Jeremiah 25: Is Justice Good?
God is a patient God. As we see in Jeremiah, He warned the people of Judah over and over again that they had to straighten out, and they simply refused to listen for years. It is even more interesting because it was not like they had to guess what God wanted them to do.
Jer 25:4 And the LORD hath sent unto you all his servants the prophets, rising early and sending them; but ye have not hearkened, nor inclined your ear to hear.
Jer 25:5 They said, Turn ye again now every one from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that the LORD hath given unto you and to your fathers for ever and ever:
Jer 25:6 And go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands; and I will do you no hurt.
God was not some kind of tricky and deceptive deity who wanted to intentionally cause the people to fall apart. He gave them specific directions, and when you consider that they also had the Torah which outlined the law, they should have known how to accomplish everything in the passage above.
God could have decimated them right at the beginning, but He didn’t. He is patient. That is what amazes me about people who point to the Old Testament and argue that God was unjust or excessively brutal.
Let’s try to draw a modern-day parallel. If I broke the law of the United States, our justice system would see that I was punished appropriately for my deeds. We call that right and proper because we innately know that if there is an offense, people need to receive the punishment for what they have done. This has happened in every culture that I am aware of for all of recorded history. There has always been punishment for crimes.
God is similar. The people of Israel and in this case Judah had the law, and they had broken the law. Why is it so hard to believe that if God is just, then people need to be accountable for the deeds that they have done? We call justice right and good when it takes place on earth, but some people seem to be of the mindset that God should not have justice as well.
However, now we are in an interesting predicament because by definition, the Christian God is a perfect being. Therefore, if justice is something good, then it seems reasonable to me that it would be part of the character of a perfect God. After all, wouldn’t a perfect being have every good trait?
Now, I do want to step back for a second because just because we are humanity believe that something is good does not make it so. For example, if all humanity decided that murder was good, that would still be prohibited by the Bible and therefore acceptable to God. We don’t define what God thinks.
Nevertheless, I think that we can view it from the other perspective. God created an objective sense of right and wrong, and CS Lewis wrote in The Abolition of Man, humanity does seem to share the Tao, a general set of objective moral truths. I would argue that a sense of justice would fall into that Tao. Therefore, why would they be an objective moral law that says that justice is a good if there was not a moral lawgiver who says that justice is a good?
People might try to deconstruct what I have just written and argue that justice isn’t necessarily good, but we have found that it works out well for society, so we promote that behavior. However, all that does is move the argument one step higher. Why do we have this idea that we want our communities to function well together? Why is it not better for us to take whatever we want and forget about the consequences that affect anyone else? We fall into an infinite regression of why certain values are promoted if we continue on this track. At some point, there has to be a bottom-line where something is actually right simply for the reason that it is right or because something external dictated that it was right. Neither of these are preferred in some circles today, but it is hard to find a way around it.
Anyway, to get back to the original thought I opened with, God is a lot more patient than most of us are. However, God is also just, and as a result, I don’t know why be surprised when the people had to be punished for violating the law. That is what justice, an objective moral good, is after all.