As Americans, we expect our nation to provide us with Liberty and Justice for all. We certainly have the liberties, and we all expect justice, should we find ourselves involved in some dispute or lawsuit. We all want RIGHT to prevail - especially when we feel we are in the right. We Americans feel we deserve justice because our nation was founded on biblical principles - one of the foundations of biblical principles is Justice.
But justice in America today seems to be turned topsy-turvy these days. Kill your parents, admit it, justify it by claiming molestation and the jury can't seem to convict you - even though you preplanned this horrible double murder. It's all right. You just did what you thought was right. You couldn't help yourself.
We'll pass out condoms in the schools so our kids won't die of AIDS. We can't tell them to abstain from premarital sex - that would infringe on their rights. It would be wrong to impose our morals on them. They can't help it if it just seems right.
Riot, loot and mercilessly beat up an innocent bypasser and just claim to be caught up in the mood of the crowd. You had a right to lash out at what you thought was injustice, so it's all right. You couldn't possibly have helped yourself. We'll show you mercy.
My rights are more important that your rights, because my kind have always been the victim. Besides, we have the money right now and the public sympathy - or the courts' sympathy.
You say you aren't ready to take on the responsibility of childhood yet. Cleanse yourself of that growing tissue multiplying inside of you and we won't call it a baby - just a fetus. It's all right. It's your body and you should have the right to say what happens to it.
Heinous crimes can be forgiven if you can blame it on someone else - just claim to be the first victim. We can't expect you to do the right thing if you have been wronged. Biblical morals are being squelched because we cannot allow archaic morals and absolutes to influence our definition of rights and justice.
Do these things seem RIGHT to you? Our American judicial system is undergoing tremendous changes lately. I doubt they are going to be to the benefit of our society. Truly, we are moving away from the biblical definition of JUSTICE and MERCY. I think it is time we find some good Christians to sit on our Supreme Courts - state and national. We need to redefine JUSTICE and MERCY the way our founding fathers intended. Our country and legal system need our PRAYERS.
Justice is a biblical principle because God is just. Deuteronomy 32:4, He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He. It is a part of His nature - the way He runs the universe. There is a natural desire in every person who hasn't seared their conscience to want justice. Even when we do wrong, we feel the desire for justice through punishment. Punishment helps us resolve the guilt. If we don't get punishment from parents or from the legal system for a wrong, we often punish ourselves.
From the beginning, in Genesis 3 we see justice administered to Adam and Eve after the Fall. Then again in Genesis 7 with Noah and the Flood - the Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, the dreadful plagues on Egypt in Exodus, etc. The Israelites know their God, who led them out of slavery in Egypt and through the Wilderness to the Promised Land, is a JUST GOD. They or their fathers had been given a land as fulfillment to a promise to Abraham and as justice dealt out to a wicked people - the Canaanites.
God guarantees justice. Joshua reminded the Israelites of this in Joshua 24 after he told them to choose whom they would serve. He told them, beginning in verse 19, "He will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good." God will demand justice. But unlike our country where crimes have a statute of limitations on them, God does not put a timetable on His punishments. Years may go by before we see the consequences of our actions. Perhaps these Israelites can attest to this. I doubt one day they just woke up and decided to worship other gods. More than likely it was a gradual acceptance of their presence with more and more Israelites becoming more and more tolerant of idolatry's presence and practices until it seemed only natural to some to accept them into their lives. And then, wishing to remain "politically correct," more of the Israelites accepted them.
But no matter how we rationalize sin, God does guarantee justice. As God promised the Israelites if they forsook Him, He delivers justice to His favored nation by turning His back on them and allowing harm to come to them.
Verse 11 of Judges chapter 2 through the end of the chapter is sort of an overview of the rest of the book. The writer is telling us what is going to happen to the Israelites in several repeated cycles as Joyce pointed out in her lecture of "Sin, Servitude, Sorrow and Supplication." The Lord is angry with them because of their apostasy and they are given over to plunderers and sold into the power of their enemies. Then the harsh verse of 2:15, "Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them; and they were in sore straits."
Then comes the compassionate verse 16 which completes the cycle of salvation: "Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the power of those who plundered them." Through the power of the Lord, the judges were able to save them from their enemies. God punishes sin, but offers Mercy to the sinful. After they fall flat on their face in sorrow, they remember their God of JUSTICE is also a God of MERCY, and they ask for His help. Repeatedly, we will see the phrase "the people of Israel cried to the Lord." They cry for His mercy and grace.
Nehemiah 9:31, Nevertheless in Your great mercy You did not utterly consume them nor forsake them; For You are God, gracious and merciful. Nehemiah is reminding the people of Israel of their history with God, and he says of this time recorded in Judges, "But in your great mercy you did not destroy them completely or abandon them forever. What a gracious and merciful God you are!"
One of the main themes in the book of Judges is JUSTICE. Another theme is MERCY. In this time of devastating and intense rebellion, after the people repent and return to God, He delivers them through a judge, over and over again.
God puts no limit on the number of times we can come to Him to obtain mercy, but we must COME in order to obtain it. We must recognize our own weakness and need, and seek His help. Sometimes hardships and trials come our way to provoke an attitude and behavioral change in us so that we will turn to God for the help that only He can give.
It is at times of disobedience that we receive God's mercy. After David's sin had become public, David approaches God humbly and asks for His mercy. David knew he deserved God's anger and retribution, but David asks that God punish him gently. He is not dethroned or wiped out, which is what he realizes he deserves. God in His kindness, forgives David instead of giving him what he deserves. He does no less for us when we approach Him in humility and ask for His grace and mercy.
God's mercy does not come as a result of our worthiness. No one deserves Mercy. David knew he could do nothing to erase or rectify the sin. Only God could. God has provided the blood of Jesus to wash away our sins and to clothe us in righteousness.
From Luke 18:9-14, we learn that God's mercy does not extend to the proud. That's the story of the two men who went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee stood and prayed thanking God that he was not evil like the other man, a tax collector. Then he recites to God his works of fasting and tithing. But the tax collector, who greatly recognized his sins, stood at a distance and would not even lift his eyes to heaven, so wrapped up in unworthiness and humility. The Bible says he beat his breast and begged for God's mercy on him as a sinner. Jesus says this is the man that was justified rather than the other. For the exalted shall be humbled, and God shall exalt those that humble themselves.
In our lesson today and in the chapters to come, we find the Israelites, after experiencing sin and its ugly consequences, do return to their God of Justice in their time of distress, not because they are worthy or deserve God's help. They return to their God of Mercy in all humility. Not reiterating what they or their ancestors have done for the Lord and not reminding the Lord of His promise to their ancestors. They come crying in sorrow and in pain and in humility.
Do you remember the story in Joshua 7, after Joshua and the Israelites had tried to take the city of Ai, after Achan had taken what he should not have in Jericho, and they had not asked for God's guidance before the battle at Ai? In verse 6 Joshua and the elders tore their clothes and fell face down on the ground in front of the ark and sprinkled dust on their heads and remained there till evening. The lost battle put them in the state of humility before the Lord - which is the proper attitude to have before the Lord. When life falls apart on us we should humble ourselves before the Lord as Joshua and the elders did and as the Israelites did in Judges after the other nations prevail. When we are humble, then we are ready to hear His words.
Humility keeps us from depending on our own strengths. That was the mistake in Joshua 7 and it is the mistake throughout the book of Judges. The city of Ai must have looked easy to take after the great success at Jericho. The Israelites were a strong and mighty people. Perhaps it looked easy to the Israelites in the book of Judges - the next generation - to live in a land cohabitated by idolaters. They thought they were strong enough to handle the situation. They relied on their own strengths instead of relying on God.
When our tasks seem easy, do we remember to go to God and ask for His help, or do we just ask before the big tasks? We don't really know what lies ahead. Consulting God humbly before any undertaking is always the wiser choice over relying on our own strengths.
If we don't humble ourselves, we may find God doing it for us. Remember the story of Naaman in II Kings 5? Naaman was a great hero who was used to being treated with respect. Smitten with leprosy, he goes to the house of the prophet Elisha to cleanse him. Elisha doesn't come. Instead he sends a messenger to Naaman, saying Naaman is to go wash in the Jordan River seven times to be cleansed. This angers proud Naaman who is insulted that Elisha did not come out to him and perform some showy ritual over him. And he is totally put off at the recommendation of muddy, puny waters of the Jordan that don't compare to the rivers back in his home country. The proud man leaves in a rage. But his servant urges Naaman to humble himself and do the prescribed small deed of washing in the Jordan seven times. The proud will be humbled before God either at their initiation or at God's.
Obedience to God begins with humility. We must believe that His ways are better than our own. Like Naaman, we may not always understand His ways, but by obeying we will receive His blessings. We must remember that God's way is best, that God wants our obedience, and God can use anything to accomplish His purposes.
When we are humble, we are aware that we are not worthy of God's grace, mercy and love, but that does not make us worthless. If we bear the stamp of the Creator, we have great worth given to us as a gift of God. Jesus declares our value to God in Matthew 6 when He reminds us God will take care of us and we are of value. When we remember in humility that God makes us worthy, but not greater than others, then we are ready to serve others - to share God's message with them and to help them in their time of need.
If a JUST GOD can show us, the obedient, MERCY instead of what we deserve, we must be ready to HUMBLY do His bidding and tell others of His love and mercy.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR