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Grace Notes

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The LORD: "Habitation of justice" - Part 1
by Philip Owen

In the midst of a prophecy concerning God’s judgment on Babylon, the Lord reminds His people that their plight, which has been caused by their sinful forsaking of the Lord, will be remedied when “going and weeping:  they shall go, and seek the Lord their God” (Jer. 50:4), whom He later refers to as “the habitation of justice” (v. 7).  That wonderful appellation for God, “the habitation of justice,” is pregnant with truth.

Justice is not a human construct.  The word habitation may be translated very accurately as “home.”  Justice does not derive from man; God is the home, the source, the origin of justice, not only as a concept but also as a governing reality.  Man has neither the ability nor the desire to be just.  Even those who are not overtly corrupt will still bend the principles of justice in order to favor a friend or a family member.  Self-interest constantly perverts justice.  History is one long record of man’s inhumanity to man.  The world tacitly accepts this fact, for were we to believe Darwin, it is the strong who survive at the expense of the weak.  But the Bible simply declares that “there is none that doeth good” (Rom. 3:12).  In short, it is impossible for man, apart from the grace of God, even to conceive of the concept of justice much less to uphold it as a consistent operating principle.  And the truth is that such is the nature of justice that if an injustice occurs in just one instance, then a universal injustice has occurred, for a failure of justice against just one person despoils the equity handed out to all others.

God is the repository of all justice.  The theory recently propounded by atheists that it is possible to be moral apart from God and religion (according to their terminology) is fallacious.  Certainly, it is true that an atheist can perform isolated acts of human kindness or make individual decisions that are legal or right from an ethical standpoint.  But justice as a principle derives from God.  Apart from Him, humans can have no understanding of the concept, much less the ability to actively pursue it.  The very idea of justice is derived from a just God—whether or not fallen man will admit it.  Given the fact that we are fallen creatures, we will fail to execute justice perfectly whether in legal or moral terms, but apart from God, there is not even a hope of justice.  And a nation or society that attempts to govern itself justly apart from God will, at best, saddle itself with increasingly burdensome laws and, at worst, sink into the morass of  anarchy.  Justice apart from God is a pipedream.

God is the Executor of eternal justice.  Justice is not finally tabulated until eternity.  In the short term, it may appear that the righteous languish while the unrighteous flourish.  Those who expect justice in time will be by turns disappointed, disgruntled, disillusioned, or even dissuaded from doing what is right.  But the Lord is “the habitation of justice.”  And “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25).  The accounting is not yet finished.  The ultimate judgments have yet to be drawn.  Human courts and human judges are not the final arbiters of justice.  God knows every deed done and undone, every thought, every motive, every desire.  There will be a final and perfect accounting.  On the negative side is the stark certainty that even so small a things as “every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36).  But on the positive side, “whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward” (Mk. 9:41).  Contrary to much opinion, we live in a moral universe, that is, one governed by the inalterable laws of God; and we will all “give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead” (I Pet. 4:5).  May we do so with blessing.

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