That’s not fair!
If you are a parent, you’ve heard those words many times. What is it in our human nature that cries out for justice? I believe it is the fact that we are created in the image of God. Our perspective of justness, fairness, is terribly flawed, but the seed of justice lies deep inside every one of us.
Most of us are raised to expect justice. At least in civilized cultures. We teach our children to share, to be fair when playing games. And no one needs to be taught that she deserves “her fair share.” That’s ingrained in our human nature. We expect to be rewarded for good behavior. If we work hard, we get a “pay off.” And if we do something wrong, or choose not to work hard, we get what we deserve.
That’s justice, right?
According to the dictionary, justice is the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness; it is the moral principle determining just conduct, and to act in justice is to conform to this principle. To be just is to be guided by truth, reason, justice, and fairness; it is to be equitable, rightful and lawful. It is to act in keeping with truth or fact.
To administer justice is to always act in ways that are right, fair and true.
What does it mean to say that God is just?
Deuteronomy 32:3-4 – For I proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.
All His ways are guided by truth.
All His ways are guided by reason.
All His ways are guided by moral rightness and lawfulness.
All His ways are guided by fairness; they are equitable and proper.
All His ways are guided by righteousness.
There is nothing that God has done, is doing, or will do, that is not just and right.
We love and serve God…but we get cancer. That’s justice?
We give our tithes and offerings…but we lose our job? That’s justice?
We serve in the children’s ministry…but we can’t have a baby? That’s justice?
We minister to young couples…but our spouse cheats on us? That’s justice?
The words of Deuteronomy 32:3-4 are written by Moses. It is the beginning of “The Song of Moses” – his last words of advice and encouragement to the Hebrew people before he died. He is at the end of his life, having led the children of Israel for 40 years through the desert.
Think about it. Would you think life had been fair to Moses?
· He had to be hidden in a basket just to preserve his life as a baby.
· He was taken from his family and his people, and raised by ungodly strangers who worshipped false gods.
· Growing up he enjoyed the luxurious life as the son of an Egyptian pharaoh, but when he tried to defend someone from his own people, he ended up running for his life as a wanted fugitive.
· He fell to the lowly stage of a shepherd on the back side of the wilderness for 40 years.
· Then God ask him to do something completely against his personality and skill set – go and rescue the people from Egypt. He has to return to this “old” life and demand freedom for the Hebrew nation of slaves.
· God miraculously uses him, but then he is forced to lead a million whining, immature, disobedient people through the desert for 40 years.
· He loses his temper once, and forfeits his right to even enter the promised land. He will die without setting foot in it.
That doesn’t sound like Moses got justice! It sounds like a very difficult life full of broken dreams, misunderstandings, uncomfortable responsibilities, hard living, unappreciated for his leadership, disrespected by the people he served, and failure to see the end results.
Yet he declares about the God who brought all of this into his life, His work is perfect, for all His ways are just, a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.
Moses didn’t measure the justness of God by a blessed, happy life.
Moses could speak of the justness of God because He knew God personally. He had experienced Him in ways few humans have ever had the privilege of doing.
Consider the following passage of scripture.
Exodus 33:7-11a – Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp. And it came about, whenever Moses went out to the tent, that all the people would arise and stand, each at the entrance of his tent, and gaze after Moses until he entered the tent. Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent; and the Lord would speak with Moses. When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would arise and worship, each at the entrance of his tent. Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.
The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.
Moses experienced an intimacy with God that we should all desire.
The rest of Exodus 33 describes more of the relationship Moses had with God. He tells God in 33:15 that if His presence is not going with them, then they cannot go. Moses understood that the presence of God in their life was what set them apart from the other nations; that without God’s presence, they would be just like everyone else – wicked, depraved, and worshipping false gods.
In 33:17, God tells Moses that he has found favor in His sight, and He has known Moses by name. That is personal! Moses was not just a face in the crowd to God. He was not a “pawn” in His hand, to use without thought or care. God knew Moses personally and was willing to reveal Himself to Moses.
In Exodus 33:18, Moses asks God “show me Your glory.”
How does God answer? And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” (Exodus 33:19)
God keeps His word, literally. Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.
Moses trusted the justice of God because he had experienced the goodness of God.
To think about God’s justness, we have to step away from our human perspective. We think that if we do something bad, we deserve punishment and if we do something good, we deserve reward.
Yes, these are biblical truths. The Bible does promise blessing if we obey God. And our sin must be punished. But in God’s perspectives, all our righteousness, all our “good” deeds, are as filthy rags. There is no one righteous. We deserve nothing but punishment. Our perspective of justness is inadequate when we believe there might be something good in us at all…when we begin to believe that we deserve anything good.
Anything good in us is only because God’s Spirit indwells us.
Anything good that happens to us is only by the mercy and grace of God.
All the goodness of God that we experience is grace.
So, is God unjustbecause He has not held us accountable for our sins?
God is just, because He has laid the accountability of our sin on Jesus. God remains just. Our sin debt has been paid.
When we have experienced the goodness of God, we can trust the justice of God.
Anything God brings into our life can be measured against what He has done for us in Christ.
We were dead…but He gave us life.
We were sinful…but He made us righteous.
We were separated…but He adopted us.
We were enemies…but He calls us friends.
We were slaves to sin…but He freed us.
We were destined for hell…but He gives us heaven.
When we truly understand the miracle of spiritual life, and the incredible blessings of salvation, anything God chooses to do with us in this life is good and right.
God is just. His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Whatever God allows into your life might not seem fair or right. It might feel a bit unjust.
When that happens, let’s do what Moses did.
Let’s go to the tent of meeting.
Let’s talk to God face to face, as with a friend.
Let’s ask Him to show us His glory.
Then our perspective will align with God’s perspective, and we’ll be able to say with Moses, His work is perfect, and all His ways are just!