Justice Week 1 - Checks and Balances - Leviticus 25
Summary: God gets to define justice, and Jesus is the justice of God. All those who have power and authority are measured against the justice of Jesus.
This is what the Lord says: “Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and proclaim this message there:2 ‘Hear the word of the Lord to you, king of Judah, you who sit on David’s throne—you, your officials and your people who come through these gates. 3 This is what the Lordsays: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. 4 For if you are careful to carry out these commands, then kingswho sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of this palace, riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by their officials and their people. 5 But if you do not obey these commands, declares the Lord, I swear by myself that this palace will become a ruin.’”6 For this is what the Lord says about the palace of the king of Judah:
“Though you are like Gilead to me,
like the summit of Lebanon,
I will surely make you like a wasteland,
like towns not inhabited.
I will send destroyers against you,
each man with his weapons,
and they will cut up your fine cedar beams
and throw them into the fire.
8 “People from many nations will pass by this city and will ask one another, ‘Why has the Lorddone such a thing to this great city?’ 9 And the answer will be: ‘Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and have worshiped and served other gods.’”
Do not weep for the dead king or mourn his loss;
rather, weep bitterly for him who is exiled,
because he will never return
nor see his native land again.
11 For this is what the Lord says about Shallum[a] son of Josiah, who succeeded his father as king of Judah but has gone from this place: “He will never return. 12 He will die in the place where they have led him captive; he will not see this land again.”
“Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness,
his upper rooms by injustice,
making his own people work for nothing,
not paying them for their labor.
He says, ‘I will build myself a great palace
with spacious upper rooms.’
So he makes large windows in it,
panels it with cedar
and decorates it in red.
“Does it make you a king
to have more and more cedar?
Did not your father have food and drink?
He did what was right and just,
so all went well with him.
He defended the cause of the poor and needy,
and so all went well.
Is that not what it means to know me?”
declares the Lord.
“But your eyes and your heart
are set only on dishonest gain,
on shedding innocent blood
and on oppression and extortion.”
What is truly just?
A Self Examination of Justice
- Is the death penalty in our country just? Why do you believe what you believe? How does this reconcile with your faith?
- Is our prison system just? Does the fact that we have the highest number of people incarcerated of any country show that we are good or bad at justice?
How much of our idea of justice is rooted in people getting what they deserve when they do something wrong?
- God holds those who rule in his name to a very high standard. The kingdom of Israel was created to be a light to other nations, an example of how their God was different.
- Here in this passage the prophet continually speaks out against the ways the kings participate in and do not fight against the exploitation and oppression of those without power.
Comparing the Kings to Jesus
- The big question we have to ask ourselves is whether or not Jesus was just. Did Jesus' actions fit our expectations for and assumptions around justice?
- John 8 - Here Jesus encounters a woman who was sentenced to death by the law of the land. How did he respond? What can we learn?
- John 19-20 - How does Jesus respond when a corrupt government and corrupt religious leaders show up to persecute and murder him? How does he respond to their violence?
- Matthew 25 - Here in this parable of sheep and goats Jesus is the judge of humanity, displaying his version of justice. What can we discern from this? What is important to Jesus? What separate his people from the rest?
The Big Idea : In Jesus we discover the beauty of God's justice. He is the true king who laid down his authority and used his power not for himself but for the healing of the world.
If Jesus is the justice of God, how do we rethink justice?
- Justice is about healing and reconciliation, not punishment and retribution.
- God is present among those that suffer at the hands of the powerful. So to are his people called to be present there.
Revisiting our Justice questions
- If Jesus is justice, how do we think about the death penalty?
- If Jesus is justice, how do we think about prisons?