4 Dec 2014 by Jason Law CM –
The question is one of the great ones of life. It is expressed in many forms; one of the most common being ‘Why do the good die young, and the wicked flourish?’. Some attempts to find answers settle on the easy answer that God loves the good too much to allow them to linger too long on this earth. But watching people suffer or die before their time, this answer does not help much.
And so we continue to search for answers. The question becomes the foundation of great systems of philosophy, great schools of ethics, great revolutions sometimes leading to genuine liberty and sometimes leading to the kind you get in Stalinism, and even sometimes, ironically, to systems like Nazism. People, including Christians, often demand for justice, but God’s definition of justice may not be as we all picture it.
Last Sunday, on the 30th of November 2014, Pastor Michael Ngui of DUMC shared a message of what justice really is according to God’s definition. First of all, it is clear that this question has been there since the earliest time of mankind. We see it ring throughout the Old Testament, and the passage Pastor Michael took was from a book in the Old Testament; Malachi 2:17-3:18.
In order to understand how God views justice, we have to know who God is and see the issue from God’s viewpoint. Unlike men’s definition of justice where one side is always right and the other always wrong, God is impartial in His justice; His justice levels all of us. And unlike our definition of justice which always center on our rights, God’s justice demands that we die to ourselves in how we treat others and in our service to them. His definition of justice is completely contrasted from ours.
In the passage of Malachi mentioned above, we read about a setting that is very familiar to us. Malachi 2:17 was a response to the Israelites’ question about where God was. Basically, this familiar question was ‘Why was the wicked who are ignoring God’s laws flourishing, and the ones who were following His commands losing out?’. However, the verse also tells us that the Israelites even went to the extent of blasphemy by saying that ‘God loves sinners and sin alike’ and by saying that ‘evil is good, that it pleases the Lord’!
The Israelites were demanding where the God of justice was, and God replied that He will come and that the people had better be prepared (Malachi 3:1-5). In order to further understand what is going on, we have to keep in mind a central idea as a people of God; that the Lord does not change (Malachi 3:6), and that we need to learn to trust in Him. It centers on our faith about two facts: that the Lord our God is just and that the Lord our God is faithful.
God responded that He will come but the people had better be prepared for He will come suddenly, and when He metes out justice, He is going to be dealing with everyone, starting first with His people.
Malachi now poses the question, ‘Who is going to be able to endure when He comes?’ (Malachi 3:2). Are we really so righteous that when the Lord returns, He is going to find us immaculate? Is there really no sin in us? Romans 3:10 tells us that there is no one truly righteous. Do we ask God to return with true understanding, even in the way we live?
Pastor Michael shared that because the Lord does not change, His response is always consistent. In Malachi 3:6-7, God tells the Israelites that the reason He had been keeping quiet was because He was being merciful to them. He tells them that ever since the time of Jacob, the Israelites had always turned their backs away from Him. He promises that if His people return to Him, He will return to His people. In the New Testament, we find these words echoed in 2 Peter 3.
Very clearly, the Israelites were not completely free from sin. There is a high probability that they were thinking of turning away from God and His commandments. What did God say the Israelites were guilty of? One of the ways they had sinned against God was by robbing Him (Malachi 3:8). The issue was not just about giving; it was about the people’s heart. There were sorcerers, adulterers, perjurers, and those who exploited the defenseless even among the Israelites (Malachi 3:5).
Pastor Michael communicated that very often what we perceive as God’s injustice is actually God withholding His judgment by His grace and mercy. He is giving us time to repent, and though not all calamities have an answer, there are times when He allows them to happen in our lives as a warning against an impetuous or reckless way, and to turn away from a current immoral mode of living.
God is calling us to return to Him. How are we going to respond to this calling from God? Pastor Michael conveyed that there are two ways to respond; either in arrogance or self-righteousness (Malachi 3:14-15) or through the fear of God (Malachi 3:16). How are we approaching God today? Are we treating the people around us with integrity and love, or do we exploit them for our own self-interest?
Is God our errand-boy or is He the Almighty Creator and Proprietor of everything in existence? We know that God is faithful to His promises. Are we equally faithful to ours? Pastor Michael urges that by making an insistence for God to return, we must start with spring-cleaning our lives first.
Pastor Michael’s message sounds harsh to the ear but it is extremely important. Our God is not partial and He is the perfect embodiment of justice. Pastor Michael imparts that when He comes, He is going to start with the cleansing and purification of His own people. It is not going to be very pleasant but God’s primary interest is always in His people. Now the question is, ‘Are we going to be prepared when the God of justice truly comes and mete it as we have demanded?”.
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