Sermon Notes: A Just People

Here are the Sermon Notes for Sunday, March 12, 2023
The New People of God Deuteronomy Series
A JUST People
Introducing THREE important words in the biblical Hebrew:

Mishpat – just and justice
3 Letter Word Group = spt

Sedek – right, righteous, and at times, justice

3 Letter Word Group = sdq
Hesed – lovingkindness (That is important. I’ll explain why later.)

3 Letter Word Group = hsd

Every time the Hebrew word is in the text, I have it written beside the English word. I am NOT using the many forms of each word, just the core word and not its variations.

There are hundreds of biblical passages that talk about justice. To get started, here is a sampling.

Follow justice (sedek) and justice (sedek) alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you. Deuteronomy 16:20

Righteousness (sedek) and justice (mishpat) are the foundation of your throne; love (hesed) and faithfulness go before you. Psalm 89:14

Let justice (mishpat) roll on like a river, righteousness (sedek) like a never-failing stream! Amos 5:24

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly (mishpat) and to love mercy (hesed – the love of kindness) and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice (mishpat) to the nations . . . In faithfulness he will bring forth justice (mishpat); he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice (mishpat) on earth. Isaiah 42:1-4

We all want life to be fair. We all want justice. But for ourselves and those close to us.

ONE: God is a JUST God.

For I, the Lord, love justice (mishpat)… Isaiah 61:8
I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just (mishpat). A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just (sedek) is he. Deuteronomy 32:3-4  

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. Deuteronomy 10:17-19

God has a plan for humanity. He reveals that plan in the Abrahamic Covenant and blessing.

Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just (sedek and mishpat), so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him. Genesis 18:18-19

TWO: There is a dynamic synergy of justice, rightness, and lovingkindness.

Justice = Mishpat (130x)  
Rightness = Sedek (500x)
Loving + Kindness = Lovingkindness = Hesed (250x)

This is what the Lord says: "Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness (hesed), justice (mishpat) and righteousness (sedek) on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 9:23-24

Righteousness (sedek) and justice (mishpat) are the foundation of your throne; love (hesed) and faithfulness go before you. Psalm 89:14 (also see Psalm 33:5; 36:5-7).

There is major meaning overlap with righteousness and justice. And then God's lovingkindness fundamentally changes the nature of both. Tim Keller's book is called Generous Justice. We can also say, God is compassionately righteous. Biblical justice is UNIQUE.

THREE: We are to be "just" like our JUST God.

The most beautiful reality of our salvation is that we are forgiven, we are free, we are being healed, and we are being transformed into the image of God. Salvation at its best is the renewal of the image of God in us. The moral qualities of God are being formed in us. For this message, our God is just and we are to be "just" like our Just God.

Justice everywhere,
justice all the time,
and justice for all.
That is biblical justice.

Appoint judges (mishpat) and officials for each of your tribes in every town the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall judge (mishpat) the people fairly [with the judgment (mishpat) of righteousness (sedek)]. Do not pervert justice (mishpat) or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent (sedek). Follow justice (sedek) and justice (sedek) alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you.  Deuteronomy 16:18-20

Justice everywhere, all the time, and for everyone. But be especially careful to give EXTRA focus to those who are most likely to miss out on justice. In Deuteronomy 24:17-22, four times you find the phrase: the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow. Make sure THEY get justice. The next passage is what will happen if God's people do not do justice for those groups.

Followers of Jesus should give special attention to all groups who are without justice and who are unable to get it on their own. Think about it, in our time and in our place, who are the groups who suffer the most, who struggle to get by, and who need the most lovingkindness and justice?  

This is where the Pro Life group gets involved, as well as those groups who want to see racial reconciliation and empowerment for minority groups The elderly need advocates. Single parents need advocates as well. What are the groups for which you have a soft and tender heart and that you want to see enjoy the benefits of God's justice?

Cursed is anyone who withholds justice (mishpat) from the foreigner, the fatherless, or the widow. Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”  Deuteronomy 27:19

FOUR: Accept responsibility for justice, righteousness, and lovingkindness.

The Apostle Paul affirms the Corinthians about their readiness to see justice done (2 Corinthians 7:11).

The moral arc of the universe does not simply bend toward justice or toward anything good. It is BENT by God and it is BENT by the people of God who are faithful to the mission of God about justice, shalom, and flourishing. God is BENDING his people so he can BEND the world through them.

Because Israel failed to be a just people and create a just society, the prophet, with longing and hope, looked to the future work God would do.

I will shepherd the flock with justice (mishpat). . . I will save my flock. . . I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them and be their shepherd. Ezekiel 34:16, 22, 23

Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice (mishpat) and righteousness (sedek) from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:7

Jesus is the justice of God, the righteousness of God, and the lovingkindness of God. On our behalf and for the sake of the world.

In Jesus and on the cross the generous justice, the compassionate righteousness, and the lovingkindness of God converged for the salvation of the world. How are we forgiven? How are we freed? How are we healed? How are we transformed? It is through the justice, righteousness, and lovingkindness of God in Jesus Christ. Because that is who our God is, that is what Jesus is and does, and that is what we are to be.

That is what Jesus did on the cross. Jesus bends all he saves and even bends the world toward justice, righteousness, and lovingkindness. He is bending your life in that direction. That is what we remember, what we celebrate, and what we commit ourselves to as we take communion.
If you want to do much more study, see the incredibly good book by Tim Keller, Generous Justice.