“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Understanding God’s justice begins with an understanding of sin. Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4) and iniquity (Daniel 9:4–5; Micah 2:1; James 3:6). It sets itself in opposition to God’s holiness, as expressed in His law. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and God’s holiness requires the death penalty against all sin.
The Hebrew word for “justice,” mishpat. Its most basic meaning is to treat people equitably. It means acquitting or punishing every person on the merits of the case, regardless of race or social status. Anyone who does the same wrong should be given the same penalty.
But mishpat means more than just the punishment of wrongdoing. It also means giving people their rights. The mishpat, or justness, of a society, according to the Bible, is evaluated by how it treats the poor, foreigner, widow and orphans. Any neglect shown to the needs of the least of these is not called merely a lack of mercy or charity but a violation of justice, of mishpat. God loves and defends those with the least economic and social power, and so should we. That is what it means to “do justice” (Micah 6:8).
Isaiah 1:17, “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”
A few months ago I started reading Abraham J. Heschel’s book The Prophets. My aim was to learn more about the Old Testament prophets and justice by reading the work of this Jewish theologian. I am not disappointed. Heschel’s writings bring to life the writings of Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk with great clarity and insight. But what truly grabbed my attention was his portrait of the divine pathos— a concept that I was not familiar with and the nature of the prophets understanding of God. I had learned over the years is that the prophet is a spokesperson for God and In Heschel’s words, “the invisible God becomes audible”. The Prophets, page 27
Heschel states that “what the prophet proclaims is God’s intimate relatedness to man.” In essence God is concerned about man. The Creator of Heaven and earth cares about how man behaves toward poor widows and orphans, the foreigner and the poor, and how others treat or take advantage of them (Js. 1:27; Jn. 14:28; Ps. 68:5; 145:9; Job 29:12). The oppression of man is an affront to a Holy God (Prov. 14:31;17:5).
The world is full of iniquity, injustice and idolatry. Justice is close to the heart of God. Justice is God’s measuring line and righteousness the plumb line (Isa. 28:17).
”When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.