Indignation, and admittedly fear, welled up in me as I read news this morning of repression, oppression, injustice, vindictiveness and vile wickedness perpetrated by those who have power over others. Some say, “Does God care?” I discovered a wonderful blog this week http://ourrabbijesus.com/articles/mr-spocks-god-mistake-of-western-theology/ where the author addresses the question of whether God is impassive or passionate. She quotes Rabbi Abraham Heschel:
Man’s sense of injustice is a poor analogy to God’s sense of injustice. The exploitation of the poor is to us a misdemeanor, to God it is a disaster. Our reaction is disapproval; God’s reaction is something no language can convey.
She goes on to say–
God is not indifferent or disinterested—he’s an Arab father who is crushed by his son’s apparent lack of love [as in the parable of the prodigal son]. God is a mother bear who roars a warning if you get too close to her cubs. God is a jilted boyfriend who’s beside himself when he spots his true-love on another guy’s arm. Israel’s God is not less emotional than we are, he is even more. (brackets mine)
So how should I respond when I hear about terrible injustices and even fear that the same things might eventually be perpetrated on me or those I love? In Psalm 52, David’s heart cries out against Doeg (see the story in 1 Samuel 21-22) who had betrayed him, predicting how God would one day bring him to ruin, drag him out of his tent, uproot him from the world of the living and shame his memory. Then as David winds down, he calms his own heart with these words:
But I am like a luxuriant olive tree in the house of God.
I trust in the covenant-loyalty of God forever and ever.
I will give you thanks forever for what you have done.
And I will hopefully and expectantly wait for you…
It’s a new year, and I’m starting to read through a new Bible. (This one is the “God’s Word” translation. I enjoy reading different versions because it lends freshness. It will be given to one of my grandchildren later with all my notes and markings.)
Each time I re-read this precious Book, I ask the Author to teach me something I hadn’t seen before, or that I had forgotten. And He does! Here’s what I saw this morning in the first chapters of Genesis:
Did you realize that of the very first three people who lived on the earth, each of them were given special instructions by God about something they should not do, each chose to do it anyway, each was visited by God for reprimand and punishment (banishment)—but was not killed.
I think this chart helps me see it better:
What an amazing God we have—full of love, wisdom, justice and mercy!
While other houses around here are sporting fall and Halloween decorations, we got a jump on them and put up Mom’s Christmas tree already! This is something I thought I could do for her during my short visit, but it does bring a sense of excitement to see it shining there in the dark of the early morning. Another part of Christmas that I look forward to is listening to Handel’s “Messiah,” even if it’s only on a CD.
Part of that musical work is based on Isaiah 9 which I read this morning. The light shining in darkness is even more poignant as the world grows dark around us and we long for the light at the end of that tunnel.
The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine…
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.
In my Bible I have written “Jesus!” in the margin. It’s a very familiar passage which we associate with Christ’s birth at Christmas. But the next lines have definitely not yet been fulfilled:
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice
from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies
will make this happen!
Oh, how I long for this part of the prophecy to be fulfilled! Jesus Himself will rule singlehandedly with true peace, justice and righteousness. No more scam, scandal, selfishness, secrecy, oppression, violence, deception and all the other things that characterize government and society today. I am committed, by God’s grace, to stay the course. Not to give up in despair or to give in to the forces of evil (even those in sheep’s clothing). It will be worth it all when that glorious kingdom arrives!
Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!
In Exodus 23, I was intrigued to find two verses demonstrating the delicate balance of justice in regard to the poor:
Verse 3: …you must not show partiality to a to a poor man in his lawsuit.
Verse 6: You must not turn away justice for your poor people in their lawsuits.
God’s standards of justice are the same for the rich and the poor, the nobody and the influential person. A poor person isn’t automatically right just because he is poor. Neither is a rich person to be favored based on his economic position and influence. Our God sees us all as equals among His creation, each one having infinite worth and worthy of respect. On the other hand, each of us is answerable to His righteous standards.
What sense of justice did God weave into the earth itself when He made it? I find four times in the Bible when an inanimate thing “cries out” in protest:
In Genesis 4:10, Abel’s blood cries out to God from the ground where Cain has spilled it.
In Genesis 18:20, God had heard an outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah about their grievous sin.
In Habakkuk 2:11, the stones and rafters of the Babylonians’ homes would cry out because of their excessive cruelty against the nations that they destroyed.
In all of these, there is a moral outrage that demands—and receives—divine retribution on oppressors.
Luke 19:40 is different. If the cheering children are prohibited from praising Jesus, the stones would have to cry out and do it.
The expression of God’s glory is as much of a moral mandate as is the justice due to oppressed people. Elsewhere we read of the heavens declaring God’s glory and the trees of the field applauding. But His ultimate praise is from the mouths of humans He’s created. Is that why at times I just have to burst out in song?
In Afghanistan, a young woman is raped and guess who goes to prison for 12 years–the woman!
In the United States, unborn babies up to 9 months have their skulls crushed, are brutally dismembered—and people celebrate!
In the United States, disreputable people get other disreputable people to tell ridiculous lies about a decent person—and wipe out his chance for election.
Where are the outcries of those who pride themselves on the rights of women, children, and minorities?
Where is the God of justice?
We know He’s here, and we don’t understand why He still puts up with this crazy, evil world. But we know the end of the story. He will put it all right again. I’m thankful there’s hope. The tiny white lights on my Christmas tree remind me why we celebrate. He came as a helpless baby—to a woman—to an oppressed people. He’s one of us. He loves us. He knows. And He weeps….