A Holy and Just God
What comes to mind when you hear the lesson title for this week? Perhaps we should take a closer look at each attribute. Let us start with holiness.
In a recent program panelists were asked to define holiness. None had a concrete definition, but all agreed that Holiness is all that God is. While most would understand it is still a vague definition. (Implied, however, is that Holiness is everything we are not.).
What is God? God is love (agape). What is Love? Also hard to define, but Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 13,
1 Corinthians 13
13:4 Agape suffereth long, [and] is kind; Agape envieth not; Agape vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
13:5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
13:6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
13:7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
13:8 Agape never faileth…
This means that 1st Corinthians 13 also describes holiness. The issue is that we typically think of 1 Corinthians 13 in terms of performance. But, what God does is a reflection of who He is. There is no inconsistency between God's character and His performance. There seems to be another dimension: God's character is evident when you see Him. God's character shines through His body. In other words, if you see God, you see His character. God does not have to act for you to know He is Love. His mere presence shows that. What you see God you see 1 Corinthians 13 in person. This is Holiness.
Let's look at justice. Is Biblical justice equal to the justice of the world? Justice in any system is based on the laws or rules of that system. There are two ways to conceive of God's law – the design protocols life is built upon – natural law, and an imposed Roman type law construct. If one views God's law as a Roman imposed law then in that model justice requires imposition of punishment by the ruling authority.
If one views God's law as the protocol upon which he built life to operate then justice requires the Designer to heal and fix what is broken. Let us look at some texts and see what system is biblical justice.
· "Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy." (Ps 82:3)
· "Wash yourselves clean. Stop all this evil that I see you doing. Yes, stop doing evil and learn to do right. See that justice is done---help those who are oppressed, give orphans their rights, and defend widows." (Is 1:16-17 – GN)
· "The LORD is waiting to be kind to you. He rises to have compassion on you. The LORD is a God of justice." (Is 30:18 – GW)
· "This is what the LORD says to the dynasty of David: 'Give justice each morning to the people you judge! Help those who have been robbed; rescue them from their oppressors.'" (Jer 21:12 – NLT)
We can see that God's justice, according to Scripture is, delivering the oppressed not punishing the oppressor.
How does God show holiness and justice in the book of Joel? Joel was called to announce impending doom and destruction. Why would God allow such destruction? How can He be a God of love and allow such disasters to be inflicted on Israel? God loved Israel. God chastens whom He loves (Revelation 3: 19). God used these disasters as chastening. The idea was to bring Israel to repentance. So, that Israel realized their need for dependence on God.
There is no mention on whether the people's repentance would stop the destruction, but there was a guarantee, "…whoever calls in the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Joel 2: 32). Even if the Lord would not stop the trial, He would help those who called on His name to go through the trial. In this disaster, instead of having the people rend their garments, the prophet Joel says that the people should rend their hearts and make them open to God's grace and compassion.
The message in this book is especially important to us because, just like in the days of Joel, the impending events of these final days will not be prevented, they will be disastrous and, only those who "call in the name of the Lord will be saved." Ellen White invites us to reflect on this, "We must realize our true condition, or we shall not feel our need of Christ's help. We must understand our danger, or we shall not flee to the refuge. We must feel the pain of our wounds, or we should not desire healing" (Christ's object Lessons, p. 158). The question is will we heed God's calling? I pray that we do!