1. How may we be affected by instances of injustice?
AN ELDERLY widow is swindled out of her life savings. A helpless infant is abandoned by a coldhearted parent. A man is imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. How do you react to these scenarios? Likely, each one disturbs you, and understandably so. We humans have a strong sense of right and wrong. When an injustice is committed, we are incensed. We want the victim to be compensated and the offender brought to justice. If this does not happen, we may wonder: ‘Does God see what is happening? Why does he not act?’
2. How did Habakkuk react to injustice, and why did Jehovah not censure him for this?
2 Throughout history, faithful servants of Jehovah have asked similar questions. For example, the prophet Habakkuk prayed to God: “Why do you make me watch such terrible injustice? Why do you allow violence, lawlessness, crime, and cruelty to spread everywhere?” (Habakkuk 1:3, Contemporary English Version) Jehovah did not censure Habakkuk for his candid inquiry, for He is the one who instilled in humans the very concept of justice. Yes, Jehovah has blessed us with a small measure of his profound sense of justice.
Jehovah Hates Injustice
3. Why can it be said that Jehovah is more aware of injustice than we are?
3 Jehovah is not oblivious to injustice. He sees what is going on. Regarding Noah’s day, the Bible tells us: “Jehovah saw that the badness of man was abundant in the earth and every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time.” (Genesis 6:5) Consider the implications of that statement. Often, our perception of injustice is based on a few incidents that we have either heard about or personally encountered. In contrast, Jehovah is aware of injustice on a global scale. He sees it all! More than that, he can discern the inclinations of the heart—the debased thinking behind unjust acts.—Jeremiah 17:10.
4, 5. (a) How does the Bible show that Jehovah cares for those who have been treated unjustly? (b) How has Jehovah himself been touched by injustice?
4 But Jehovah does more than simply take note of injustice. He also cares about those who have been victimized by it. When his people were cruelly treated by enemy nations, Jehovah was distressed “over their groaning because of their oppressors and those who were shoving them around.” (Judges 2:18) Perhaps you have observed that the more some people see injustice, the more they become calloused to it. Not so with Jehovah! He has seen injustice in its entire scope for some 6,000 years, yet he has not wavered in his hatred for it. Rather, the Bible assures us that such things as “a false tongue,” “hands that are shedding innocent blood,” and “a false witness that launches forth lies” are detestable to him.—Proverbs 6:16-19.
5 Consider, too, Jehovah’s strong criticism of the unjust leaders in Israel. “Is it not your business to know justice?” he inspired his prophet to ask them. After describing in graphic terms their abuse of power, Jehovah foretold the outcome for these corrupt men: “They will call to Jehovah for aid, but he will not answer them. And he will conceal his face from them in that time, according as they committed badness in their dealings.” (Micah 3:1-4) What an aversion Jehovah has to injustice! Why, he himself has experienced it firsthand! For thousands of years, Satan has been unjustly taunting him. (Proverbs 27:11) Furthermore, Jehovah was touched by the most horrendous act of injustice when his Son, who “committed no sin,” was executed as a criminal. (1 Peter 2:22; Isaiah 53:9) Clearly, Jehovah is neither oblivious of nor indifferent to the plight of those who suffer injustice.
6. How might we react when faced with injustice, and why?
6 Yet, when we observe injustice—or when we ourselves become victims of unfair treatment—it is only natural for us to react strongly. We are made in God’s image, and injustice is diametrically opposed to all that Jehovah stands for. (Genesis 1:27) Why, then, does God allow injustice?
The Issue of God’s Sovereignty
7. Describe how Jehovah’s sovereignty was challenged.
7 The answer to this question is related to the issue of sovereignty. As we have seen, the Creator has the right to rule over the earth and all those dwelling in it. (Psalm 24:1; Revelation 4:11) Early in human history, however, Jehovah’s sovereignty was challenged. How did this come about? Jehovah commanded the first man, Adam, not to eat from a certain tree in the garden that was his Paradise home. And if he disobeyed? “You will positively die,” God told him. (Genesis 2:17) God’s command worked no hardship on Adam or his wife, Eve. Nevertheless, Satan convinced Eve that God was being unduly restrictive. What if she did eat from the tree? Satan told Eve outright: “You positively will not die. For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.”—Genesis 3:1-5.
8. (a) What did Satan imply by his statements to Eve? (b) What did Satan challenge with regard to God’s sovereignty?
8 In this statement Satan implied not only that Jehovah had withheld crucial information from Eve but also that He had lied to her. Satan was careful not to question the fact of God’s sovereignty. But he did challenge the rightfulness, deservedness, and righteousness of it. In other words, he maintained that Jehovah was not exercising His sovereignty in a righteous way and in the best interests of His subjects.
9. (a) For Adam and Eve, what was the consequence of disobedience, and what vital questions did this raise? (b) Why did Jehovah not simply destroy the rebels?
9 Subsequently, both Adam and Eve disobeyed Jehovah by eating from the forbidden tree. Their disobedience put them in line to receive the punishment of death, just as God had decreed. Satan’s lie raised some vital questions. Does Jehovah truly have the right to rule mankind, or should man rule himself? Does Jehovah exercise his sovereignty in the best possible way? Jehovah could have used his almighty power to destroy the rebels right then and there. But the questions raised pertained to God’s rulership, not his power. So eliminating Adam, Eve, and Satan would not have affirmed the righteousness of God’s rule. If anything, it might have called his rulership into question even further. The only way to determine whether humans could successfully rule themselves, independent of God, was to let time pass.
10. What has history revealed regarding human rule?
10 What has the passing of time revealed? Throughout the millenniums, people have experimented with many forms of government, including autocracy, democracy, socialism, and communism. The sum total of them all is epitomized in the Bible’s frank comment: “Man has dominated man to his injury.” (Ecclesiastes 8:9) With good reason, the prophet Jeremiah stated: “I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.”—Jeremiah 10:23.
11. Why did Jehovah let the human race be subjected to suffering?
11 Jehovah knew from the beginning that mankind’s independence, or self-rule, would result in much suffering. Was it unjust of him, then, to allow the inevitable to run its course? Not at all! To illustrate: Suppose you have a child who needs surgery to cure a life-threatening ailment. You realize that the operation will cause your child a degree of suffering, and this deeply grieves you. At the same time, you know that the procedure will enable your child to enjoy better health later in life. Similarly, God knew—and even foretold—that his allowance of human rule would bring along with it a measure of pain and suffering. (Genesis 3:16-19) But he also knew that lasting and meaningful relief would be possible only if he allowed all mankind to see the bad fruitage produced by rebellion. In this way the issue could be settled permanently, for all eternity.
The Issue of Man’s Integrity
12. As illustrated in Job’s case, what accusation has Satan brought against humans?
12 There is another aspect of this matter. In challenging the rightfulness and righteousness of God’s rule, not only has Satan slandered Jehovah with regard to His sovereignty; he has also slandered God’s servants concerning their integrity. Note, for example, what Satan said to Jehovah regarding the righteous man Job: “Have not you yourself put up a hedge about him and about his house and about everything that he has all around? The work of his hands you have blessed, and his livestock itself has spread abroad in the earth. But, for a change, thrust out your hand, please, and touch everything he has and see whether he will not curse you to your very face.”—Job 1:10, 11.
13. What did Satan imply by his accusations regarding Job, and how does this involve all humans?
13 Satan contended that Jehovah was using His protective power to buy Job’s devotion. In turn, this implied that Job’s integrity was a mere sham, that he worshiped God only for what he could get in return. Satan asserted that if Job was deprived of God’s blessing, even that man would curse his Creator. Satan knew that Job was outstanding in being “blameless and upright, fearing God and turning aside from bad.”* So if Satan could break Job’s integrity, what would that say for the rest of mankind? Thus Satan was really calling into question the loyalty of all of those who want to serve God. Indeed, broadening the issue, Satan said to Jehovah: “Everything that a man [not just Job] has he will give in behalf of his soul.”—Job 1:8; 2:4.
14. What has history shown regarding Satan’s accusation against humans?
14 History has shown that many, like Job, have remained loyal to Jehovah in the face of trial—contrary to Satan’s claim. They have made Jehovah’s heart glad by their faithful course, and this has given Jehovah a reply to Satan’s boastful taunt that humans will stop serving God when they are subjected to hardship. (Hebrews 11:4-38) Yes, righthearted ones have refused to turn their backs on God. Even when perplexed by the most distressing situations, they have relied all the more on Jehovah to give them the strength to endure.—2 Corinthians 4:7-10.
15. What question might arise concerning God’s past and future judgments?
15 But Jehovah’s exercise of justice involves more than the issues of sovereignty and man’s integrity. The Bible provides us with a record of Jehovah’s judgments in relation to individuals and even entire nations. It also contains prophecies of judgments he will render in the future. Why can we be confident that Jehovah has been and will be righteous in his judgments?
Why God’s Justice Is Superior
16, 17. What examples show that humans have a limited perspective when it comes to true justice?
16 Concerning Jehovah, it can rightly be said: “All his ways are justice.” (Deuteronomy 32:4) None of us can make such a claim about ourselves, for so often our limited perspective clouds our perception of what is right. For example, consider Abraham. He pleaded with Jehovah concerning the destruction of Sodom—despite the rampant wickedness there. He asked Jehovah: “Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (Genesis 18:23-33) Of course, the answer was no. It was only when righteous Lot and his daughters arrived safely at the city of Zoar that Jehovah “made it rain sulphur and fire” upon Sodom. (Genesis 19:22-24) In contrast, Jonah became “hot with anger” when God extended mercy to the people of Nineveh. Since Jonah had already announced their destruction, he would have been content to see them exterminated—regardless of their heartfelt repentance.—Jonah 3:10–4:1.
17 Jehovah reassured Abraham that His exercise of justice includes not only destroying the wicked but also saving the righteous. On the other hand, Jonah had to learn that Jehovah is merciful. If the wicked change their ways, he is “ready to forgive.” (Psalm 86:5) Unlike some insecure humans, Jehovah does not administer adverse judgment simply to make a statement about his power, nor does he withhold compassion out of fear that he will be viewed as weak. His way is to show mercy whenever there is a basis for it.—Isaiah 55:7; Ezekiel 18:23.
18. Show from the Bible that Jehovah does not act on mere sentiment.
18 However, Jehovah is not blinded by mere sentiment. When his people became steeped in idolatry, Jehovah firmly declared: “I will judge you according to your ways and bring upon you all your detestable things. And my eye will not feel sorry for you, neither will I feel compassion, for upon you I shall bring your own ways.” (Ezekiel 7:3, 4) So when humans are hardened in their course, Jehovah judges accordingly. But his judgment is based on solid evidence. Thus, when a loud “cry of complaint” reached his ears regarding Sodom and Gomorrah, Jehovah stated: “I am quite determined to go down that I may see whether they act altogether according to the outcry over it that has come to me.” (Genesis 18:20, 21) How thankful we can be that Jehovah is not like many humans who jump to conclusions before hearing all the facts! Truly, Jehovah is as the Bible depicts him, “a God of faithfulness, with whom there is no injustice.”—Deuteronomy 32:4.
Have Confidence in Jehovah’s Justice
19. What can we do if we have perplexing questions about Jehovah’s exercise of justice?
19 The Bible does not address every question regarding Jehovah’s actions in the past; nor does it provide every detail about how Jehovah will render judgment concerning individuals and groups in the future. When we are puzzled by accounts or prophecies in the Bible where such detail is lacking, we can display the same loyalty as did the prophet Micah, who wrote: “I will show a waiting attitude for the God of my salvation.”—Micah 7:7.
20, 21. Why can we be confident that Jehovah will always do what is right?
20 We can be confident that in every situation, Jehovah will do what is right. Even when injustices are seemingly ignored by man, Jehovah promises: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” (Romans 12:19) If we show a waiting attitude, we will echo the firm conviction expressed by the apostle Paul: “Is there injustice with God? Never may that become so!”—Romans 9:14.
21 In the meantime, we live in “critical times hard to deal with.” (2 Timothy 3:1) Injustice and “acts of oppression” have resulted in many cruel abuses. (Ecclesiastes 4:1) However, Jehovah has not changed. He still hates injustice, and he cares deeply for those who are victims of it. If we remain loyal to Jehovah and his sovereignty, he will give us the strength to endure until the appointed time when he will correct all injustices under his Kingdom rule.—1 Peter 5:6, 7.
Jehovah said regarding Job: “There is no one like him in the earth.” (Job 1:8) Likely, then, Job lived after the death of Joseph and before Moses became Israel’s appointed leader. Thus, at that time it could be said that no one had integrity like that of Job.