Worldly Justice and Worldly Mercy
One thing that’s always seemed interesting to me is how it seems there’s something that can be preached out of every news item, and out of every disaster. Yet usually, you don’t hear much from any pulpit outside of the usual.
The shootings in Colorado are no different. The questions of how God could allow such a thing to happen will always come up, and will be more immediate to those who were involved. But it seems there’s another issue. As this article talks about, the world as of late tends to put the parents’ head on the block as well:
Last Friday, when Holmes allegedly opened fire in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., his parents, Robert and Arlene Holmes, were instantly thrust into a club that no one wants to join: family members of notorious killers.
Like the parents of Tucson shooter Jared Loughner, Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and Columbine High School killers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, they’re quickly becoming pariahs, publicly reviled for raising a monster.
In looking at this, I refer to Ezekiel 18, which speaks of the imputation of one’s sin on a whole family, primarily the sins of the father onto the children, but this section is pertinent to us (separated out by idea):
Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right, And hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, neither hath defiled his neighbour’s wife, neither hath come near to a menstruous woman, And hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment; He that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man, Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord God.
If he beget a son that is a robber, a shedder of blood, and that doeth the like to any one of these things, And that doeth not any of those duties, but even hath eaten upon the mountains, and defiled his neighbour’s wife, Hath oppressed the poor and needy, hath spoiled by violence, hath not restored the pledge, and hath lifted up his eyes to the idols, hath committed abomination, Hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall he then live? he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him. (Ezekiel 18:4-13)
As I could readily point out about being left to the mercy of men compared to the mercy of God, being left to the justice of God even shows how much loftier His thoughts are and His ways are. We should be ever thankful as those who came to Him that He does not treat us as we deserve in His justice due to the sacrifice on the cross of Christ. But we should be ever thankful that the Lord chastens us as we deserve in the appropriate measure, and not as the world which reveals the lack of appropriate justice as well as appropriate mercy.
In looking at both justice and mercy issues when comparing God and men, I’ve been extremely fascinated by the choice given David when it came to justice upon Israel for the unlawful census:
And David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the Lord, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O Lord, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.
For when David was up in the morning, the word of the Lord came unto the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, Go and say unto David, Thus saith the Lord, I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee. So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days’ pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me. And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let us fall now into the hand of the Lord; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man. (2 Samuel 24:10-14)
I have often wondered how much time it took David to determine this answer, as well as his thought process. But Scripture and experience have both born out the truth of this, both personally and reading articles like this one. As men, do you want to be at the mercy of the hand of men as it comes to loving kindness or justice, or at the hands of God?
We are given an incredible opportunity of forgiveness through the hand of Jesus Christ. Why this gospel is not preached at every opportunity isn’t so much of a mystery, as those of the world see it better to fall into their hands. It’s such an important thing that you can see the nature of this grace in the Ezekiel passage, as well as other places in the Old Testament. As it says by example, turn from your own ways and you can live and not receive the penalty. Yet the world says what the Lord proposes is unfair:
Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?
When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die. Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive. Because he considereth, and turneth away from all his transgressions that he hath committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
Yet saith the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal. O house of Israel, are not my ways equal? are not your ways unequal? Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? 2 For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye. (Ezekiel 18:25-32)
Praise be that the Lord is this “fair” with us!