The Foundation of All that's Good
“The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” Deuteronomy 32:4, ESV
Our God is majestic, amazing, loving, beautiful, fearful, mighty, powerful…the list of adjectives that we use to describe Him is lengthy. However, none of them can ever adequately encompass all that He truly is, but we do our best with the vocabulary we have. The characteristics that probably receive the most focus are His love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness, but these are an extension of what I think of as His most fundamental characteristics – His holiness, righteousness, and justice.
Psalm 89:14 says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.”
God is righteous because He is holy, and because He is righteous and holy, He is unfailingly just.
These three attributes work together and are part and parcel of one Divine package. And just as God requires that His followers be loving, gracious, merciful, and forgiving like He is, He also expects us to be holy, righteous, and just like He is.
Now, we all know that there is no possible way that a human can be holy, righteous, or just in the same way that God is, at least not without His help, but because He is so loving, gracious, and forgiving, God provided a means to that end.
2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
This scripture is referring to penal substitutionary atonement, a fancy way of saying that God laid our deserved punishment for our sin on His perfect, innocent Son, instead of us, which is the ultimate example of God’s merciful justice.
So, why would He do that? I love the way it’s explained in Isaiah 43:1, 3-4, 7: “But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.’…For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
He made us; He loves us, and as His creations we are meant to glorify Him. We who have accepted the sacrifice of His son for our redemption, humbled ourselves before Him, and follow Him in obedience, are His sons and daughters. And even though we will continue to make mistakes, we’re covered by the mantle of Jesus’ righteousness. As 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, his is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (Emphasis mine.)
Why would God bother to redeem us? 1 John 1:5 says, “This is the message we have heard from him [Jesus] and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” “Light” as it is used here means “good,” and “darkness” means “evil,” and light has no fellowship with darkness. In fact, light vanquishes the darkness. Ephesians 5:8 tells us that we were once darkness, but now we are “light in the Lord.” Verse 9 tells us that the “fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true.” We are His fruit. (See John 15:1-8)
As Christians we sometimes believe that because God loves us, and we are in His good graces, so to speak, nothing bad should happen to us, and when it does, we tend to raise our hands to the sky and yell, “Why, God?! It’s not fair!” We forget the lesson of Job. (See my blog from April 25th, “Our Good Father.”) The question is often asked, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
That question can easily be turned around, however, “Why do good things happen to bad people?” The simple answer is that we live in a fallen, broken world and good and bad happen to everyone (Matthew 5:43-48). It’s how we respond that tells the tale of whether we belong to God or are still lost in the darkness. Often God uses the bad stuff that happens in the life of the Christian to sanctify and refine us. (See 1 Peter 1:7-9.) He seeks to remove our pride and belief in our own overly inflated self-worth. Don’t we all tend to walk around thinking we’re more special than we really are?
In the book of Daniel, God causes King Nebuchadnezzer to lose his mind and spend “seven periods of time” living like an animal because Nebuchadnezzer had praised himself for making the kingdom of Babylon so great and mighty instead of giving the credit to God. After his humiliation, he praised the one, true God and remained faithful to Him the rest of his life. (See Daniel 4.)
In his commentary on the book of Daniel, Ian Duguid writes, “Our goodness itself can be an obstacle to receiving the message of the gospel, because in our pride we don’t see our need for God. To cure us of our deadly pride, God may graciously bring us down to disaster…Without the episode in the pigsty, the prodigal son would never have gone home. So, too, giving us over to the deeply humbling experience of failure or sin can be the means by which God brings about a profound transformation in our hearts and fresh understanding of the gospel” (Daniel, pg. 73).
What may seem unfair or unjust from our limited, human perspective often has much bigger purpose. Difficulties keep us humble and reliant on God, reminding us of our constant need of Him. Paul is the perfect example of this. The most prolific writer of the New Testament went through numerous hardships including, shipwreck, beatings, stoning, and imprisonment.
It was while languishing in a Roman prison cell, that he wrote Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. When he was most in need of encouragement himself, he was encouraging others. His ability to be at peace and even joyful in all circumstances is what he meant by, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). He fully accepted God’s will and direction in His life as long as it served Christ.
Paul admonished the Philippians (and us), “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14, 15).
I, especially, need to take those words to heart. I am too easily discouraged by even the most trivial troubles, but imagine what a testament to God we can be if we are peaceful and joyful and kind despite hardship or difficulties when others are rude and selfish and wallowing in their misery. What a testament to the Lord we can all be if we have shining, smiling faces when others are scowling. (See 1 Peter 3:13-17.)
I’m by no means implying that any of this is easy to do, or even understand, but I remind myself pretty much daily of what Paul wrote in Hebrews 12:1, “…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” It is to that end that I strive to be happy, even when it’s hard.
Our holy, righteous, and just Father, we come before You with thanksgiving for all that You are. You are so much more incredible than anything we can ever truly imagine or describe. We acknowledge that Your ways are higher than our ways and Your thoughts higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9), but we know that You are holy, righteous and just. Who are we that You should even acknowledge us? We are so thankful that You do, Lord. Knowing that we can never know or truly understand how everything works together, we merely seek to follow and glorify You in all that we do, accepting the course of our lives as Your will. We praise and thank You for Your loving mercy towards us. In Jesus Christ’s name – Amen.