Exciting, Happy, Delightful Justice

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Do a quick check. If you got the news that God’s justice was coming, how would you feel? Confused? Scared? Nothing? The emotional response we see in the Bible makes a clear picture: God's justice and righteousness are so awesome that it makes everyone and everything everywhere ecstatic. This is an important lesson for us. Being shaped by God's own heart for justice and righteousness, and getting a biblical understanding for that they are, means that our reaction to justice and righteousness should include excitement, happiness, and delight.  

Justice is exciting! Creation’s response

Let's look at a passage that talks about God coming to judge and rule over the earth:

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
    Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
    he will judge [saphat] the peoples with equity. (Psalms 96:10 ESV)

The passage then goes on to tell us how exactly creation responds to this news. Pay careful attention to the “for” toward the end to say why creation is so happy:

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
    let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
Let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord, for he comes,
    for he comes to judge [saphat] the earth.
He will judge [saphat] the world in righteousness [sedeq],
    and the peoples in his faithfulness. (Psalm 96:11-13 ESV)

The heavens are GLAD, the earth REJOICES, the sea ROARS, the fields EXULTS, forest trees SING FOR JOY. Why? For God is coming to judge the earth.

Now, creation is not being sadistic, and rejoicing that God is going to come and destroy everything. God’s righteous justice is life-giving, and it makes His whole creation happy when it comes.

Justice is happy! People’s response

So creation is happy when God comes to judge, but what about people? Let's look at another Psalm to see how people react to God’s mishpat:

Zion hears and is glad, and the daughters of Judah rejoice, because of your judgments [mishpat], O Lord. (Psalm 97:8 ESV, see also Psalm 48:11)

God’s mishpat is something that makes Zion GLAD and the Daughters of Judah REJOICE. . Another Psalm uses similar language:

As your name, O God,
    so your praise reaches to the ends of the earth.
Your right hand is filled with righteousness [sedeq].
   Let Mount Zion be glad!
Let the daughters of Judah rejoice
    because of your judgments [mishpat]! (Psalm 48:10-11 ESV)

“Right hand” is a symbol of power and authority, and it is filled with righteousness. That makes Mount Zion, a symbol for the citizens of Jerusalem, GLAD. Daughters of Judah, a symbol for the people in the cities of Judah, REJOICE because of God’s mishpat.

When God's justice happens, it brings joy:

When justice [mishpat] is done, it is a joy to the righteous [saddiyq] Proverbs 21:15a

God’s justice and righteousness elicits a similar emotional response in people: joy and happiness.  What’s something right now that you can naturally get happy and overjoyed about? Good news about a family member? A promotion at work? A new ice cream shop opening on your street?  Does it take work for you to feel happy about those things? Probably not. Imagine naturally feeling that way over God’s righteousness and justice. 

Justice is delightful! God’s response

We already heard that justice is something that God loves, His own emotions toward justice and righteousness are positive:

“[B]ut let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me,that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice [misphat] and righteousness [sedeqah] on earth, for in these I delight,”declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24 ESV)

God delights in justice. Delights. To know and understand God is to know that He does justice and righteousness. Equally important, God tells us what motivates Him to do what He does: “…in these things I delight.” This is huge. Delight is God’s why behind the justice, righteousness, and steadfast love He practices. It’s not out of frustration or obligation, but delight. God's justice and righteousness are delightful. 

How-to guide of reacting to justice

God's justice and righteousness are delightful. They should bring us joy and happiness when we see them done on the earth. 

This is a good litmus test to tell whether or not you understand God’s justice. Our modern Western concepts of justice create feelings of fear and shame. Who gets happy when you hear that the government is about to bring a judgment against you? If you can rejoice, sing for joy, roar, be glad, and exult when you hear about God’s righteous justice, then it’s a good sign that your heart has been shaped by God's love for justice and righteousness and that you have the biblical understanding of them.


[1] Bratcher, Robert G., and William David Reyburn. A handbook on Psalms. New York: United Bible Societies, 1993.