ENTRY 1252 | September
far from finished with organizing the hundreds of still photos and
video clips I took last summer, much less having used most of them
here, but I got a question this week that requires a break in the
proceedings . . . not to mention that discussing theology
gets my mind into high gear and brings the greatest satisfaction.
was about Ezekiel 35, which begins with this report by the prophet:
|The word of the Lord
came to me: "Son of man, set your face against Mount Seir;
prophesy against it and say: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord
says: I am against you, Mount Seir, and I will stretch out my
hand against you and make you a desolate waste. I will turn your
towns into ruins and you will be desolate. Then you will know
that I am the Lord...'" (NIV).
the world, my questioner asked, can we believe in a God like this?
Where is God's justice?
tossing and turning this over and over for a night (never doubting
that there are plenty of answers to the question but trying to isolate
the best), my short answer is that God has never asked us to believe
that He is concerned about our notions of justice. He is more likely
to reply to the question posed above, as Paul says He does in Romans,
with "Who are you, O man, to question the God who created you?"
(9:20). Justice within Israel or among the people of God by any other
namefair treatment of our peers and our dependents and repaying
our debts and fulfilling our obligationsare things God expects
His people to give to each other, but he never promises justice
from Him. In fact, we should be grateful that He does not give us
what we "deserve," which is one workaday definition of justice
(but probably the most universal one is "whatever's fair").
from our first parents on, God has been straightforward in telling
His reason-endowed creatures what we deserve are not more gifts but
death and destruction. This is because He is absolutely holy and holiness
cannot tolerate unholiness. That which he told Ezekiel He planned
for Mount Seir is what we all deserve, and He has told us as much
repeatedly from the beginning. We are sinners, reprobate, and just
as Israel in the Old Testament was prone to turn against God, we Christians
do the same thing every day. Every hour. From one fleeting thought
to the next, but we tell ourselves we don't mean it so it doesn't
count. But it counts to God . . . that's why He gave us an Old Testament
that's bloody in tooth and claw.
in the beginning of His public ministry, one of the first promises
Jesus proclaimed to his followers was not "fairness" or
"favor," but persecution.
be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues.
On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as
witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. . . . "Brother will
betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will
rebel against their parents and have them put to death. You will
be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm
to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place,
flee to another" (Matthew 10:17-23, NIV).
that fair? But Jesus showed us in his parable of the laborers hired
late in the day (Matthew 20: 1:16) that He does not follow human guidelines
on fairness. And we know from history that all of the original apostles
(all but John the beloved, but even including Paul) died martyrs'
deaths, and John died as a prisoner. In Acts 9 we read that Paul,
formerly known as Saul and infamous for his persecutions of the church,
finally saw the light and converted to one of the most ardent followers
of Jesus. But the Lord told Ananias on the day of Paul's conversion
that, "This man [Paul] is my chosen instrument to proclaim my
name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.
I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." And
you thought God was a God of justice?
Some probably would call Him a sadist.
No, God is about things
much better than justice, and so is His Word. . . . Over against the
bad news of "justice," He sent His Son to proclaim good
news. Good news is not about legalities (justice) but about the Father's
mercy and grace. But that's for next time.
Webmaster Jon Kennedy