I wish I was a Bible scholar, so I could express more of this topic with deeper understanding. There’s so much more than the shallow surface I’ve scratched! But even the surface is something incredible.
(Thanks for putting up with me for taking a month to post this second part!)
In part one, I left off with a verse from Psalm 140. I’m going to pick up with a quick story.
When HOPE61 began in 2009, the ministry needed a name. The director and the interns sat down knowing they wanted to include “hope” and they wanted to incorporate a guiding scripture as both the name and mission statement. Eventually they settled on Isaiah 61. The chapter is only 11 verses long, but verses 1, 3, & 7-8 are particularly poignant:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
…to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.
…Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion….everlasting joy shall be theirs.
For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery for burnt offering; I will direct their work in truth, and will make with them an everlasting covenant.
Most of this chapter is written from Jesus’ point of view (though as this is a book of prophecy He is not explicitly brought up by name). As we are commanded to be like Him and to follow His example, it’s clear that this is our anointing, too. This is a clear promise of what we are charged to do and what the LORD will do for those who have been brokenhearted, imprisoned, and bound. If we preach His good tidings, do what we can to heal the broken, and to free the slaves…if we offer consolation and joy in the small human way we can, God is faithful to provide even more. He offers righteousness and purity for those who have been made impure; double honor and an everlasting covenant.
The beauty of this – the double honor in place of shame and the chance to be a tree of righteousness instead of barren ground – is enough to wrack any person’s heart! I can only imagine a small taste of what it could mean to someone who has been trafficked into slavery of any kind, or even someone who has chosen a life of slavery because they were out of options, or had been brought to that place because of other people’s influences on their life. Having experienced some of this in my own way in my life, this is part of why I am so eager to have the opportunity to share it with others…and to learn from them.
Well, obviously there are many examples of justice in the Old Testament. What about the New? Well, I have one special connection that blows me away.
In Luke chapter 3, Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist. In chapter 4, Jesus goes into the wilderness and is tempted by Satan and we see again that He and Satan are not equal counterparts; they’re not good vs. evil. Jesus represents (and is) a great, uncreated God. Lucifer is only a fallen archangel; a created being. Following this event, Jesus enters Galilee to begin his ministry (v. 14). As He moves into Nazareth Jesus reads from Isaiah 61. Woah!
Why am I so excited about that? It’s Jesus beginning his ministry not only fulfilling prophecies, but setting a tone. This tone is one of justice. Real justice – food for hungry stomachs and hungry hearts, healing for lepers and diseased souls, mercy for adulteresses and impure hearts; restoration of a fallen away people!
As people began to follow Jesus, they learned to live in this way, too. And to seek these things. Why am I so excited about that? Because by opening his ministry declaring justice, we see that – even if the Old Testament hadn’t so clearly set it forth – this is close to the heart of God.
But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.
I hope to dig into this further one day, but for now I’m glad to have had the chance to share why justice brings tears to my eyes and a fire in my heart! It’s so much more than revenge or an eye-for-an-eye. It’s whole.