The Righteous Justice Of God
The Righteous Justice of God
“The Lord is righteous; for I have rebelled against His command.”
Jonathan Edwards, in his classic sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” warns, “Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do.” He goes on to state, “The foolish children of men do miserably delude themselves in their schemes, and in their confidence in their strength and wisdom; they trust to nothing but a shadow.” It is indeed the folly of man to think that we can show contempt for the moral laws of God and his moral standard and yet escape the certainty of his judgment.
Of all the books of the Bible, perhaps Lamentations is the darkest. The book is the Lament of Jeremiah as he sees the nation of Israel descend into ruin because of their sin. Israel believed that they were invincible because God dwelt in the temple. For them, the temple was their divine “rabbit’s foot” that guaranteed their good fortune. As a result, they continued their moral decline as they rejected God’s law. In their false security, they felt they could ignore God and disobey his commands, and he would continue to bless them with prosperity. But they were wrong. Sin and the rejection of God’s law will inevitably result in the disintegration and decline of a society. When sin is accepted, and God is rejected, sorrow and grief will become the nation's companions. Even though Israel rejected God, they believed their prosperity would continue unchecked. In their sin, they did not consider the future consequences (1:9). As a result, the once thriving economic center of Jerusalem is now empty. Instead of nations coming to Israel to see its glory, they rejoiced with glee at its downfall. The priests and leaders who were to lead the country abandoned their positions. In their adversity, they trusted in their wealth and prosperity to protect them, but ultimately, their wealth became worthless (vs. 11).
As we read through the lament, we are reminded that Israel’s downfall was not the result of the changes in the political winds and the economic struggles that ebb and flow in the natural course of time. Instead, their struggles directly resulted from God’s judgment (vss. 5,14, 15). This judgment came because of the sins of the people and their rebellion against his word (vss. 5, 8, 14, 18, 20).
As Jeremiah reflects upon the downfall of Israel, he affirms that God is righteous and just in his judgment (vs18). The righteousness of God means that he always acts by what is right. Furthermore, God, in his character, sets the standard of what is right. Yet, inherent in his righteousness is also a warning, for his holiness requires that justice be upheld. When his righteous law is violated, his justice involves the execution of judgment. God is not being unfair or unjust when he brings judgment upon Israel. Instead, he is acting consistent with his character.
The downfall of Israel stands as a warning to our nation. God will not be mocked. Any country that continues to rebel against God and reject his moral law will face an outpouring of judgment. When sin becomes celebrated and accepted, God’s judgment becomes inevitable, for his justice demands that sin be punished. As we look upon our nation, we see the winds of judgment beginning to blow. We see economic turmoil, political unrest, the celebration of sin, and the ridicule of God’s moral law. Wrong has become right, and right has become wrong. However, there is hope. God’s justice not only warns of judgment but also promises of forgiveness and restoration when we turn to him. The only question we must ask is this, “Are we going to continue to pursue our descent into sin? Are we going to seek God’s forgiveness and cleansing?” The choice is ours.