The heart of Biblical justice

the-persistent-widow
The Persistent Widow by WJ Webb

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”Luke 18:1-8

Widows were in a precarious position in Ancient Israel. If a woman lost her husband, she was often left without any means of financial support. Such women were considered under God’s special care. Psalm 68:5 says, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” God’s compassion goes out to them, and he expects his people to do the same.

The Lord speaks through Moses in Exodus, saying “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless.  If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.”Ex. 22:22-23                                                                                          

 The way the nation of Israel treated the widows among them was a good indication of how they  were practicing Justice toward all the poor, the oppressed, the prisoners, the blind, and the hungry. So Jesus moves from the story of one widow seeking justice to all of us seeking justice:

“And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.

Justice in the Bible was an important moral principle .When they spoke of the coming Messiah, the Old Testament Prophets saw him bringing justice.

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.
 He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.
 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth. Is. 42:1-4

Jesus came to bring forth justice, in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. So when he began his ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth, he read from Isaiah this prophecy of the Anointed One, Messiah, the Christ:

 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives    and recovering of sight to the blind,  to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Is. 61:1-2) ( Lk 4:16-21)

And he said,” Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Justice in the Bible begins with God. He is the defender and protector of the poor, the homeless, the debtor, the widow, the orphans, the refugees, the addicts, and the prisoners And if we really belong to God, we too are called to practice Justice .  .  Jesus has given us the ministry of bringing justice to the world. When he returns, Jesus will establish his justice completely. Until then, he has called us to work for justice. The Old Testament Prophets heard his call: Micah said,

Micah said:”He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
” Micah 6:8

Amos said,” Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24

Jesus says, “Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. and then he says “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”Will he find us doing his Justice in a fallen world? Perfect Justice will not be ours until Jesus returns, but until then, aren’t we called as Christians to work for justice and do what we can to bring justice into this fallen world?

Bible teacher R.C. Sroul sees the mission of the church as twofold: “First, there is the work of world-wide witness, making disciples and planting churches. Secondly, Christians are called upon to do works of mercy and compassion”.

This is the kind of Justice that the Old Testament Prophets wrote about. Christians should respond to God’s command to love our neighbor with generosity and compassion  concerning all forms of human need. Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry, forgave the sinners, and  brought the lost sheep home.  Christians should learn from his example.”

The question, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the Earth?” I think is answered, at least partly, by Matthew 25:32-40 : Jesus said,

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Feeding the hungry, sheltering the strangers among us, giving clothing to the poor, and visiting the sick and the prisoners: All this, including taking care of widows and orphans and much more, is the heart of Biblical justice. In our day, millions of refugees are fleeing famine, war, persecution ,and poverty. And there are thousands afflicted with the disease of drug addiction  As much as we practice justice, and keep praying boldly and persistently for justice, Jesus promises he will answer. He might even send us to be his answer, for those who are crying to him day and night for justice.

***

matt-and-chrisI raise my own financial support for my ministry, and it is the primary income for my wife and I. If you are interested in contributing you can send checks to:

Rev. Matt Kantrowitz
Isaiah 61 Ministries
C/O The Church at Prison, Inc.
Box 8318, Essex Junction, VT 05452

You can email me for more information at mmkantrowitz@gmail.com. All donations are tax deductible.

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