The Old Testament asserts God’s justice in language clear and full, and as beautiful as may be found anywhere in the literature of mankind. When the destruction of Sodom was announced, Abraham interceded for the righteous within the city, reminding God that he knew He would act like Himself in the human emergency. “That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
The concept of God held by the psalmists and prophets of Israel was that of an allpowerful ruler, high and lifted up, reigning in equity. “Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.” Of the longawaited Messiah it was prophesied that when He came He should judge the people with righteousness and the poor with judgment.
Holy men of tender compassion, outraged by the inequity of the world’s rulers, prayed, “O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth; a God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself. Lift up thyself, thou Judge of the earth: render a reward to the proud. Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph?” And this is to be understood not as a plea for personal vengeance but as a longing to see moral equity prevail in human society.
Such men as David and Daniel acknowledged their own un-righteousness in contrast to the righteousness of God, and as result their penitential prayers gained great power and effectiveness. “O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces.” And when the long-withheld judgment of God begins to fall upon the world, John sees the victorious saints standing upon a sea of glass mingled with fire. In their hands they hold harps of God; the song they sing is the song of Moses and the Lamb, and the theme of their song is the divine justice.
”Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou alone art holy: for all nations I shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.”
Justice embodies the idea of moral equity, and iniquity is the exact opposite; it is inequity, the absence of equality from human thoughts and acts. Judgment is the application of equity to moral situations and may be favorable or unfavorable according to whether the one under examination has been equitable or in- equitable in heart and conduct.
It is sometimes said, “Justice requires God to do this,” referring to some act we know He will perform. This is an error of thinking as well as of speaking, for it postulates a principle of justice outside of God which compels Him to act in a certain way. Of course there is no such principle. If there were it would be superior to God, for only a superior power can compel obedience.
The truth is that there is not and can never be anything outside of f the nature of God which can move Him in the least degree. All God’s reasons come from within His uncreated being. Nothing has entered the being of God from eternity, nothing has been removed, and nothing has been changed.
Justice, when used of God, is a name we give to the way God is, nothing more; and when God acts justly He is not doing so to conform to an independent criterion, but simply acting like Himself in a given situation. As gold is an element in itself and can never change nor compromise but is gold wherever it is found, so God is God, always, only, fully God, and can never be other than He is. Everything in the universe is good to the degree it conforms to the nature of God and evil as it fails to do so. God is His own self-existent principle of moral equity, and when He sentences evil men or rewards the righteous, He simply acts like Himself from within, uninfluenced by anything that is not Himself.
Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy
I have just completed a series of lessons based on A.W. Tozer’s book, The Knowledge of the Holy. They are available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription service. For a medium-sized church, lesson subscriptions are only $10 per teacher per year.