This post is in response to reading together RC Sproul’s book “The Holiness of God. This week we read chapter six: Holy Justice.
What I appreciated most about this chapter was the emphasis on the need for correct understanding of theses words: justice, mercy, sin, grace, righteousness and injustice.
I have noticed many times how indignant people become when they feel that there have been injustices done that are going unpunished or in which the punishment seems unfit to the infraction. “That’s not fair!”, is an exclamation that many of us have made from toddlerhood playrooms, sports stadium sidelines and upon hearing of judicial decisions. How often that exclamation is followed with the statement “well, if I were in charge … ” Â and then some venting of our own judgment which would obviously be better. Ha!
I believe that the author also does a great job of pointing out that a major problem is our sense of entitlement that we have developed as a result of expecting God’s mercy rather than judgment for our own sins. Sproul points out that people view God in the Old Testament as one of condemnation and wrath. A “because I said so!” kind of Lord. These same people then apparently have a hard time reconciling the Old Testament Yahweh with the New Testament God of love who gave Jesus, His only begotten son, as sacrifice of sins and Savior of our souls.
Sproul starts the chapter by recounting the Old Testament stories of sudden death as God’s judgment for sin. First Â told, was swift death that came to Nadab and Abihu Â sons of Aaron. As priests they new every detail of what Holy God required, yet they violated his instructions by burning strange fire before the altar and were immediately killed. This seemed like a shockingly severe punishment to Priest Aaron who took his disagreement to Abraham. Abraham helped Aaron understand that these men were fully aware of their duties and desecrated the place of Holy God which demands justice. Abraham helped reestablish the severity of sin and Aaron stood silent.
Sproul then recounted the story of Uzziah who likewise was killed when he suddenly reached out and touched the Ark of the Covenant as King David was having it restored to it’s place among Gods people. What appears to the observer as a severe punishment for a selfless act of a priest trying to keep the Ark from falling off of an oxen cart, was really an act of sin judged by God instantly demanding Uzziahs life.
The author does a good job of explaining how very many violations had really transpired in the parading of the Ark in this fashion (you can read it for yourself).
What these stories have in common, is how swift and severe was the punishment, and that witnesses had judged that God’s judgment was not “just”.
Later in the chapter, we are reminded of the story of Lot. The total annihilation of Sodom & Gemorrah, and later God’s requirement that Isrealites totally destroy every living thing when going into a land.
The author points out how time and again we people, question the justice of the all-knowing Holy God whose very nature is righteousness. I think Sproul does an excellent job of pointing out that these very facts about God prove that we cry for “justice” when we really expect “mercy”. He reminds us that from way back in Genesis we are all guilty of sin, and God had previously stated that the punishment for sin is death. Since the rules of righteousness (doing the right thing) were clearly explained and understood, and we violate those rules (commit sin); then justice (the unbiased carrying out of punishment for infraction) requires death, right?! Um… Yes and no. The way I understand it, I as a mere created being have NO right to require anything of God. However, God’s holy nature requires a penalty for sin to be paid.
Enter–Amazing Grace!! Amazingly enough God showed so much mercy on Adam and Eve and all the generations that follow, that He provided another way, a more excellent way, to mete out his punishment for our sins. He sent Jesus Christ as not only an example of how we can live our God-given mission to live as an image of God among the world, but to first cleanse our sins so that we would be able to fulfill that purpose by bringing glory to God in our daily lives & through service to others.
This Grace and Mercy (giving undeserved favor) is a Gift, but more importantly in this case, it is a life-saving gift.Â Without God’s grace we would ALL be dead!! The Perfect justice of our Holy God demands death for sin. “But God” …. Oh, those are two of my very favorite words!!
It is important for us to realize that just because we do not see punishment served as we would deem fair; God is never unjust! Rather He may be bestowing grace by allowing time to pass before the payment is made. Either through saving grace or just read Revelation in the Bible; ALL will stand before the Holy God and be judged. Actually it is more accurate to say we will probably fall on our faces as dead men before the Sovereign.
Though not mentioned in this chapter, I thought of the New Testament story of the woman with the issue of blood. Like Uzziah, she had reached out to touch a Holy vessel of God’s Spirit, this One being in the person of Jesus Christ. Yet, she was not zapped dead for doing so. On the contrary, she was healed from a terrible physical malady. How can it be? Wasn’t it Jesus who said in Matthew, “Come to Me…”?
Sproul reminds us that God Himself states ” I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” In other words, God is the One who chooses to bestow mercy, and it’s best I don’t question the Sovereign. After all mercy and grace are “gifts”. How silly would I look if I asked you why you did or did not give someone a gift? It’s none of my business.
As I read this chapter, I had been sick in bed for two entire days. This isn’t the only time that chronic illness has forced a change in my plans. but this time I was more upset because I have deadlines & people are counting on me. However, as I read this chapter, I believe God helped me to reexamine my attitude. Why is it that I feel that I am entitled to be well? Why is it that I get so upset when these things happen when I have deadlines? Could it be that the sin of self-righteousness, and entitlement are starting a rebellion under the banner of “this is not how it’s supposed to be”? God forgive me, I am wrong.
As we are drawing toward the celebration of Thanksgiving in the United States I would invite you to take part in a different spiritual parade. One in which we march under a banner which says “All Thanks to our Holy God” as we realize that everything is by Him, for Him and accountable to Him. Only with a more accurate view of our sins affront to Holy God, can we really be thankful for everything! Good and bad (as we see it) alike are all used to fulfill God’s purposes. Faith in God’s true Word bears it out.
A favorite quote from the book this week is this one found on page 170:
“God does not always act with justice. Sometimes he acts with mercy. Mercy is not justice, but it also is not injustice. Injustice violates righteousness. Mercy manifests kindness and grace and does no violence to righteousness. Mercy manifests kindness and grace and does no violence righteousness. We may see non-justice in God, which is mercy, but we never see injustice in God”
This chapter is a great reminder that I must be aware of when I am not practicing my belief “God IS God … I am not!”
Next week: Chapter 7: War and Peace with a Holy God.
More insights on this reading can be found at Challies website by clicking here.