Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Holiness and Justice (Zephaniah 3)

"The LORD is righteous.… Every morning He brings His justice to light; He never fails, but the unjust knows no shame" (Zeph. 3:5).

In our study of the Psalms we have often encountered God’s judgments. David accepted God’s judgments because he understood God’s holiness and knew that He was just. Oftentimes people understand neither God’s holiness nor His judgments and even think He is unjust.

Several accounts in Scripture are often misunderstood because God appears unjust. One is Leviticus 10:1–7 when God killed Nadab and Abihu because they offered unauthorized fire at the altar. Aaron complained to Moses that God seemed unfair in killing his sons so hastily. Moses responded that God must be treated as holy, which means He demands perfection. When that standard is not met, He has every right to pronounce judgment.

Another account in which God is regarded as unfair is in 2 Samuel 6 when Uzzah is struck down for touching the ark of the covenant. God had commanded that no one touch the ark. Uzzah was fully aware of this command. But when the ark began to slip, Uzzah steadied the ark to keep it from falling into the dirt. Uzzah arrogantly assumed that his sinful, unclean hands were less polluted than simple dirt.

While many say the mean, angry God of the Old Testament has been surpassed by the gentle, kind Jesus of the New, this view does not do justice to the immutability of God. The God of the Old and New Testaments is the same. Because God is holy, even one sin condemns a man. Many people have difficulty reconciling God’s grace with His justice. Yet, God’s mercy and justice are never at odds. God shows abundant mercy to us in order to give us time to repent. We should never take His mercy for granted, and we should never demand that He be merciful, claiming that He has been unjust when, in fact, He has been just.

A holy God is just and merciful. Mercy is free and given voluntarily. If God were to deal with all of us according to justice, each of us would perish instantly. In the circumstances above, God chose to show His justice based on His holiness. Those of us who continue to live, even though we sin daily, live according to His mercy—something that is freely given by His grace.