Nestled in this remarkable chapter is an easily overlooked sentence: For I the LORD love justice, I hate robbery and wrongdoing (v. 8). With these words the prophet lays bare the character of the God who promises dejected Israel so very much. This God of great promises loves justice.
Now, “love” is a strong verb. We find it easier to hear that “God so loved the world…” or “God is love,” or especially “God loves me,” than to hear that the God of the Bible, then and now, loves justice.
And what is justice? The prophet defines justice by contrasting it with its opposite: I hate robbery and wrongdoing (v. 8). It’s probable that he means God hates the “wrongdoing” of an employer who offers pious sabbath offerings to God while “robbing” employees of right wages. Justice, then, is treating others fairly, with the same respect one might pay God. Justice is giving others the same mindfulness we seek for ourselves. This is what God loves and loves to see enacted in public, politically as well as personally.
In 1955, the Southern bloc in Congress drafted a “Southern Manifesto” declaring strong opposition to the Supreme Court’s 1954 school desegregation ruling. Nineteen of the South’s twenty-two senators signed it, as did 101 of the South’s 128 congressmen. One man who refused to sign (and was voted out of office the next year) was Charles Deane, a Baptist lay leader and five-term congressman from NC. “I do not have to remain in Washington,” he told his pastor, “but I do have to live with myself. I shall not sign my name to any document which will make any man anywhere a second-class citizen.”
May we, too, realize that losing earthly prestige is nothing compared to gaining God’s smile for doing what God loves: acting justly.
What stories of justice-seeking do I know? How many include my name?
God, straighten my spine to stand for justice, especially for those who are oppressed by the powerful and have so few to stand with them. Amen.