As we continue on this journey together, one thing becomes clear: being God’s people encompasses all of life. To the first five pictures of God’s people we add 2 more today:
6. Called to do Justice. Justice means each person being treated as an image bearer of God. It also means being given what he/she needs to fully live out being that image so that God is honored and glorified. The Bible is filled with calls for God’s people to be a people of justice. When justice is lacking God tells the people their worship is meaningless and then commands the people,
““I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:21–24 ESV)
When the people want to know the basics of following God Micah simply says,
“With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:6–8 ESV)
And Jesus delivers one of his strongest rebukes to religious people who fail to do justice.
““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23:23 ESV)
The call of justice is one that is at the heart of the call to live as the people of God.
But here we must also go deeper for justice and living out justice as God’s people is a central way we come to know God. It is not the only way, but if God’s people want know him and grow closer to him living a life of justice is essential. Psalm 9.16 we hear that the LORD is known by his acts of justice. In Jeremiah God goes after King Shallum because he has not pursued justice, indeed his has pursued injustice cheating his workers (Jeremiah 22.13ff; see James 5.1-6). As God is crying out against the injustice of Shallum he contrasts those actions with those of King Josiah,
“Do you think you are a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 22:15–16 ESV)
The way we “know” God is by reflecting God’s concern for the poor and needy, by doing justice and righteousness. The word “know” is da’at, the word according to the Word Biblical Commentary, “communicates much more than knowledge in the sense of information. It implies relationship, to know Yahweh is to have a relationship with him, and as this passage indicates, that relationship is based on covenant and keeping covenant. The heart of the accusation against this as yet unnamed king is that he has not kept covenant; he therefore has no real knowledge of Yahweh, no relationship with him. His father did enjoy that positive relationship, and the results are twice called good.”
Doing justice and knowing God are intimately connected. If we are not a people of justice we will not fully know God. One last scripture reference from Jeremiah 9,
“Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.’” (Jeremiah 9:23–24 ESV) [Emphasis added]
The idea that we “understand” the LORD means that we have insight into what matters to God and into his character.
7. Called to live under king Jesus, living the ways of his kingdom and putting his kingdom first. We live as those who know we have only one king: Jesus. All other rulers not only live under his rule, but we treat them as living under his rule. All other kingdoms live under his rule and we treat them as living under his rule. What this means is that the ways of King Jesus and the ways of his kingdom trump our obedience to the ways of the kings of the earth and the nations of the earth, even the nation we live in. The Bible is rich with pictures of this reality. In Matthew 13.44-46 we find that the kingdom is a great treasure that we are willing to let all else go in order to possess it or to live in the ways of the kingdom. In Matthew 5-7 & Luke 6.17-47 we hear Jesus teaching about the way this community of the king lives. These words of Jesus form a Kingdom Manifesto where we discover that followers of the king live out many things including:
being those willing to suffer for the faith
being salt and light
being people of righteousness
being people who deal rightly with lust and anger
being people who love their enemies
being people of rich generosity
being people who serve only one master
being people of prayer
being people who who trust deeply in God
As Jesus delivers his Kingdom Manifesto he tells us we are to seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness. In other words, the kingdom and living the ways of the kingdom trumps all other things in our lives. It even trumps loyalty to rulers and kings. The early followers of Jesus in Acts when faced with being loyal to king Jesus or to follow the commands of rulers said,
“Whether it is right in the right of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4.19-20
From early church history we know that followers of Jesus were willing to die rather than name caesar as lord.