Jesus, Justice, and Judgement

One of my all time favorite Bible verses, Psalms 27:13 has two translations:

New King James Version
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

New International Version
I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

“I would have lost heart…”

I prefer this translation, because it often describes my state of being. There have been many times in my life I’ve felt without hope, overwhelmed by a world never meant to be this way, never more so than right now.

This week, I reported on a peaceful prayer vigil to honor George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other Black people who have been unjustly killed. I also covered a protest to “End White Silence” and bring awareness to the racism still encountered by people of color in America. Our original sin still imprints upon us today.

I have always been an avid reader, a consequence of which is to think deeply about the world surrounding me. From a young age, I grasped the fact that society does not grant our lives equal value, and I felt dejected, though resigned, that many people would never enjoy the same privileges I take for granted.

Today, I’m depressed, a sadness that penetrates to the core, exhausting every thought. Our world is inherently unjust, consumed with sin, and at 25 years of age, I’m ready for it all to be over. I’m ready for Jesus to come on back and usher in a new heaven and a new earth.

But I don’t get to decide that. As a Christian, I believe God has placed each of us here for a reason. I don’t always know what my purpose is, or what exactly God is calling me to, but themes of truth and justice keep resurfacing. It is my responsibility, and that of all Christians, to seek first the kingdom of God.

So how can you seek God during times like this? Begin by opening your heart to His Word.

I recently finished a deep dive into the book of Isaiah, begun during the pandemic. In 66 chapters, the prophet Isaiah denounces the hypocrisy of Israel and prophesies Jesus’ coming, which would occur approximately 700 years later.

Isaiah repeatedly acknowledges the nation’s sin and God’s judgement and justice. Here are a few references:

Sin

This wickedness is like a brushfire. It burns not only briers and thorns but also sets the forests ablaze. Its burning sends up clouds of smoke. – Isaiah 9:18

What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. – Isaiah 5:20

We hear songs of praise from the ends of the earth, songs that give glory to the Righteous One! But my heart is heavy with grief. Weep for me, for I wither away. Deceit still prevails, and treachery is everywhere. – Isaiah 24:16

And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote. – Isaiah 29:13

Our courts oppose the righteous, and justice is nowhere to be found. Truth stumbles in the streets, and honesty has been outlawed. Yes, truth is gone, and anyone who renounces evil is attacked. The Lord looked and was displeased to find there was no justice. – Isaiah 59:14-15

It’s not hard to relate to the sin detailed in Isaiah. Hypocrisy is alive and thriving in today’s church and society, and every Christian can do a better job of being self-aware.

Judgement

I, the Lord, will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their sin. I will crush the arrogance of the proud and humble the pride of the mighty. – Isaiah 13:11

The scoffer will be gone, the arrogant will disappear, and those who plot evil will be killed. Those who convict the innocent by their false testimony will disappear. A similar fate awaits those who use trickery to pervert justice and who tell lies to destroy the innocent. – Isaiah 29:20-21

Because you despise what I tell you and trust instead in oppression and lies, calamity will come upon you suddenly—like a bulging wall that bursts and falls. In an instant it will collapse and come crashing down. – Isaiah 30:12-13

Look up to the skies above, and gaze down on the earth below. For the skies will disappear like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a piece of clothing. The people of the earth will die like flies, but my salvation lasts forever. My righteous rule will never end! – Isaiah 51:6

See, the Lord is coming with fire, and his swift chariots roar like a whirlwind. He will bring punishment with the fury of his anger and the flaming fire of his hot rebuke.Isaiah 66:15

Judgement is hard for the church to talk about. We would rather talk about God’s mercy, but God’s wrath is just as real, and other side of a double-edged sword of justice. As we choose how we want to live, we must not forget: God has mercy, but judgement is coming for us all.

Justice

What sorrow awaits the unjust judges and those who issue unfair laws. They deprive the poor of justice and deny the rights of the needy among my people. They prey on widows and take advantage of orphans. – Isaiah 10:1-2

In that day the Lord will end the bondage of his people. He will break the yoke of slavery and lift it from their shoulders. – Isaiah 10:27

There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The Lord has spoken! – Isaiah 25:7-8

The people of Israel will no longer say, “We are sick and helpless,” for the Lord will forgive their sins. – Isaiah 33:24

Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.” And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. – Isaiah 35:4-5

Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. – Isaiah 40:28-29

He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged. – Isaiah 42:3

I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts. – Isaiah 57:15

Unlike the justice of our legal system, God’s justice is perfect. He has mercy on the repentant and those of us who are broken, but He will punish the proud and those of us who refuse to search for and root out sin in our own lives.

What Should We Do?

Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of the orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. – Isaiah 1:17

Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble. – Isaiah 8:12-13

In the night I search for you; in the morning I earnestly seek you. For only when you come to judge the earth will people learn what is right. – Isaiah 26:9

Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it. – Isaiah 30:15

Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously. – Isaiah 55:6-7

Be just and fair to all. Do what is right and good, for I am coming soon to rescue you and to display my righteousness among you. – Isaiah 56:1

Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. – Isaiah 58:9-10

The physical world we live in is riddled with suffering. It’s devolving, physically and spiritually.

Police violence, our broken criminal justice system, poverty, educational disparities, mistreatment based on skin color, rioting and looting: these are all symptoms of a disease called sin.

In the wake of tragedy, of death and heartbreak, a heaviness has descended. In a year filled with natural disaster, tens of thousands of deaths from a global pandemic, violence and national upheaval, many of us feel helpless, only able to brace for what may come next.

We are human and sin is inherent in human nature. We do not have the capacity to conquer sin. But God does, and he already has.

This world is but a shadow, a testing ground for the next. Still, what we do on this earth matters: God promises that what we sow in this world will be reaped in eternity. Each of us needs to question our motives to see if they align with God’s word on how He commands us to treat one another.

Though I am in emotional turmoil, as the second translation of Psalms 27 says, I do remain confident. I am confident of God’s ultimate victory over sin, and the ushering in of His kingdom.

I’ve often felt the sheer hopelessness of life on this earth. The promise of a perfect eternity is the only thing in this life that keeps me going. It’s worth fighting injustice for. It’s worth uncomfortable conversations and confronting that hopelessness. I believe it’s worth everything we have to do to reach it.

By the way, that chapter of Psalms ends the same way in all translations:

“Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” – Psalms 27:14

Waiting for the kingdom of Christ,

Brooke

2 Replies to “Jesus, Justice, and Judgement”

  1. I love that you share your gift of writing with the world. It is a beautiful thing.

    I relate to what you say about feeling ‘dejected but resigned’ from an early age. For me, this particular messy (but also beautiful) display of the democratic process, feels different. I feel grief stricken and simultaneously encouraged; like the shift could inch toward societal progression. The pendulum will swing, knocking down some building blocks as it goes. This is bound to feel unsettling and while we will never achieve heaven here on earth in this lifetime, perhaps, we will edge (awkwardly) toward a more just society in the rebuilding.

    Like

    1. Thank you for your kind comments, Lisa.

      And that’s my hope, too. I hope that everyone is able to use current events for deeper self-examination.

      Like

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