Does injustice bother you? When you see a theft or an abuse, what is your response toward the perpetrator? Anger or sorrow? Justice or mercy? Both are valid responses, and both are biblically sound. Both are appropriate.
How does God deal with iniquity or in-equity—injustice? With mercy or justice? That is a trick question, because His dealings with sinners have ever been both, merciful and just. Both together constitute the foundation of His actions toward the problem of sin and sinners. Both are the polar aspects of divine love, and from the beginning our Creator has had this basic trait of character, love. God is love—has been and always must be. Forever He is the personification of both justice and mercy.
Often in the scriptures we hear of this united dipolar character of His; and thus we can trust in His faithfulness to have this character union always toward us. Even when all we see is His justice, we can know that deep in His heart dwells fullness of grace and hope toward His erring children.
To the children of Israel He thundered His law from heaven, “I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments.” (Ex. 20:5,6). And then to Moses alone He declared the definition of His name, Yahweh: “The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” (Ex. 34:6,7).
To the slave nation Israel He explained His government to be heavier on justice than mercy because they had been abused and had become abusive; so they needed to hear of His propensity to justice. But when together with His humble, obedient, and loving servant, Moses, He described Himself to be heavy on mercy. Yet, He could not escape bringing in the other quality of His dipolar love.
Let’s overview His record of balancing justice and mercy. He says, “Come now, and let us reason together.” “Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together… Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together.” (Is. 1:18; 45:20,21).
“Our fathers understood not Thy wonders in Egypt; they remembered not the multitude of Thy mercies; but provoked Him at the sea, even at the Red sea.
Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake, that He might make His mighty power to be known.
He rebuked the Red sea also, and it was dried up: so He led them through the depths, as through the wilderness.
And He saved them from the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.
And the waters covered their enemies: there was not one of them left.
Then believed they His words; they sang His praise.
They soon forgat His works; they waited not for His counsel:
But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert.
And He gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.
They envied Moses also in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the LORD.
The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan and covered the company of Abiram.
And a fire was kindled in their company; the flame burned up the wicked.
They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image.
Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass.
They forgat God their saviour, which had done great things in Egypt;
Wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red sea.
Therefore He said that He would destroy them, had not Moses His chosen stood before Him in the breach, to turn away His wrath, lest He should destroy them.
Yea, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not His word:
But murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord.
Therefore He lifted up His hand against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness:
To overthrow their seed also among the nations, and to scatter them in the lands.
They joined themselves also unto Baalpeor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead.
Thus they provoked Him to anger with their inventions: and the plague brake in upon them.
Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment: and so the plague was stayed.
And that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore.
They angered Him also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes:
Because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips.
They did not destroy the nations, concerning whom the Lord commanded them:
But were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works.
And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them.
Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils,
And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood.
Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions.
Therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled against His people, insomuch that He abhorred His own inheritance.
And He gave them into the hand of the heathen; and they that hated them ruled over them.
Their enemies also oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their hand.
Many times did He deliver them; but they provoked Him with their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity.
Nevertheless He regarded their affliction, when He heard their cry:
And He remembered for them His covenant, and repented according to the multitude of His mercies.
He made them also to be pitied of all those that carried them captives.” (Ps. 106:7-46).
How did God do? Good or bad? Was He right or wrong? Fair or unfair? Righteous or unrightteous? No honest mind, even the atheistic mind, can deny His perfect management of rebellion. That He kept His favor upon that people for 1500 years tells much for His love, and for His willingness to go overboard on mercy toward sinners.
Through His track record with Israel He has devised a pattern by which we today can look and know that He will deal with us and not reject us for our sins. We must necessarily peruse His word often, repeatedly going over the way He disciplined the people who were receiving a Father’s blessings in order to undo the effects of Satan’s barrage of this mechanical, unfeeling world, bereft of the glory that God wants us to enjoy from His creation.
And what is His glory? To be just and merciful, His “righteousness and peace” (Ps. 85:10). Through Isaiah, He said, “There is no God else beside Me; a just God and a Saviour.” (Is. 45:21). This Peter reiterated shortly after Pentecost, “Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 5:31). As Prince and Judge, He works in us repentance. Then, as Savior and High Priest, He offers forgiveness.
“He shall be a Priest upon His throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” (Zech. 6:13). There is no disparity between justice and mercy. They go hand in glove. With God, there has never been the one without the other—ever. From the beginning of the universe, God has dispensed both, even before Lucifer’s great controversy with God. God has always been righteously indignant toward imperfection, even in His intelligent creation, yet lovingly forbearing toward His angelic hosts and the inhabitants of unfallen worlds, who were less than Him in perfection, Him whose infinite beauty and purity cause the glorious heavens to flee away from His presence.
To us He says that He “hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all.” (Rom. 11:32). “That He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:26).
For our own good, He has steadfastly kept His immutable Law in place as a brick wall against our sinfulness and rebellion. “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal. 3:24).
“All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me;”— if we will succumb to the authority of our Father’s laws, then we will be candidates of His grace—“and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” (Jn. 6:37).
We will comprehend the glory of His righteous indignation and we will have it ourselves with plentiful mercy mixed in, as only His imparted love knows how. For therein is “the power of God unto salvation.” (Rom. 1:16). “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” (Jn. 1:12).