God loves righteousness and justice

“For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is done in truth. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD” (Psalm 33:4, 5).

Righteousness is the trait of being upright and consistently doing what is good. Job, for example, “was blameless and upright, one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1).

Justice is the enforcement of moral and legal standards and the administration of appropriate discipline or retribution for violations. Discipline strives to improve behavior. Retribution satisfies the just requirement for a fair and adequate penalty.

“The LORD loves justice” (Psalm 37:28).

Love has attendant hate.

“Hate evil, love good” (Amos 5:15). “You who love the LORD, hate evil!” (Psalm 97:10).

Of the Messiah it is said: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions” (Psalm 45:6, 7). [Compare with Hebrews 1:9.]

God hates all workers of iniquity.

“For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You. The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. You shall destroy those who speak falsehood; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man” (Psalm 5:4-6).

Evil must be punished.

“The LORD tests the righteous, but the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. Upon the wicked He will rain coals; fire and brimstone and a burning wind shall be the portion of their cup. For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness” (Psalm 11:5-7).

Because God loves righteousness, His soul hates the wicked. Because He loves justice, He will rain fire on evildoers.

Of course the wicked think this punishment is excessive. In their wickedness, they think evil is not that bad. But evil causes immeasurable harm. Because of this harm, a loving God is obligated to punish evil.

Vengeance and recompense belong to God.

God says, “Vengeance is Mine, and recompense” (Deuteronomy 32:35).

Because God created man with the ability to choose evil or good, evil must be tolerated temporarily. But God will set all things right on judgment day, and there is partial punishment of evil now, both by direct intervention and by governmental justice.

At Christ's return, the wicked will be punished, “Since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9).

Governments administer God's wrath, “For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Romans 13:4).

Christians leave vengeance to God: “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. Therefore 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head'” (Romans 12:19, 20).

Because Christians are citizens of a heavenly kingdom (John 18:36; Philippians 3:20) they do not fight or avenge themselves, but defer to the wrath of God. They are ministers, not of wrath, but of reconciliation, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

The wrath of God arises from His love.

God's wrath results from His love for righteousness, for justice and for His children.

Parents understand this. What would your reaction be to someone who molested your child? Absolute indignation, and rightly so.

God's wrath is always earned.

God has destroyed exceedingly wicked people.

Because of His love for righteousness, God limits evil on earth.

God has used catastrophes, such as the flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, to administer justice.

First, however, we must discuss a question that applies to all catastrophes. What about the innocent children who died in the flood? God loved them and they will be with Him in heaven, just like the innocent children who died in the tsunami of 2004. Of little children Jesus said, “In heaven their angels always see the face of My Father” (Matthew 18:10) and “Of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). Also safe in the arms of God will be the millions of babies murdered by their mothers through abortion.

The history of the world shows that God is extremely patient with sinners, but the antediluvians were intolerably wicked! “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

There were exceptions. Enoch “walked with God” (Genesis 5:22) and warned of God's judgment: “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him” (Jude 14, 15).

In Noah's time he and his family were the only ones on earth who served the Lord! God “did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5).

Those who perished were evildoers by choice. God also gave them a final chance to repent. By the Spirit, Christ preached to those who were disobedient “when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared” (1 Peter 3:18-20).

During the 100 years it took to build the ark, the wicked had a chance to repent. When a man spent 100 years building a huge boat on dry land people certainly heard about it and also about his reason for doing so. But they refused to repent.

When God warned the Ninevites that their city would be destroyed, they repented “and He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10).

God uses governments to keep evil in check.

“If you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Romans 13:4).

Under the Old Testament, God's people had a government that was ordained and led by God (a theocracy). God was the King of Israel (Isaiah 44:6).

God's use of the armies of Israel to wipe out evil nations involved direct commands that were to be obeyed precisely. They were simply instruments of God's wrath. This provides no precedent, because no nations are now directly led by God.

Through the ages, God has used rulers and armies providentially to accomplish His purposes. He used Nebuchadnezzar to punish Israel calling him 'My servant' (Jeremiah 25:8, 9).

God is patient, wanting the wicked to repent: “'As I live,' says the Lord GOD, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live'” (Ezekiel 33:11). “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

God would not have destroyed Sodom if there were ten righteous people in the city (Genesis 18:32).

But evil can become so extreme that God's love for righteousness and justice mandates immediate intervention.

God promised Abraham that He would give the land of Canaan to his descendents but only after the wickedness of those who lived there was complete. “But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Genesis 15:16).

Moses explained to the people, “It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you” (Deuteronomy 9:5).

Sins of these nations included adultery, homosexual practices, sexual intercourse with animals and the sacrifice of infants to Molech (Leviticus 18:20-30; 2 Kings 16:3).

Sacrifices to Molech varied from place to place and over time but descriptions by ancient historians [Cleitarchus (300 BC), Diodorus Siculus (90-30 BC) and Plutarch (100 AD)] can be summarized as follows: the hollow image had a human-like torso with a bull's head. A fire was built in a cavity at the belly. Outstretched arms which became red hot were flat and sloped back so a baby thrown into the arms would roll into the fiery stomach. Sometimes the baby was killed first, sometimes thrown alive into the arms of Molech. In that case drums were beaten and flutes played to cover the screams of the infant. Mothers were not allowed to show any sign of grief.

Such extremely evil practices have at times been punished by God with retribution on earth, but what about eternal retribution?

Justice will be done on judgment day.

God tolerates evil temporarily so man has an opportunity to repent, but because of His love for justice, judgment day will set all things right.

In the letter to the Romans, Paul says that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Romans 1:18). Since “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) all stand condemned before God.

Through Christ, God provides an opportunity for salvation. “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9, 10). By dying on the cross Jesus paid the penalty for our sins.

Thus, even though God's love for righteousness and justice mandates retribution, His love for humanity (Titus 3:4) moved Him to provide a way of escape that would not violate the just requirement for punishment. “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3, 4).

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).

“The LORD tests the righteous” (Psalm 11:5). How people react to Jesus shows their attitude to God. People who love God will love Jesus. “If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22). “The wrath of God abides on him” who does not believe the Son (John 3:36).

Many claim to be saved although they do not believe Jesus when He says, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16) or “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). The wrath of God remains on those who claim that baptism is not necessary for salvation because they do not believe Jesus and they do not obey Jesus.

To be saved we must obey the gospel (Romans 10:16; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17). The gospel designates faith, repentance, confession and baptism as prerequisites for salvation (Romans 10:10; Acts 2:38).

What have we learned?

God loves righteousness and justice. God hates all workers of iniquity. Because God loves justice, evil must be punished. Vengeance and retribution belong to God. He will rain fire on the wicked.

God is patient and gives people time to repent, but when they become too wicked, His love for righteousness and justice requires immediate intervention. God uses catastrophes and governments to visit wrath on evildoers. Innocent children who die, go to heaven.

The wicked will be punished when Christ returns. Because of sin, we are all under the wrath of God. Only by faith in Christ, who paid the penalty for our sins, can we be saved. God's wrath remains on anyone who does not believe Jesus and obey the gospel. Amen.

Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.

Published in The Old Paths Archive