Pastor Jessie Boyd was my professor for Hebrew History. I can still remember his reverent and awe-filled voice and countenance as he quoted Deuteronomy 32:3-4, “For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! ‘The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.’” God is great because He alone is perfect in every aspect of His being. As our Creator and Judge, He never errs in judgment; He never misunderstands; He always does right by every person. He is perfectly just in holding us accountable for our thoughts, words, and actions.
Because God is perfectly just, every person will someday stand before Him to receive retribution for the way he or she has lived. Retribution means the giving out or the receiving of a justly deserved penalty or reward. J. I. Packer clarifies God’s retribution as follows:
“Retribution is the inescapable moral law of creation; God will see that each person sooner or later receives what he deserves– if not here, then hereafter. This is one of the basic facts of life. And, being made in God’s image, we all know in our hearts that this is right. This is how it ought to be.” (Knowing God, pg.138-47).
God’s giving people what they deserve is pure justice. After the Great White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-15) of those whose names were not written in the book of life, Jesus declares in Revelation 21:8, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Hell is the just reward for those who persist and continue in these offences against a holy and righteous God.
Paul gives an even more detailed list of mankind’s rebellion, including some sins that we justify and classify as not-so-bad. Please read this list slowly, carefully, and contemplatively: “They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (Romans 1:28-31). He then concludes with this sobering and condemning statement in verse 32, “Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” What depravity is in our natural hearts!
Furthermore, Paul makes it clear that it is just for God to bar the rebellious from heaven: “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:5-6). To the Corinthians he said, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (I Corinthians 6:9-10).
When we see the rebellion of man’s heart toward a holy and righteous God, we quickly ask the question that Job raised, “But how should man be just with God” (Job 9:2)? Jesus told His disciples as they marveled at the difficulty of the rich entering the Kingdom of God, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” Paul told the Corinthians after listing the sins that justly keep one from God’s kingdom, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (I Corinthians 6:11). What hope—The Gospel is God’s way of justly forgiving sin!
With Prayer, Mark © February, 2011
Selected Verses on God’s Justice
ESV – Emphasis added
Psalm 33:4-5, For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.
Psalm 37:27-28, Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever. 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 5:15-16, Man is humbled, and each one is brought low, and the eyes of the haughty are brought low. But the LORD of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.
Isaiah 61:8, For I the LORD love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Ezekiel 33:17-20, “Yet your people say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just,’ when it is their own way that is not just. When the righteous turns from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it. And when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he shall live by this. Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, I will judge each of you according to his ways.”
Jeremiah 23:4-6, I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD. “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’
Revelation 15:3, And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!
Revelation 16:7, And I heard the altar saying, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!”