” who was with God, or “Logos” (John 1:1-3), our Lord Jesus in his prehuman existence, is portrayed in Isaiah 6:8 as willing to go to earth and to put down the rebellion. “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.”
This is confirmed by the Apostle Paul when he writes: “Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.” (Eph. 5:2) In these words we see how Jesus offered himself to God. We read in our Lord’s own words, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.”—John 10:17,18
When we speak of God’s attributes of justice, love, wisdom, and power, we may think that the first to be exercised is justice, though all four work together in harmony. This is illustrated well by the most important piece of furniture in Israel’s Tabernacle, namely, the Ark of the Covenant residing in the Most Holy. The Ark was a golden chest made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. There are several pictures that can be represented by this chest. In one picture, this chest represented God’s wisdom. The lid for this chest was made of solid gold and represented God’s justice. As an integral part of this lid were two cherubim facing each other. These represented God’s power and love ready to be exercised when justice is satisfied. Justice also can be represented by a pair of evenly poised balances, and sometimes by the compass, or the square. Justice cannot be compromised nor can it tolerate deviation from a righteous course. It expects good weight and measure. In justice there is no characteristic of grace, love, sympathy, or favor. It is the exact measure of truth and righteousness. When justice has been rendered, generally no thanks are due those who mete it out. As it is expected, this firm principle is an attribute of God, and is the very foundation of God’s throne. It underlies all of God’s dealings with his creatures. The firmness that God employs in adhering to this principle is manifest to everyone acquainted with the plan of salvation. The first step of this plan was to satisfy the claims of justice by providing a corresponding price for the man, Adam, who disobeyed God in Eden. This was accomplished when he sent his only begotten and well beloved Son, Jesus, to die on Calvary as this corresponding price.
If strict justice were practiced in the world today it would be a better world. Justice is not to be demanded, but given. In our society where true justice is rare, we may claim justice, but there should be no obligation to demand it ourselves. Although we may suffer injustice uncomplainingly, yet, as Christ’s disciples, we must be ready to be always just.
JUSTICE AND LOVE
Another principle involving justice is found in Romans 11:22, which says: “Behold therefore the goodness [love] and severity [justice] of God: on them which fell [Israel], severity; but toward thee [Gentiles], goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” God cut off Israel because of unfaithfulness; as a result, they were deprived from receiving the chief blessing. Later God called the Gentiles to take their place, manifesting his love in this manner. At the same time Israel was punished for having robbed God, as Malachi asked, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.”—Mal. 3:8,9
In those days of the Jewish Age, the Israelites were required to offer animals without blemish, but instead of giving the Lord the very best, they often gave him the weak, the lame, and the poor, while they kept the best for themselves. What was God’s reaction to this behavior of Israel? He advised them: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Mal. 3:10) He reminded them that he had “led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.” (Hos. 11:4, NIV) Love is the keynote of the Bible.
Love cannot be exercised without justice. God tells us in his Word: “To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.” (Prov. 21:3) The Prophet Samuel said the same to King Saul when he had disobeyed God’s commandment: “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” (I Sam. 15:22) Saul was offering as sacrifices spoils taken from the Amalekites, when there should not have been any spoils seized. Saul was rapidly losing favor with the Lord. He had lost sight of God’s justice and love.
This can also be true with the Lord’s people. We must always keep our minds focused on the wonderful attributes of God in order to faithfully walk in the footsteps of Jesus. We receive tests from God continually to see if the qualities of faith and humility are being developed. His Word counsels us, “My son, forget not my Law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart.” (Prov. 3:1-3) By faithfully following this advice we become living epistles with God’s words written on our hearts. “Ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.”—II Cor. 3:3
THE LAW OF ISRAEL
God’s Law given to Moses was inscribed on tables of stone. These perfect laws could not be kept by imperfect men, yet God said to Israel, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”—Deut. 30:19
This was equivalent to saying, Obey and live. Israel, as imperfect men, could not do this because God’s Law for Israel was strict justice, beyond imperfect man’s capability to keep. It was necessary for the Heavenly Father to provide another way for man to receive life again, and this was by giving his Son to be man’s Redeemer—an expression of his love. (John 3:16) It was likewise an expression of the love of Jesus who willingly cooperated with his Father to become a ransom for all.—John 10:17,18
During the present Gospel Age, God is calling those who are willing to follow Jesus and to share in his sufferings because of love for God, Jesus, and mankind. He is selecting them as a special people for his name, as it is written: “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”—I Pet. 2:9
GOD’S PURPOSES ACCOMPLISHED
God’s purposes will be accomplished, even as he has said through his prophets: “Thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else.” (Isa. 45:18) Again he says, “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” (Isa. 46:9,10) This is confirmed by the Apostle Paul, who writes: “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.”—Eph. 1:10
God’s purposes will be accomplished concerning his people as well. He has promised to give each one the necessary assistance, fulfilling such Scriptures as these written by the Apostle Paul: “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” (Rom. 8:28), and, “My God shall supply all your need.” (Phil. 4:19) Certainly we will not lack, because the Lord will provide. However, we must do our part as Paul admonishes: “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God,”—Rom. 12:2
Those called of God during the Gospel Age are to work out their “own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:12,13) “We then, as workers together with him [God], beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” (II Cor. 6:1) Paul reminds us that “the night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.” (Rom. 13:12) If we perform these things faithfully the promise is: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” (Rev. 3:21) The foundation of God’s throne is justice. Therefore, those who will be seated with the Father and Jesus on their throne must have a keen appreciation of justice. The Lord has instructed us in Micah 6:8: “What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”
These are very reasonable requirements, as will be conceded by all. God could not require less from those whom he is educating for the future work of judging the world. This is evident; and yet all three of these qualities specified through the prophet, are comprehended in the one word, Love. Love requires that we deal justly with our neighbors, with the brethren, with our families, and with ourselves; that we shall seek to cultivate our appreciation of the rights of others—their moral and intellectual rights, and their liberties. Appreciating these, we shall in no sense of the word seek to abridge or deny them.
The attitude that we must have in working for the Lord is brought out well in the experience of King David. David had sinned in disobeying God by numbering the people. Therefore God caused a plague to come upon Israel, and many died. The Prophet Gad then told David to erect an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah, the Jebusite. So David went to Araunah and told him that he wanted to buy his threshing floor to make an offering to the Lord. Araunah was very cooperative and offered his threshing floor without charge—oxen, wood, and all that would be necessary for the sacrifice. But David declined this kind offer, saying: “Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver, and built there the altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. “The Lord was entreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.”—II Sam. 24:24,25
We too must sacrifice that which belongs to us, and not to others. In our dedication and consecration to the Lord we give our time, influence, talents, and our possessions, using all of these wisely and well in his service.
While justice is the first feature of the commandment of love, and is also the foundation of God’s throne, these are not the end of its requirements. It requires that—going beyond strict justice—our love shall prompt us to exercise mercy and forgiveness. In thus exercising mercy, we are again copying Divine love. Hence in our dealings with others, who like ourselves are fallen and imperfect, we are to remember this feature: we must not only be just toward them, but, additionally, to be merciful, generous, kind, even to the unthankful, that thus we may be children of our Father in heaven.—Luke 6:35,36