Justice Soon for All Nations
“Justice—justice you should pursue, in order that you may keep alive and may indeed take possession of the land that Jehovah your God is giving you.”—DEUTERONOMY 16:20.
1. What was God’s original purpose for man, and how only could he fulfill it?
JEHOVAH GOD’S purpose in creating man and woman was to have the earth filled with perfect creatures. All of them would praise him and play their part in subduing the earth. (Genesis 1:26-28) Since man was made in God’s image and likeness, he was endowed with the qualities of wisdom, justice, love, and power. Only by the balanced exercise of these qualities could man ever fulfill his Maker’s purpose for him.
2. How important was the pursuit of justice for the sons of Israel?
2 As noted in the previous article, man rebelled against God’s way of doing things and was sentenced to death. Now, because of imperfection, it was impossible for him to carry out God’s original purpose for mankind. Man’s inability to display perfect justice has been a significant factor in this failure. Little wonder, then, that Moses reminded the sons of Israel: “Justice—justice you should pursue”! Their lives and the ability to take possession of the Promised Land were dependent upon their pursuit of justice.—Deuteronomy 16:20.
A Shadow of Coming Good Things
3. Why is an examination of Jehovah’s dealings with Israel important to us today?
3 Jehovah’s dealings with the nation of Israel strengthen our confidence that he will indeed make his justice clear to all nations through his chosen Servant, Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul explains matters this way: “For all the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) Since God “is a lover of righteousness and justice,” he required that the Israelites imitate him in all their dealings with one another. (Psalm 33:5) This can be clearly seen by examining a few of the 600 laws given to Israel.
4. How were civil-rights problems handled under the Mosaic Law?
4 Civil-rights problems were nonexistent when the Mosaic Law was followed. Taking the case of a non-Israelite who came to live in the land, Leviticus 19:34 states: “The alien resident who resides as an alien with you should become to you like a native of yours; and you must love him as yourself.” What a just and loving arrangement! Further, judges and witnesses alike were admonished: “You must not testify over a controversy so as to turn aside with the crowd in order to pervert justice. As for the lowly one, you must not show preference in a controversy of his.” (Exodus 23:2, 3) Just think of that—justice administered to rich and poor alike!
5. Compare criminal laws under the Mosaic Law with those of today.
5 Under the Mosaic Law code, criminal laws were far superior to the laws on the statute books of nations today. For example, the stealer was not imprisoned so as to impose a burden on hardworking people who obeyed the Law. He had to work and pay double or more for what he had stolen. So the victim suffered no loss. Suppose the stealer refused to work and pay. In that case, he was sold into slavery until restitution was made. If he continued to show a stubborn attitude, he was put to death. In this way justice was done to the victim, and this was a strong deterrent for others who might be inclined to steal. (Exodus 22:1, 3, 4, 7; Deuteronomy 17:12) Moreover, since life is sacred in God’s eyes, any murderer was put to death. This removed a wicked, murderous person from the nation. Nevertheless, mercy was shown to unintentional manslayers.—Numbers 35:9-15, 22-29, 33.
6. To what conclusion does an examination of Israel’s laws lead us?
6 Who can deny, then, that justice marked all of God’s judicial dealings with the nation of Israel? Hence, what comfort, what hope, fills us when we contemplate how God’s promise at Isaiah 42:1 will be put into effect through Christ Jesus! There we are given the assurance: “Justice to the nations is what he will bring forth.”
Justice Balanced With Mercy
7. Describe Jehovah’s merciful dealings with Israel.
7 God’s justice is balanced with mercy. This was clearly demonstrated when the Israelites began to rebel against God’s righteous ways. Listen to Moses’ description of Jehovah’s merciful care for them during their 40 years in the wilderness: “He came to find him in a wilderness land, and in an empty, howling desert. He began to encircle him, to take care of him, to safeguard him as the pupil of his eye. Just as an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its fledglings, spreads out its wings, takes them, carries them on its pinions, Jehovah alone kept leading him.” (Deuteronomy 32:10-12) Later, when the nation turned apostate, Jehovah pleaded: “Return, please, from your bad ways and from your bad dealings.”—Zechariah 1:4a.
8, 9. (a) To what extent did God show merciful justice to the Jews? (b) What final calamity overtook them, but what can be said of God’s way of dealing with them?
8 Jehovah’s offer of mercy fell on deaf ears. Through the prophet Zechariah, God said: “They did not listen, and they paid no attention to me.” (Zechariah 1:4b) So God’s merciful justice prompted him to send his only-begotten Son to assist them to return to Him. John the Baptizer introduced God’s Son by saying: “See, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) For several years, Jesus untiringly taught the Jews God’s right ways, performing countless miracles and thus proving that he was the foretold Deliverer. (Luke 24:27; John 5:36) But the people did not listen or believe. Hence, Jesus was moved to exclaim: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her,—how often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks together under her wings! But you people did not want it. Look! Your house is abandoned to you.”—Matthew 23:37, 38.
9 God held back the execution of his adverse judgment for another 37 years, until 70 C.E. Then he allowed the Romans to destroy Jerusalem and take thousands of Jews into captivity. When we consider Jehovah’s long-suffering and patience over a period of many centuries, who can fail to see the mark of justice in all his dealings with the house of Israel?
Justice for All Nations
10. How was God’s justice extended to all nations?
10 Following Israel’s rejection of Jesus, James said: “God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name.” (Acts 15:14) This “people,” including those few Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah, collectively form “the [spiritual] Israel of God” and is made up of 144,000 spirit-begotten followers of Christ Jesus. (Galatians 6:16; Revelation 7:1-8; 14:1-5) The first uncircumcised Gentile believer was Cornelius. When Cornelius and his household accepted God’s way of salvation, Peter said: “For a certainty I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34, 35) Paul enlarges on the justness of Jehovah’s impartiality when he says: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one person in union with Christ Jesus. Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to a promise.”—Galatians 3:28, 29.
11. What promise was given to Abraham, and how will it be fulfilled?
11 Here we are reminded of a wonderful promise Jehovah gave to Abraham. Based on that patriarch’s willingness to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, God told him: “By reason of the fact that you have done this thing and you have not withheld your son, your only one, I shall surely bless you . . . And by means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.” (Genesis 22:16-18) How will this promise be fulfilled? “Abraham’s seed,” made up of Jesus Christ and his 144,000 anointed followers who prove faithful to death, will rule mankind from the heavens for a thousand years. (Revelation 2:10, 26; 20:6) Regarding that blessed time, Jehovah assures us: “To the abundance of the princely rule and to peace there will be no end.” Why? Because “the princely rule” of that Messianic Kingdom will be ‘sustained by means of justice and righteousness to time indefinite.’—Isaiah 9:7.
12. To what extent are blessings of the Abrahamic covenant already being experienced?
12 But there is no need to wait until the Thousand Year Reign of Jesus Christ begins in order to enjoy the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant. These blessings are already being experienced by “a great crowd” of people “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.” By symbolically ‘washing their robes and making them white in the blood of the Lamb,’ Jesus Christ, they have come to have a righteous standing before Jehovah. Like Abraham, they have become Jehovah’s friends! Justice is indeed marking Jehovah’s way of salvation for millions out of all nations.—Revelation 7:9, 14.
Are You Responding to God’s Just Ways?
13, 14. (a) What personal heart examination should all of us make? (b) How can our gratitude to Jehovah be expressed?
13 Has your heart been touched and deeply moved by God’s way of justice and love in giving his only-begotten Son as a ransom for you? Imagine Abraham’s feelings when Jehovah asked him to sacrifice his son, the one he loved so much! But God’s feelings go much deeper. Think of his feelings when his dear Son was suffering the indignities, the abusive speech of passersby, the excruciating pain of the torture stake. Imagine Jehovah’s reaction to Jesus’ cry: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:39, 46) Nevertheless, justice demanded that Jehovah God allow his Son to die in such a way so as to prove his integrity in vindication of God’s righteousness. Moreover, by allowing his Son to die, Jehovah opened up a way of salvation for us.
14 Surely, then, our gratitude to Jehovah and his Son should move us to acknowledge publicly: “Salvation we owe to our God . . . and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:10) By our responding positively in this way, we show that we believe Moses’ words: “All [Jehovah’s] ways are justice.” (Deuteronomy 32:4) What happiness we must bring to the hearts of Jehovah and his Son as we acknowledge and then pursue God’s just ways for man’s salvation!
15. Of what significance to us are Jesus’ words to Nicodemus?
15 Are we not happy that our fellow believers in the 1870’s took a firm stand on the issue of the ransom sacrifice? Are we not glad that we today belong to an organization that is just as determined to hold to God’s just and loving way for man’s salvation? If we are, then we should pay special attention to what Jesus told Nicodemus: “God sent forth his Son into the world, not for him to judge the world, but for the world to be saved through him. He that exercises faith in him is not to be judged. . . . He that does what is true comes to the light, in order that his works may be made manifest as having been worked in harmony with God.” To escape God’s adverse judgment, we must prove our faith in the Son by doing ‘works in harmony with God.’—John 3:17, 18, 21.
16. How can the disciples of Jesus glorify the heavenly Father?
16 Jesus said: “My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit and prove yourselves my disciples. If you observe my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have observed the commandments of the Father and remain in his love.” (John 15:8, 10) What are some of these commandments? One is found at John 13:34, 35, where Jesus told his disciples: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another . . . By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” The fruit of love is evident among Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jesus also commanded: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) Are you personally doing these ‘works in harmony with God’?
17. What result shows that the preaching and teaching work are a demonstration of Jehovah’s justice?
17 The justice of Jehovah’s way in allowing Jesus’ followers to do these works of preaching and teaching becomes evident when we consider what was accomplished by Jehovah’s Witnesses in just one year. During 1988, there were 239,268 new disciples baptized! Does this not bring joy to your heart?
The God of Justice Will Act Speedily
18. What questions might be raised in view of the persecution of Jehovah’s people?
18 The work of witnessing has not been carried on without opposition. Jesus told his followers: “If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:20) The modern-day history of Jehovah’s Witnesses attests to the truthfulness of that statement. Bans, imprisonments, beatings, and even torture have been experienced by Witnesses in one country after another. Habakkuk’s prophetic words again come to our mind: “Law grows numb, and justice never goes forth.” Hence, at times, even Jehovah’s people may feel like asking: ‘Why does Jehovah look on those dealing treacherously? Why does He keep silent when someone wicked swallows up someone more righteous than he is?’—Habakkuk 1:4, 13.
19. What illustration did Jesus give to help us understand matters from God’s viewpoint?
19 Jesus gave an illustration that helps to answer such questions and enables us to see things from God’s standpoint. At Luke 17:22-37, Jesus described the violent conditions that would mark the end of this system of things. He said that they would be comparable to those preceding the Flood in Noah’s day and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in the days of Lot. Then, as described at Luke 18:1-5, Jesus turned to his disciples and “went on to tell them an illustration with regard to the need for them always to pray and not to give up.” Jesus told of a widow in great need and of “a certain judge” in a position to satisfy her needs. The widow kept begging: “See that I get justice from my adversary at law.” Because of her persistence, the judge finally ‘saw that she got justice.’
20. What lesson does Jesus’ illustration hold for us?
20 What is the lesson for us today? Contrasting that unrighteous judge with Jehovah, Jesus said: “Hear what the judge, although unrighteous, said! Certainly, then, shall not God cause justice to be done for his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night, even though he is long-suffering toward them? I tell you, He will cause justice to be done to them speedily.”—Luke 18:6-8a.
21. How should we view and handle our personal problems?
21 Always remember that when it comes to our personal problems, any seeming delay in an answer to our petitions is not due to an unwillingness on God’s part. (2 Peter 3:9) If we happen to be suffering some sort of persecution or injustice like that widow, we can have faith that God will see that justice is eventually done. How can we show such faith? By praying incessantly and backing up our prayers by maintaining a faithful course of action. (Matthew 10:22; 1 Thessalonians 5:17) By our faithfulness, we will prove that there is faith in the earth, that there are true lovers of justice, and that we are among them.—Luke 18:8b.
“Be Glad, You Nations, With His People”
22. On what note of triumph did Moses end his song?
22 Many centuries ago, Moses ended his song on this triumphant note: “Be glad, you nations, with his people, for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and he will pay back vengeance to his adversaries and will indeed make atonement for the ground of his people.” (Deuteronomy 32:43) Jehovah’s day of vengeance draws ever nearer. How grateful we are that he is still exercising patience along with justice!
23. What happy outcome awaits those who share in the gladness of God’s people?
23 The way is still open for those in all nations “to attain to repentance,” but there is no time to lose. Peter warned: “Jehovah’s day will come as a thief.” (2 Peter 3:9, 10) God’s justice demands that this wicked system soon be destroyed. When it is, may we be found among those who have responded to the gladsome call: “Be glad, you nations, with his people.” Yes, may we be among those happy ones who have seen that justice marks all of God’s ways!
How Would You Answer?
◻ Why should the Mosaic Law strengthen our faith in God’s justice?
◻ What should impel us to respond to God’s just ways?
◻ How can Jehovah be glorified?
◻ Today, where only can true gladness be found?
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“For a certainty I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.”—Acts 10:34, 35
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God will cause justice to be done to his chosen ones who cry out to him