Summary: Justice is not just a matter for that guy over there, nor is it simply a matter of punishment. God shows us His brand of justice in His Servant-Savior who would make us just by grace and then send us out as agents of justice to the world.
Epiphany 1 B
Justice for the Nations
The images seem so stark in contrast don’t they? Last week our chancel was decorated in color and light, green trees and a Christmas stable. This week it’s back to its original design. It’s beautiful still, but bare in contrast, not nearly so festive. It’s a bit of a let down if I might be so blunt.
It’s the kind of let down that comes over us when we wake up from our intoxications of Holiday joy and are met the realities of life, realities like a heap of rags curled up in a corner on a crowded downtown street. It moves – a living testimony to the emotional handicaps and troubles that have thrown some into the abyss of despair. A woman disappears from her home on Christmas Eve, the world stands threatened again with the possibility of a nuclear standoff with North Korea, terrorism abounds, war with Iraq seems imminent, a strange religious cult experiments with human life. How close is all of this to God’s design for creation? What families should have to endure such loss? What country should have to live in such fear? What individual should be treated like a lab rat for experimentation? These are the bitter realities we live with today, realities that beckon to be changed. They are realities that cry out for justice.
We want these people dealt with in a timely fashion. We want the terrorist dead. We want the criminals behind bars. We want these out of control doctors put out of commission. We want the troubled cared for and the abusive perpetrators unable to reach their victims. We want those who have more money to take care of us who have less. We want justice!
But what is just? If I have described the common human understanding of what that term (and I think I have), our concept of what is “just” is really quite limited. It’s limited in the method of administration. Justice is administered with a stern reprimand or punishment. It’s also clear that humanly speaking we like to limit justice in its scope. Canadian singer and songwriter Bruce Cockburn got it write when he sang, “Everyone wants justice done on somebody else.” When we speak of justice, we’re usually talking about that guy over there.
God view of justice is much wider. Our text today brings the comforting news that He too is concerned with the prevalence of injustice in our world today.
We hear in the text that “justice will be brought (that is hailed and proclaimed)… until He succeeds in establishing justice on the earth.” God wants justice too!
The words between these two phrases I just quoted from the text, though, shed light on what this means. Justice is for the nations. God’s concerned, not just with terror in The Middle East, but with the fear we bring to our families when our actions weaken our families and threaten to dissolve them altogether. He’s concerned about the fear we bring to our children when we lose our tempers. He’s concerned about the worry and hurts we perpetrate on our neighbors with our unkind words and thoughtless actions. God’s concerned. He’s concerned, not just with the disregard for life that many in the scientific community are showing; but with the lack of concern we show towards the sick and dying. From the 31st chapter of Proverbs we read that it is God’s concern that we “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” He’s concerned that no one get involved in speaking out for the unborn, for the outcast, for the downtrodden and those who are down on their luck. He’s concerned, not just about the proliferation of terrorism and nuclear bombs. He’s concerned about the proliferation of sin that has raised walls of hostility between us our neighbors, between all of us and our God. Justice, then, is not just a matter for the other guy. It’s a matter that concerns us all.
How good it is then to hear that “a bruised reed he will not break.” This phrase indicates a life hanging by a single thread, which is exactly where we stand before God on our own, life unraveling before our very eyes, hanging over the abyss of hell that we deserve, except that God does the unexpected. There, when there’s no hope, when there’s no future, when that final break is about to occur; God doesn’t break the reed. He doesn’t cut the line. Grace is proclaimed. A new start is given.
That’s what God’s brand of justice is all about. In His infinite love He doesn’t set out to give us what we deserve. Instead, by faith in His promises, He would seek to make things right by giving us what we need.