8 For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and injustice; I will faithfully reward my people and make a permanent covenant with them. 9 Their descendants will be known among the nations, and their posterity among the peoples. All who see them will recognize that they are a people the Lord has blessed. 10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord, I exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation and wrapped me in a robe of righteousness, as a groom wears a turban and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth produces its growth, and as a garden enables what is sown to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations. — Isaiah 61:8-11
Justice, Righteousness and Salvation (and no I don’t mean Superman)
by Parker Bradley
Avenue South Campus
Isaiah 61 is such a beautiful chapter. It rings with the theme of restoration and redemption after times of trial and judgment, and it even looks forward to Jesus. Jesus began His ministry (as recorded in Luke 4) by reading from this very chapter and proclaiming that what was foreseen there had been fulfilled that very day through Him! Our verses today follow the same thought.
When people use the phrase “The God of justice,” often they are thinking about fire and brimstone or the wrath of God. To be sure, those are things to think about, but let’s look at some verses where God speaks to His idea of justice.
I have to admit, Amos is possibly my favorite book in the Bible. It is a tough one to read, however, because God’s voice in it has a different tone than the warmth of the Psalms or the steadiness of Philippians. God was very upset with what was going on. His people, called by His Name, were selling righteous people for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals...trampling the head of the poor…a father and son using the same girl for sex…lying down on garments taken from people who owed them money and using those garments during cultic sexual worship to pagan gods, and then toasting each other with the wine they took in fines from those in hardship (Amos 2:6-8). Yikes. Like I said, it’s pretty rough. So how does the God of justice feel about all this?
Amos 5:16-24 includes some of the hardest verses to read in the whole book, as God turns His back on their empty worship of Him and then memorably declares, “But let justice roll down like a river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Because of His great love for us, God acts in justice and righteousness against sin and its horrible effects. He is active in the world in His goodness. If you want to stand in the middle of a river, hold your hand out and say, “Stop!” all I can say is, “Good luck stopping the river.” When the God of justice acts on behalf of someone, His good will is surely accomplished, no matter who stands against it—even His own people.
But wait! It’s not all scary. Amos 5:4, spoken to these same rebellious and wicked people, states clearly, “Seek Me and live.” So that means God’s first desire is not the fire of wrath on sin, but the tenderness of mercy and salvation and the forgiveness of sins we turn away from. “Seek good and not evil that you may live,” He says in 5:14. God loves justice, mercy and salvation, and He wants us also to love them so much that we live them out in our daily lives.
Ok, so let’s plug that into our verses in Isaiah (written much earlier than Amos but carrying the same message). “For I the Lord love justice…I will make an everlasting covenant with them…they are an offspring the Lord has blessed…for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation…He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.” These verses were written to people in Isaiah’s day who were not altogether different from people in Amos’ day. To be honest, it’s written to people not unlike you and me in some of our attitudes and actions.
It’s so fitting that Jesus—who came to reconcile, redeem and rescue us from the brokenness of sin into a right relationship with God—should proclaim the liberty and freedom looked for in this great chapter. God is surely just against the great harm sin does to us and to others through our actions, but (hallelujah!) God is first merciful, gracious and forgiving to those who seek Him today through Jesus Christ. No matter where you are and no matter what you’ve done, seek Him and live! He will not leave you cold and naked; He will clothe you with the garments of salvation and the robe of His righteousness in Christ Jesus: “He who knew no sin but became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
- “Seek Me and live.” What does that verse mean to you as you look back over your life?
- “He will clothe you with the garments of salvation.” Is that sometimes difficult to accept? Does sin make you feel unworthy of His love?
- “He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.” No matter how distant we may feel at times, God wants to cover your sin and mine with His salvation and righteousness so that we can be near Him always. Let’s confess any sin we may be holding on to and thank God together today for that great truth!
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.