Love Justice, Love Mercy
I avoided Old Testament prophets when I was younger. They intimidated me, and I expected judgment in every page. It’s funny how you can set your expectations on something you have never really read! I already “knew” what they contained, and I had no interest in wading through them.
Then, I read them. All of them. Yes, some were very confrontational. Some were hard to understand. I expected to get a full dose of God’s justice in every page, and I did see plenty. But the part that we typically overlook is what else you find in those prophets. They also offer the gift of MERCY. It’s as if God is pleading with us to seek His mercy. Instead, most of those whom the prophets addressed denigrated His mercy and pursued their sin even more foolishly.
I find these two–justice and mercy–claimed in extreme. One person wants justice when they are wronged. The accused wants mercy unbridled when they are the wrongdoer. But you cannot have one without the other. Without mercy, there is no such thing as justice. Without justice, mercy has no great value. And in Jesus, God expresses BOTH. His great justice condemns sin and brings it to account, but His great mercy brings His son to the cross to pay that account. He condemns our sin and then steps forward to be the one condemned FOR us.
I once heard a professor say, “The way you describe the theme of the prophets is ‘lovejusticelovejusticelovejustice.'” They are connected, bleeding into one another. So, when you pick up a newspaper or log on to your favorite source, and you feel the indignation over something that isn’t punished or a mercy that you don’t agree with, remember this: you have been shown mercy and you still face days of consequences, even when forgiven.
The prophets call us to a new life of justice and mercy before Him. Micah 6:8 summarizes it best:
The Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.