Justice Marks All of God’s Ways
“The Rock, perfect is his activity, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness, with whom there is no injustice; righteous and upright is he.”—DEUTERONOMY 32:4.
1. What qualities of Jehovah did Moses highlight in his song to the sons of Israel before he died, and why was he qualified to speak as he did?
JEHOVAH, supreme Judge, Statute-Giver, and King, “is a lover of righteousness and justice.” (Psalm 33:5; Isaiah 33:22) Moses, mediator of the Law covenant and a prophet “whom Jehovah knew face to face,” became intimately acquainted with Jehovah’s just ways. (Deuteronomy 34:10; John 1:17) Shortly before Moses died, he highlighted the excelling quality of Jehovah’s justice. In the hearing of all the congregation of Israel, he called out the words of this song: “Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak; and let the earth hear the sayings of my mouth. . . . I shall declare the name of Jehovah. Do you attribute greatness to our God! The Rock, perfect is his activity, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness, with whom there is no injustice; righteous and upright is he.”—Deuteronomy 32:1, 3, 4.
2. How has justice always marked all of God’s activities, and why is this important?
2 Justice marks all of Jehovah’s activities, and it is always exercised in perfect harmony with his wisdom, love, and power. At Job 37:23, God’s servant Elihu reminded Job: “As for the Almighty, we have not found him out; he is exalted in power, and justice and abundance of righteousness he will not belittle.” And King David wrote: “Jehovah is a lover of justice, and he will not leave his loyal ones.” (Psalm 37:28) What comforting assurance! In all of God’s ways, he will never for one moment abandon those loyal to him. God’s justice guarantees this!
Why Justice Is Lacking
3. What is lacking among men today, and how has this affected man’s relationship with God?
3 Since Jehovah is the God of Justice, the One who loves justice, and “the Creator of the extremities of the earth,” why is justice so lacking among men today? (Isaiah 40:28) Moses answers at Deuteronomy 32:5: “They have acted ruinously on their own part; they are not his children, the defect is their own. A generation crooked and twisted!” Man’s ruinous activity has so separated him from his Creator that God’s thoughts and ways are described as higher than those of man “as the heavens are higher than the earth.”—Isaiah 55:8, 9.
4. What course has man chosen to take, and where has this led him?
4 Never forget that man was not designed by his Creator to act independently of Him. Jeremiah rightly assesses the situation for us, saying: “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) Man’s rejection of God’s just ways and rulership has placed him under entirely different and very powerful unseen forces, Satan the Devil and his demon accomplices. The apostle John states emphatically: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” These demonic forces have no interest at all in upholding justice among mankind.—1 John 5:19.
5. Give examples of the lack of justice in the world today.
5 An example of the lack of justice in the closing days of this system of things was highlighted in 1984 by the U.S. attorney general, William French Smith. Commenting on a survey of prison sentences in 12 American states between 1977 and 1983, Smith said: “The public has assumed that the worst offenders—murderers, rapists, drug-traffickers—serve substantial terms. The bureau’s study . . . shows how easy it is for hardened criminals to get back on the streets to commit new crimes.” No wonder Paul Kamenar of the Washington Legal Foundation said: “The justice system is lax too often.”
6. (a) What was the moral state of Judah prior to its captivity? (b) What questions did Habakkuk ask, and are they applicable today?
6 Justice was lax throughout the nation of Judah prior to its fall to Babylonian armies in 607 B.C.E. Hence, God’s prophet Habakkuk was divinely inspired to say: “Law grows numb, and justice never goes forth. Because the wicked one is surrounding the righteous one, for that reason justice goes forth crooked.” (Habakkuk 1:4) This unjust situation caused the prophet to ask Jehovah: “Why is it that you look on those dealing treacherously, that you keep silent when someone wicked swallows up someone more righteous than he is?” (Habakkuk 1:13) Today, people affected by the practice of injustice in all areas of human activity might also well ask: Why does the God of justice keep looking on the injustice done on the earth? Why does he let ‘justice go forth crooked’? Why does he “keep silent”? Important questions these, and only God’s precious Word, the Bible, gives the true and satisfying answers.
Why God Has Permitted Injustice
7. (a) Why did man lose the Paradise God gave him? (b) What issues were raised in Eden, and how did God’s justice respond to these?
7 God’s works are perfect, as attested to by Moses. This was true with regard to the perfect human couple God placed in the Paradise of Eden. (Genesis 1:26, 27; 2:7) That whole arrangement was perfect for mankind’s well-being and happiness. The divine record tells us: “God saw everything he had made and, look! it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) But Edenic tranquillity did not last long. Under the influence of a rebellious spirit creature, Eve and her husband, Adam, were drawn into a confrontation with Jehovah over His way of ruling them. The rightness of God’s commands to them was now brought into question. (Genesis 3:1-6) This challenge to the justness of God’s rulership raised vital moral issues. The historical record of the faithful man Job indicates that now the integrity of all of God’s creatures was also being called into question. Justice demanded that time be given to settle these issues of universal importance.—Job 1:6-11; 2:1-5; see also Luke 22:31.
8. (a) In what calamitous condition did man now find himself? (b) What ray of hope is seen in Moses’ song?
8 The calamitous condition of mankind, resulting from casting aside God’s just ways, is summed up by Paul at Romans 8:22. There the apostle wrote: “All creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now.” Much of that “groaning” and “pain” has been due to the lack of justice among humans as “man has dominated man to his injury.” (Ecclesiastes 8:9) But thanks be to Almighty God that he is not going to allow such travesty of justice to continue indefinitely! In this regard, note what Moses further stated in his song, at Deuteronomy 32:40, 41: “‘As I am alive to time indefinite,’ if I [Jehovah] do indeed sharpen my glittering sword, and my hand takes hold on judgment, I will pay back vengeance to my adversaries and render retribution to those who intensely hate me.”
9. Explain how Jehovah’s hand took “hold on judgment” when man rebelled.
9 Jehovah’s hand took “hold on judgment” back there in Eden. Without delay, God justly sentenced man to death for willfully disobeying His commands. He told Adam: “Dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19) Centuries later, the apostle Paul summed up the dire consequences to the whole human family of Adam’s sinful course. He wrote: “Just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.”—Romans 5:12.
10. What two seeds have developed since Adam’s rebellion, and how has Jehovah reacted?
10 Following the outbreak of man’s rebellion, God also stated: “I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.” (Genesis 3:15, 17-19) The development of these two seeds has proceeded for 6,000 years, and “enmity” has always existed between them. But through all the changing scenes on earth, Jehovah’s just ways have not changed. By his prophet Malachi, he says: “I am Jehovah; I have not changed.” (Malachi 3:6) This has ensured that God’s ways of dealing with imperfect and rebellious mankind have always been marked by justice. Never once has Jehovah deviated from his lofty, righteous principles, while harmonizing these with his wonderful qualities of wisdom, love, and power.
God Comes to Man’s Rescue
11, 12. How does Psalm 49 well describe man’s plight?
11 Like the tentacles of a huge octopus, Satan’s wicked influence has reached out to embrace the entire human family. Oh, how desperately humans need to be rescued not only from the death sentence resting upon them but also from the unjust systems of imperfect human rulership!
12 The dreadful plight that man has found himself in since the sentence of death was passed upon him is well stated in the following psalm of the sons of Korah: “Hear this, all you peoples. Give ear, all you inhabitants of the system of things, you sons of humankind as well as you sons of man, you rich one and you poor one together. Not one of them can by any means redeem even a brother, nor give to God a ransom for him; (and the redemption price of their soul is so precious that it has ceased to time indefinite) that he should still live forever and not see the pit.” (Psalm 49:1, 2, 7-9) All of this has come about in view of God’s expressed justice!
13, 14. (a) Who alone could rescue man, and why was the one chosen by God so appropriate? (b) How did Jesus become “Yes” to all of God’s promises?
13 Where, then, could help come from? Who could rescue man from the power of death? The psalm answers: “God himself will redeem my soul from the hand of Sheol.” (Psalm 49:15) Only God’s great love, working in harmony with His justice, could rescue man from “the hand of Sheol.” Our questions were further answered during a nighttime conversation between Jesus and the cautious Pharisee Nicodemus. Jesus told him: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Before God’s Son came to the earth, he had been living with his Father in heaven. In this prehuman existence, he was spoken of as being ‘fond of the sons of men.’ (Proverbs 8:31) How appropriate, then, for Jehovah to choose this particular spirit creature—His only-begotten Son—to redeem mankind!
14 Regarding Jesus, Paul said: “No matter how many the promises of God are, they have become Yes by means of him.” (2 Corinthians 1:20) One of these promises recorded by the prophet Isaiah is referred to at Matthew 12:18, 21, where we read concerning Jesus: “Look! My servant whom I chose, my beloved, whom my soul approved! I will put my spirit upon him, and what justice is he will make clear to the nations. Indeed, in his name nations will hope.”—See Isaiah 42:1-4.
15, 16. How was it possible for Jesus to become the “Eternal Father” of Adam’s offspring?
15 During Jesus’ earthly ministry, he made clear that men of all nations could eventually hope in his name and thus enjoy the benefits of God’s justice. Jesus said: “The Son of man came, not to be ministered to, but to minister and to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matthew 20:28) God’s perfect law given to the nation of Israel stated: “Soul will be for soul.” (Deuteronomy 19:21) Hence, after Jesus laid down his perfect life in death and was resurrected by God’s power to ascend back to heaven, he was in a position to present the value of his perfect human life to Jehovah in exchange for Adam’s life rights. In this way, Jesus became “the last [or second] Adam” and is now empowered to act as the “Eternal Father” to all of Adam’s believing offspring.—1 Corinthians 15:45; Isaiah 9:6.
16 God’s way of salvation by means of his loving provision of the ransom sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ, has thus been ‘made clear to the nations.’ And it is indeed marked by divine justice. How grateful we should be that God has provided the way for ‘our soul to be redeemed from the hand of Sheol’!
Upholding the Ransom
17, 18. What partnership did C. T. Russell enter into in the 1870’s, but how did Barbour surprise him in 1878?
17 Like the first-century Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses in modern times have always upheld the teaching of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is interesting to recall that the first president of the Watch Tower Society, Charles Taze Russell, was at one time a coeditor and financial supporter of a religious magazine called The Herald of the Morning. That magazine was originally published by an Adventist, N. H. Barbour of Rochester, New York, U.S.A. Russell was in his 20’s, but Barbour was much older.
18 The partnership seemed to go well until 1878, when Barbour surprisingly published an article denying the doctrine of the ransom. Describing what happened, Russell said: “Mr. Barbour . . . wrote an article for The Herald denying the doctrine of the Atonement—denying that the death of Christ was the Ransom-price for Adam and his race, saying that our Lord’s death could no more avail for the payment of the penalty of man’s sins than would the sticking of a pin through the body of a fly and causing it suffering and death be considered by an earthly parent as a just settlement for misdemeanor in his child.”
19. (a) What was Russell’s reaction to Barbour’s view of the ransom? (b) Has Russell’s wish regarding The Watchtower been realized?
19 Russell could have been swayed by his older partner, but he was not. For several months, a controversy continued in the journal’s pages, Barbour denying the ransom and Russell writing in favor of it. Finally, Russell withdrew from any association with Barbour and started to publish this magazine, then called Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. C. T. Russell expressed these feelings about the new magazine: “From the first, it has been a special advocate of the Ransom; and, by the grace of God, we hope it will be so to the end.” Has editor Russell’s hope been realized? It certainly has! In explanation, page 2 of this very issue says that the magazine “encourages faith in the now-reigning King, Jesus Christ, whose shed blood opens the way for mankind to gain eternal life.”
20. What questions still remain unanswered?
20 So far in our discussion, we have followed the course of God’s justice in requiring a means for rescuing mankind from the condemnation of sin and death resting upon the human family. Love provided that means. However, such questions as these remain unanswered: How are the benefits of Jesus Christ’s ransom sacrifice made available? How can you benefit from them, and how soon? The following article provides answers sure to increase your confidence that justice marks all of God’s ways.
How Would You Answer?
□ What importance does God place on justice?
□ Why is there so much injustice among mankind?
□ How did God provide for man’s escape from death?
□ To what extent has The Watchtower upheld the ransom?
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Moses speaks the words of his song on the plains of Moab
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God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son