Justice Must Be Foundational

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; faithful love and truth go before you. Psalms 89:14 CSB
This week I along with some friends completed a youversion reading plan by Dr. Tony Evans answering the question “What is Biblical Justice.”  A couple of thoughts stood out to me:
  • There is no clear and right definition of justice that excludes God.
  • Biblical justice encourages freedom through affirming accountability, equality, and responsibility by linking the spiritual to the social realm.
The last devotional referenced this verse from Psalm 89. I’ve read it many times over the years, but never has its words been more powerful than when considering the topic of justice. The imagery of the throne of God being built on a foundation of justice is transformational. Before fulfilling his mission for which he left that throne, Jesus gifted one last act of justice by caring for the repentant thief, this while dying unjustly. That’s justice found in one’s foundation. As a citizen of God’s kingdom, I must align myself with that foundation. In order for the King to reign in my heart, mind, and soul, justice must be sought and preserved. That’s possible if it’s in my foundation. Photo Credit: Unsplash/Mirko Blicke

“Self,…”

Fear is exhausting. Well, at least misplaced fear can be. Proper fear can actually provide joy and comfort.

Several people have commented how that in spite of being slowed down since March they still feel tired, maybe even more so. Perhaps fear is to blame.

I started a new book this afternoon, Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn. His book contains 48 devotionals written as notes to “Self,” reminders of what you know based on Scripture. Note #3, entitled “Fear,” includes these thoughts:

Worldly fear will lead you to toe party lines, compel you to try to live a safe life, and lead you to so prize the good gifts of God that they mutate into idols.

Your possessions can go up in flames, but you have treasure in heaven and stand to inherit the kingdom. Your reputation may be sullied, but you are justified in Jesus. You may be rejected by those who you admire, but you are accepted by God. You may be hated, but your Father in heaven loves you with an undying love.

The fear you need to maintain and cultivate is a fear of God, for in it you will discover wisdom and develop strength that enables you to persevere in faith to the end.

Somewhere in those reminders may you find rest from fear, whether you’re fighting your own or burdened by other’s.

What if you wrote your own note to self? What reminders would it include?

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Melanie Wasser

Think You Know All About Genesis? (A book review)

Whatever you know about Alan Dershowitz, if you’re like me, it’s not from reading his books. So when I came across this one, I was quite intrigued. About the only thing we have in common is we both have benefitted by living in homes who taught us the value of the Bible.

His upbringing in Judaism and his practicing of law tremendously frame his view of God, man, and the Bible. He most definitely has a biblical worldview. Does that mean all biblical worldviewers would agree with his interpretations of Genesis? Pretty sure you know the answer to that question.

My opinion: that should not keep one from reading another’s integrated and exhaustive presentation of their interpretation, in particular if their frame is one you do not have. That explains why I valued this reading. I grew because of Dershowitz’s work. That’s enough for me.

If these nine quotes make you think even a hint differently about Genesis, here’s your sign to choose growth:

A God who can admit that His mind has been changed by mere humans is a truly great teacher. (referencing God and The Flood)

The God who invites Abraham to argue with him about justice is a God who encourages rational discourse. The God who rebuked Job for trying to understand an obvious injustice is a God who promotes unthinking fundamentalism. One of the beauties of the Bible is that even its God speaks in different voices over time.

The entire book of Genesis is about the early development of justice in human society…The Genesis stories all take place before the advent of formal rules of law… Viewing Genesis as a book about the development of justice before the existence of a formalized legal system helps to explain why the narrative is so much about crime, sin, deception, revenge, punishment, and other bad actions.

For all of his trickery, Jacob never tries to deceive God. He bargains with him, even wrestles with him, but he’s always straight with God. The result is that God blesses Jacob with leadership, but makes him understand that the wages of deception are deception.

Like much of the earlier narratives of Genesis, the Joseph story shows us what it was like to live in a world without a legal system – a world in which those with high status could, with impunity, falsely accuse those of lower status. It shows us the need for a system of justice in which all stand equally before the law and those accused of a crime have a fair opportunity to challenge the evidence against them and demonstrate that it was planted, false, or mistaken. It leads inexorably to the later biblical rules against favoring in judgment either the rich or the poor.

The common law of Judaism is that it is not only permissible, it is obligatory to argue even with God about a proposed injustice. Humans can argue with God, but they cannot refuse to obey a direct order from Him. (referencing God and Abraham)

Had the Torah-the great law book-simply begun with a list of rules, the reader would wonder about the basis for the rules. Some of them appear eminently logical, but the others cannot be understood without reference to the experience of the Jewish people.

If the book of Genesis tells the story of the developing legal system-ad hoc rules, common law, statutes, and so on-then Sinai does not represent so dramatic a break with the past. It is a culmination of a process begun in the garden of Eden and continued with Cain, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Dina, Tamar, Joseph, and the other actors in opening narratives of the Bible.

The Bible uses stories of injustice to teach about the need for justice…The story of Genesis will continue until the end of humankind.

The Myth of Equality (Book Review)

I just finished reading a book that I didn’t know I needed to read.

I wasn’t looking for it. Had it not been given to me, I most likely wouldn’t even know about it.

Why did I need to read it? 

  • Because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. The first part informed me about the story of race.

Racism in the United States is worse than we thought, its lasting consequences are more significant than we think, and our responsibility is greater than we’ve been taught…There are many things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried.

  • Because I needed to see this subject through the lens of God’s kingdom. The second part took me deeper into the truth of equality.

If every person is made in the image of God, then stereotypes lead us down a dangerous path…Racial equality and fairness is not just a good thing but an ideal that we must work toward if we are to fully realize Christian obedience, national justice, and individual flourishing.

  • Because I needed to know about my privilege. The final part challenged me to listen and learn, lament, confess, and lay down.

White privilege doesn’t mean your life isn’t hard. It means if you are a person of color, simply by virtue of that, your life might be harder…If any part of justice matters then all of justice should matter.

Most likely, you didn’t know about this book before reading this post. You need to look for it. You need to read this book.

The God Who Brings You Out

I’m reading through Leviticus. If you’ve never read it or it’s been a while, consider giving it a read. It is a rich book. For example, here’s a thought from chapter 19:

“I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” ‭‭Leviticus‬ ‭19:36‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

This declaration comes in the middle of several admonishes regarding stealing, treating foreigners nicely, respecting family and the elderly, and conducting business fairly. These follow the beginning statement God told Moses to share with the Israelites: “Speak to the entire Israelite community and tell them: Be holy because I, Yahweh your God, am holy.” Leviticus‬ ‭19:2‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

When they were in Egypt, they endured injustice as foreigners, were forced to disrespect family members, and certainly were on the receiving end of unfair business. God wants them to remember that this is what He rescued them from, this is what He is not for, and this is what they need to resist.

God brings us out, rescues us, sets us apart to be like him. Do you remember where He found you and brought you out? It may be worth a prayer to say, “Thank you, God. Thank you for bringing me out. My desire is holiness. Continue to take out of me what you brought me from.”