Justice is matter-of-fact, “the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4), or if “he is righteous; he shall surely live” (Ezekiel 18:9). Plain and simple, and just. There is a problem with this, though, a problem for us.
The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one. ~Psalm 14:2-3
Do we really want justice? Ezekiel began listing Israel’s sins, “defiles his neighbor’s wife, oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination, lends at interest, and takes profit” (Ezekiel 18:11-13). He could keep going, and he could have been listing ours.
God saw Israel’s sin and ruled rightly, “I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them” (Ezekiel 20:8, 13, 21), yet, time and again, God gave mercy, “I withheld my hand and acted for the sake of my name” (Ezekiel 20:22). When Moses asked God his name, God told him, “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14). God defines justice but justice does not define God. God is who he is, and while he is just, he is far beyond. When God looks down from heaven and sees our sin, justice is due, but God came down from heaven and, for the sake of his name, brought more than justice, and that is the Gospel, that is Jesus, that is “the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
In Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Jean Valjean took shelter in the Bishop’s home. He also took the silver. When he was caught by the Constable, Valjean was returned to the Bishop for justice. “He claimed that you gave the silver to him,” mocked the Constable. “Yes, of course I gave him the silverware,” replied the Bishop. “Thank you for bringing him back. Release him.” Then turning to Valjean, the Bishop handed him more, “You forgot the candlesticks, Jean Valjean. They are worth 2,000 francs. Why did you leave them?”
“You shall know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for my name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, declares the Lord God.” ~Ezekiel 20:44
The Bishop glared with terrifying love, “Jean Valjean, you no longer belong to evil. With this silver I’ve bought your soul. I’ve ransomed you from fear and hatred. Now I give you back to God.”
My Lord, my God, You have shown a love unimaginable. You bought me with Your love, a love that sacrificed what is most precious to You. You made Your Son sin, not sin of His own doing, but my sin and the world’s sin. He bore it all, sin and the just consequence. He died, separated and forsaken by You, because You cannot look upon sin. But sin could not hold Him, and He rose again, the first of more to come, of which I am one, I will be raised again to eternity.
I am Yours, God, bought fully by the blood of Your Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ. I welcome the rain of justice upon me because I have the reign of Jesus over me. I am, therefore, a living sacrifice to You, showing the world Your good, pleasing and perfect will.