“The LORD within her is righteous; he does no injustice; every morning he shows forth his justice…”
Last week in Zeph 3:1-5 we observed the ways the Lord characterizes the leaders of Jerusalem. The officials are roaring lions who have seized their own people as prey. The judges are evening wolves who operate under the cloak of night in order that they might tear down the people until there is nothing left of them. The prophets are arrogant men who speak in behalf of themselves and not YHWH. The priests casually disregard what is sacred and they mutilate the instruction of God. The people who are charged to care for those entrusted to them are the agents of their destruction, as portrayed in 3:1-2.
So when we arrive at v.5, we applaud the perfect unfailing justice of YHWH. He is just when no one is.
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.”
Rom 3:11 (cf. Zeph 3:1-2; 1:6.)
While vv. 1-5 specifically address the city and the rulers within her, we remember that the justice of God comes in His day when He will consume the entire earth in a purifying fire (Zeph 1:2, 18, 3:8). Okay, now we may have difficulty maintaining our applause. I mean, God’s justice is clearly warranted for those who intentionally harm other people, right? Then I read:
“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom:
she and her daughters had pride,
excess of food,
and prosperous ease,
but did not aid the poor and needy.”
One Sunday, while at church, I noticed in the foyer a note posted on the wall that read something like:
” I will be homeless soon and living out of my vehicle with some pets to feed.
I remember the dilemma I felt after I read the letter. I remember that the gospel became so clear in terms of its practicality. In my mind I saw the Lord Jesus standing next to this person, silent, waiting for my response. And He remained silent as I passed on the responsibility to someone else, ah!, in prayer!
Please understand, I am not trying to pass off a guilt trip. Rather, I am highlighting my mendacity concerning my desire and pleasure that God be just. I see how deep my double standard runs. I see that I am a consumer of justice (and a fickle one at that) but hardly a producer of justice. I see that I am not committed to God’s justice, though I applaud it in Zephaniah. I am partially committed.
You would not want a doctor partially committed to his profession. Not the day you need surgery! You would not want a mechanic partially committed to his work. Not when your car is in need of repair! You would not want a friend partially committed to the principles of a relationship. Not when give yourself in trust to your friend. I would not want a wife partially committed to the marriage. You see, when universal issues of justice are under consideration, it is easy, in an abstract sense, to applaud or value justice, as in Zephaniah. But when it becomes personal, with real consequences and feelings, our understanding and practice of justice gets a bit unstable or partial.
Can there really be such a thing as a partial judge. Yuck! Christian or not, no human would sincerely believe or nurture such an idea; again, not when the idea has a bearing upon the individual. Could you say that you are an impartial judge? If (or since) the answer is no; if you are as much as anyone part of the problem; if you continue to play favorites; how do we really expect the world to embrace the practicality of belief in Jesus Christ? Remember as His disciples we are called to the same mind of Christ (Php 2:5) as well as practice of Christ (Mt 5:43-48)
But after all is said and done and my grave is filled, I confess my complete inability to be just. Ah!, it’s worse! I have an complete inability to desire and promote impartial justice!
What happens when the unable collides with the Able?
What does it look like when Unfailing Justice merges with partiality?
Is it not a fire? A violent destructive fire?
Take a moment today, and sit quietly beside your Lord, observe Him in all His humanity, as He sweats blood…preparing to receive your due complete justice.
“Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt…”
Worship Jesus from an overflowing heart, in behalf of what he has done for us. And let it be evident in our lives. Let it be, impartial.