How is justice supposed to work? People cry out for justice, but do they know what they’re asking to happen? Does justice have an end game? I think the answer is yes or no based on how we define justice. Here’s why I say that.
A New Name For Justice
In the last part of this series we saw how human justice squared off against Divine Justice. It didn’t turn out well for the human side. Cain, the first human born on earth, killed his brother, the second human born on earth. God banished Cain and Abel was dead. Cain was afraid someone would kill him, so God placed a mark on Cain so that no one would do that to him. Cain “went out from the presence of the Lord” and built a city, probably for protection (Genesis 4:16-17). We saw the arrogance of Cain’s great-great-great-grandson who mocked God’s justice. As we’ll see later in this study, human justice did not fare well at all.
So, what about God’s justice on earth? It got a new name.
And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, ‘For God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed.’ And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the Lord.Genesis 4:25-26
Remember God’s promise that the Seed of the woman would destroy the seed of the serpent? The Seed of God’s Justice would come from the lineage of Seth and Enosh.
Now Jesus Himself began His ministry at about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph … the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.Luke 3:23, 38
Why did men begin to call on the name of the Lord? Because God chose Seth to be the man through whom He would introduce the last Adam: “And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45). The last Adam is Christ Jesus, the promised Seed of God’s Justice.
While Seth is a great name, it’s not the name I had in mind for Justice. The lineage of Seth didn’t end up much better than Cain’s. Here’s where their descendants landed several hundred years later …
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. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.Genesis 6:5-7
That doesn’t sound good. The human way of thinking went in the only direction it can without God’s help — “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” We see this a few verses later:
The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.Genesis 6:11-12
What’s God going to do? Humanity is corrupt and filled with violence. The wickedness of man was great in the earth and every intent of the thoughts of humans was only evil continually. God is righteous and just. Humans rejected their Creator and treated God as if He didn’t exist. Is it any wonder that God would want to destroy humans from the face of the earth? God would certainly be just in wiping all life off the planet. That’s Divine Justice. Human justice failed miserably. Injustice was the norm on earth.
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.Genesis 6:8
The new name for justice on earth would come from God’s Grace through a man named Noah. His name means “rest, comfort.” Noah’s father gave him the name because “This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed” (Genesis 5:29).
Noah’s name has a deep meaning for our understanding about God’s Justice. Divine Justice is intended to bring rest, comfort and peace to humanity. We see that throughout the Bible and will touch on some of it during this series.
Humans believe their ideas of justice will do the same thing, but it doesn’t. Human justice ends up in the same bad place every time. Why? Because of the fatal flaw that every human being experiences.
Most of us remember the story of Noah and the Flood. We know that God directed Noah to build an ark and prepare it for the most amazing journey any human had ever been on before. God was going to destroy the earth with water and that great flood of water would kill almost every human on earth .. everyone except Noah, his wife, their three sons and their sons’ wives. Eight people would live while everyone else would die.
Does that sound just to you? Many people answer an emphatic NO to the question. They do not believe God had the right to flood the world and kill all but eight humans on the planet. My response is simple. Why not? It’s God’s planet. He created it by His Will and Power. He sustains it by His Will and Power. Why didn’t God have the right to destroy humanity that He created from the face of the planet He created?
My question is often met with this response: “God’s evil!” “That’s injustice!” Really? God’s evil because humans disobeyed His command to worship and obey the God who created them? Is God unjust because He wants to right the great wrong humans have perpetrated on earth through their wickedness and violence?
That seems like a very weak response to a simple question. God told the first humans not to eat fruit from a particular tree, but they did it anyway. God told Cain not to kill his brother, but Cain did it anyway. God told humans to bring Him righteous offerings, but they didn’t. God told humans to worship Him, but they didn’t. Humans had one intent and that was to do evil all the time. That’s the outcome of human justice. It often becomes injustice. Why? Because of the fatal flaw.
God had every right to do what He did. In fact, He had a righteous obligation to destroy everyone on earth. That’s the outcome of Divine Justice. However, remember Mercy? That’s what we see in God’s final response. He tempers judgment with mercy: “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”
One other note about God’s mercy .. He gave the human race 120 years to repent of their sin against God and each other: “And the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years” (Genesis 6:3). Again we see Noah, who the Bible calls “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5). Noah preached and built an ark for a hundred years; plenty of time for people to repent of their sin against God. They didn’t repent and God covered them with water until they all died, except for the preacher of righteousness and his family — safe inside the Ark.
A New Covenant For Justice
The flood waters eventually subsided and Noah and his family left the Ark and stepped on dry ground. Noah set up an altar and re-established offerings and worship to God. It had been a long time since humans had done that and God liked it so much that He made a covenant promise to Noah and his family and their descendants.
And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done. While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease.Genesis 8:21-22
The covenant God made with Noah and his family also included a new rule of justice that addressed the violence that was at the heart of man’s wickedness before the Flood:
So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. ‘Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.’Genesis 9:1-6
Let’s pause here for a moment. This is HUGE! We’ve already said that God as the Creator of life was just in taking life away from humans, but now we see God sharing that Divine Justice with humans. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.” Do you see that? “By man his blood shall be shed.” That’s the death penalty! God gave humans the right to shed the blood of someone who shed the blood of someone else. Why would God choose to give that right to humans? “For in the image of God He made man.” It was time for people to learn the truth about justice.
Another very important part of God’s new covenant of justice was this:
Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ And God said: ‘This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.Genesis 9:11-13
God said He would not destroy the earth by flood waters again. The Global Flood was a one-time event. God promised and gave humanity a sign of the covenant between Him and the earth — the beautiful rainbow.
One more note is that God told Noah and his family to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” Filling the earth will become another justice issue that we’ll look at soon.
What happened to those eight people who stepped off the Ark thousands of years ago? What did they learn about justice? Did things go better for them and their descendants? How did they respond to God’s covenant for the post-Flood world? We’ll see in the next part of our special series, God’s Justice: How It Works.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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