The Journey to Justice
If I had a shekel for every time my kids declared an issue in their life “not fair,” I would probably already have enough money to send all of them through college – twice. It seems inherent, as if every child is born with a natural sense of things needing to be right – and a drive to make it right when it is not. We all grumble inside when the team member who caused the most problems gets praised for a job well done. We also all smile inside when a guy acting like a jerk turns around and walks straight into a not an instant gavel that can be brought down.
In recent years, justice movements have been sweeping the globe. However, the problem that keeps rising in their pursuit of said of “justice” differ. Whether the cries are against “corruption,” “the broken system” or for more rights of whatever niche cause they might have, “justice fighters” almost all err in the same key factor – they are crying out for man to fix the situation, not God. Of all the stupid things Jews have done throughout history (and believe me, there are many), seeking justice from God is one of the things Jews do best. When the time comes and we are desperate for a change, we cry out to God. This ability to recognize that God is the only able enforcer of proper justice is the reason Jews always make it through in the end, albeit with some bruises and scratches.
One of the more brutal yet beautiful examples of this insightful behavior is the story of Joseph in the Bible. The kid was a bit of a brat. Like, an annoying-younger-brother kind of brat. It could’ve been some adolescent phase, or maybe he really did have a sense deep inside that he was going to turn out pretty awesome. Ultimately, he was a good kid with a clear heart after God who lacked social skills.
Regardless of how bratty he was, nothing he had done justified the treatment he received from his brothers. I suppose he did a lot of praying after being dumped in the well and left for dead. I also suppose it would be a couple of decades before Joseph would realize that being pulled out of the well and sold into slavery was in fact God answering his prayers.
It also probably took Joseph a long while to see that his subsequent toss into a dungeon for over a decade – because he did not sleep with his master’s wife – was actually God’s reward to Joseph for make good choices. What appeared to be the epitome of “can’t win for losing” was in reality an advancement of God’s plan for Joseph. This is where God’s ordained injustice brings about something greater than justice – it brings about God’s promises and blessings.
What if there had been viral media in the days of Joseph? What if he had tweeted, “Help, I’m stuck in Egypt!”, and started a worldwide movement to rescue him. Talks would have begun between political world powers, and Jacob would have paid anything to get Joseph back. Joseph would’ve been rescued from slavery and the dreadful dungeon. The world would cheer for “justice” as footage of a grubby Joseph being pulled from the dungeon emerged. Then Joseph would return home to his father and grounded brothers. Best of all, Joseph would not suffer for years in a rat-infested underground prison. He would also never meet Pharaoh’s servants – or Pharaoh for that matter. And the entire household of Israel – as well as millions of other people in the region – would starve to death because of the famine that would never be predicted. There would be no Promised Land to promise to anyone, and we’d basically be missing the rest of the Bible.
Luckily, there was no one for Joseph to cry out to but God. And when it was all said and done, Joseph explained to his brothers that while it was their deeds, it was actually God putting Joseph in the right places at the right time – in a way that didn’t feel right at all.
God not only saved everyone from starvation, He also restored the relationship between Joseph and his brothers in the most meaningful way possible – and He created a safe place for the children of Israel to multiply into a nation – the land of Goshen. That is, until the next injustice of slavery came knocking at the door, and the children of Israel would have to cry out to God again….
But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. (Gen 45:5)
Of course, God did that so He could get the children of Israel to the Promised Land. (See my article, First the Fishermen then the Hunters, for more on that ). I don’t pretend to understand His ways, but using bad situations to bring about good ones is simply the way it works in our fallen world. If it didn’t have to work that way, I’m guessing the Father would have found a better way to world than to ordain the injustice of having an innocent man publicly beaten and executed by the people He came to save.
The past few years have seen a seemingly endless slew of violent protests about one cause or another. People have taken to the streets expressing their outrage. They have been angry something wrong had been done, and they have decided to rage until the opposition buckles. From Egypt to Baltimore and everywhere in between, anger and the desire to make a situation right has caused everything from local chaos to all out revolution and toppling of governments. In the end, those seeking to bring about their own justice paid a heavy price for it.
PRAY, WAIT, ACT
In Bible times, no matter how bad the Israelites had it, whether at home or in exile – if they turned and cried out to God for salvation, they were always rescued. Sometimes it took years. Sometimes the rescue didn’t seem like a rescue at all until it was all over. But God’s plan for making things right always seemed to work out better in the long run than their plan – even though it often didn’t look as promising on the front end.
Swooping all the beautiful women off the street and taking them to the palace for the King’s pleasure didn’t seem like the favor of the Lord shining down on His people. What if Esther had taken to the streets to protest how unfair it was to be swept into the the potential of spending the rest of her life in a pagan king’s harem? What if she had put up with the beauty contest but had gotten cocky once she became queen and used her influence to complain to the king that Haman was being a jerk to her cousin Mordechai?
Think of that non-democratic time period and what little good it would’ve done for all the Jews to take to the streets to protest the injustice of declaring their annihilation. Haman was the king’s right hand man. The king would have believed nothing bad about Haman in any setting – except the one God created with Esther. Earlier efforts would have been fleshly attempts to instill justice situation. God, on theother hand, had a plan to take care of these issues and more – later.
Once God’s plan was taking shape, the Jews did have to take to the streets and fight for their lives. But all the action took place after the fasting and praying. In doing this God’s way, the Jews not only rid themselves of Haman, they also rid themselves of the Jew-haters who had lived among them and died in the fighting on the day scheduled for annihilation of the Jews – the day of Purim.
In the same spirit, Martin Luther King Jr., would hit the streets in what appeared by all accounts, a divine strategy. It was a that many black Americans felt. When the heart wanted to scream, he ordered them to whisper. In the end, their whisper was more powerful than any riot they could have started or punch they could’ve thrown. The fruit of his strategy today and the glory He gave to God are both evidence of the spirit behind his actions. He had clearly sought God before he acted.
When there is injustice, God cannot help but want to make it right. It is who He is. Sometimes the greater the injustice, the more leverage God has to turn it into an epic rescue. The question is never, “Does God want to bring about justice?”. The question is, “When and how?”. Whether injustice is brought about by divine ordination or by mankind’s God-given ability to freely make bad choices is not as relevant as God’s amazing ability to turn absolutely anything – even painful things – into an even greater justice.
By its nature as a fallen world, injustice on earth is prevalent. But screaming loud enough for men to hear us will either fail – or worse – succeed in the short term. We wrestle not with flesh and blood – unless it’s our own flesh and blood that needs to learn patience. When the Bible talks about the Hebrews crying out to God in Egypt because of their slavery – God did answer. He put Moses in the womb of a God-fearing woman. It’s just that no one would see the benefit of that for 80 years. And even then, it only got worse before it got better.
We don’t always know what side of history we are on, and when it comes down to it, many have regretted standing for justice issues they later found out to be evil. Take it from the ex-Nazi youth leader who embraced me with tears repenting for her naive role in the fight. Take it from the Apostle Paul who must have agonized for years over his role in the deaths of many believers before he understood the truth. Things that seem right at the time are not always right. Once we humbly come to terms with the fact that there is more out there that we don’t know than we even realize, we will find it easier to hand over our case files to our Father in heaven and wait for His instructions.
As believers, we may take to the streets; we may stay at home and pray. But we should do nothing out of sheer rage against “injustice.” Our hearts may hurt for the things we see, but our interest should be only for God’s justice in God’s time. That, in the end, is how those who follow the Lord, always end up on top.
There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death.