Justice, The Way God Sees It

One of my favorite songs of worship is From the Inside Out written by Joel Houston of Hillsong United. We've been singing it like an anthem over the last couple of years, because I think it resonates so closely with our lives as Christians and where we desire to be in the Father.
In the song there's a line that says, "let justice and praise, become my embrace, to love You from the inside out". I wonder how many people sing their hearts out on that line, but have no idea what the lyrics actually mean. What does it mean to let justice become my embrace?
If you read scripture, you know that God loves justice and it is a large part of His character.
Psalm 37:28, "For the Lord loves justice; He will not forsake His saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.".
Isaiah 30:18, "For the Lord is a God of justice".
In addition to that He is very adamant about His people loving and practicing His idea of justice.
Micah 6:8, "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kidness, and to walk humbly with your God?".
Deuteronomy 16:19, "You shall not pervert justice."
Amos 5:24, "But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."
Luke 11:42, "But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God."
Isaiah 1:17, "learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause."
Now, we can't possibly know everything that God wants us to know about justice just by reading a few verses. However, take each of these scriptures in their context and you'll begin to see how important justice is in relationship to God's Kingdom and His glory. I wanted to point out these scriptures as a simple reminder of how frequently we encounter this idea of "justice" in scripture.
We know its important. We know that God values it. We sing about it. We preach it. However, do you really know what it is? What does it mean to embrace justice? How do we practice justice?
I think in order to get a better grasp on this we have to first realize where our current idea of justice comes from. Because our worldview is shaped so much by the culture we live in, depending on where you live may determine your thoughts on justice. For sake of brievity, I am going to look at this from the American viewpoint, because most of the people that read this will more than likely be living in the United States.
In the American culture, capitalism still rules and we like to look at things in terms of fairness. Our thought, the majority of the time, is if someone works hard, makes good investments, and climbs the ladder of success they deserve to reap the financial benefits and rewards. On the other hand, if someone is lazy and doesn't work, bad with money, and careless with their lives they deserve their poverity and plight.
In terms of our judicial system, if someone does the crime, they'll do the time. Of course, we all know that looks different depending on the crime, lawyers, medical and mental condition of the person, and the specific context within the United States. For the sake of clarity, I think we would all agree that a fully aware person who commits cold-blooded murder of an innocent victim would deserve time in prison. Some of you may say that person deserves death. While others of you would say that person just deserves a life behind bars. No matter where you stand, you most likely agree that type of crime deserves some time.
Now, lets go back to this idea of looking at things in terms of fairness. I think if we really evaluate what we believe about justice, we see that most of it is rooted in this idea of being "fair". If someone kills somebody, it is only fair that they are killed or locked away for life. If somebody is a lazy drunk, it is only fair that they live in a worn down house in the ghetto. If someone does good, it is only fair that they are rewarded.
But does this type of thinking match up with the way God sees justice?
If you have spent any time listening to the preaching of the Word or sitting in a Sunday School class you have probably heard someone say that "God is not a fair God, but a just God". I've heard that uttered so many times, I've lost count. And I believe it to be a good statement. No place in scripture do we see God claiming to love fairness or desiring His people to be rooted in fairness, like we do with justice. So if our worldview causes us to see fairness and justice working hand in hand, automatically we should recognize that there is a problem.
I believe this to be a major problem! Its not one of those things that we can candy coat or pass along as just a simple issue of semantics.
According to Proverbs 28:5, "Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely."
Hold the phone! Do you realize what the scripture is saying? If we truly seek the Lord, we will understand true justice, and we won't understand it just a little bit. We will understand it completely! It is our sinful nature and evil flesh that misunderstands justice. Sadly, that evil flesh is what drives our culture's view of justice. When we are allowing our culture to shape our worldview of justice we are giving in to evil.
Hopefully, you are now seeing why this subject is so serious. I sincerely believe the Holy Spirit has been revealing these things to me lately, because I have been guilty of letting my worldview help shape my idea of justice. I have been wrestling with this whole idea of what true biblical, godly justice looks like for a couple of weeks now. In my quest to discover the truth, through God's Word the Holy Spirit has begun to open my eyes.
I tried finding good biblically sound resources on the topic of justice. Unfortunately, I haven't really found much. To my knowledge there aren't a plethora of books out there written about biblical justice. Maybe there are and I just haven't found them. If you are reading this and know of some good resources, I would be happy for you to share them. However for my sake, I think God wanted me to just go back to His Word and not take the easy way out. I did use some resources, my trusty ESV Study bible, which offers good commentary. I also used Wayne Grudem's, Biblical Doctrine, along with some other commentaries I own that I used on specific scriptures I read. What I discovered is that justice, the way God sees it, is actually very basic. I think most of us that have grown up in church, understand it in its practice, but don't really understand it to the point that we are begging God for it and searching it out constantly. I believe it to be something we should be praying for, seeking, and putting into practice in our lives. I believe that when we sing lyrics like, "let justice and praise, become my embrace", that we should truly mean it!
In English, the words "righteousness" and "justice" are different words, but in the Hebrew and Greek there is really only one word group that is used for both English words. So, when we are talking about the attributes of God, they are meaning the same thing. According to Grudem, justice means that "God always acts in accordance with what is right and is himself the final standard of what is right". Basically, whatever conforms to God's moral character determines what is right and just.
What that means is that when we see God say in Jeremiah 22:3, "Do justice and righteousness", we should know that to do justice is to make right decisions according to God's commands.
God's definition of justice is much more than legal equity. It refers to the entire scope of God's government of His world. To "do justice" it involves, on part of government, a fair and just use of power and proper functioning of a fair judicial system, especially to protect the weak from the strong. As individuals, it involves honest and fair business dealings, and a faithfulness to keep one's word, as well as not taking advantage of the poor or those with less power or protection.
So in biblical justice, fairness does play a role, but a much smaller one than the one it plays in our society. The two aren't partners, because many times in God's justice things aren't fair.
The best and ultimate example is in our salvation. It is simply not fair that we have lived an evil life, sinned against God, and that His perfect and Holy Son pays the entire penalty for our sin on the cross. So if we trust in Him and repent, in God's justice system, we will be saved.
God's view of justice includes forgiveness and love. In fact, justice is a primary form of love. Often times, in a fair world, forgiveness and love are out of the picture.
Is it fair that we give our hard earned money to a homeless man who basically put himself there because of his alcoholism? No, it may not be fair. However, it may be exactly what God calls you to do. The world would say, "I'm not giving that guy any money! That's what he gets for being an alcoholic!". God would say that He is more concerned with showing that man love and forgiveness than letting him reap the benefits of his alcoholism. Don't get me wrong. God does have wrath, and it is scary. He will punish the wicked! However, His first desire is to forgive, love, and welcome home.
That's God's justice. That's what He wants us to do.
Another great example is the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. Whether you realize it or not, the father in the parable practiced justice. His justice was not to cut the son off and disown him for his rebellion. His justice was like God's, to run to his son with open arms, welcoming him home.
May true justice be our embrace!