The Bible often paints a bleak picture of human affairs. Within a few pages, we encounter the murder of Abel, the rape of Dinah, and the enslavement of an entire people group. And evil continues off the page. Names like Auschwitz, Tiananmen Square, and the Killing Fields of Phnom Penh have become visceral synonyms of human cruelty. As we consider our bloody history, we may find ourselves grappling with the perennial question, “Where was God?”
Reiterated by believer and skeptic alike, this question betrays a deep hunger for justice that no earthly tribunal can satisfy. Susceptible to corruption, prejudice, and error, human courts often exonerate the guilty and condemn the innocent. Even when justice is served, the death of a tyrant cannot restore the lives that he destroyed. A court sentence cannot make retribution for rape. At the end of the day, we cannot administer the justice we desire.
But this earth does not hold the only courtroom. The Bible brings us face to face with Yahweh, the Judge of all the earth. He is the God who sees the mistreated (Gen. 16:13) and hears the oppressed (Ps. 22:24). He is the God who rescues slaves (Exod. 20:2), defends orphans (Ps. 10:18), and cares for immigrants (Lev. 19:33-34; Deut. 10:18-19; 1 Kings 8:41-43).
For victims of injustice, God’s justice offers profound comfort. But for the unjust, God’s justice is rightfully terrifying. God has a much greater passion for justice than we do: while we find murder and rape abhorrent, He finds the anger and lust that reside in our own hearts revolting (Matt. 5:21-28). He is an impartial judge (Deut. 10:17; Rom. 2:11; Col. 3:25) who will not allow evil to go unpunished (Prov. 11:21). He hates those who pervert justice and call good “evil” and evil “good” (Prov. 17:15). Before God’s judgment throne, we all stand condemned (Rom. 3:23).
For all have sinned, and come short
of the glory of God
- Rom. 3:23
But there is hope for the unjust as well as the victim of injustice. The Bible offers us startling news: God becomes a man to suffer with us and for us. Jesus, God incarnate, identifies with the hungry, the homeless, the foreigner, the sick, the prisoner (Matt. 25:25-36).
Where was God? At the cross—the place of the greatest injustice in human history. There, Jesus died. The Judge became the sentenced. In a gross mistrial, Jesus was condemned to a brutal death for crimes He did not commit. But in laying down His life, He took upon Himself the sins that we committed (Isa. 53:6). Slaughtered by unjust men, He satisfied the justice of a holy God (Rom. 8:3-4). In an act of mercy, Jesus drank the full cup of God’s wrath for us. With this sacrifice, the cross became the place where the greatest act of justice was accomplished.
But the story isn’t finished. As we continue to see injustice around us, we long for the Judge of all the earth to return. With the martyred, we cry “How long, oh Lord?” (Rev. 6:10). We yearn for justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like an everflowing stream (Amos 5:24). We wait in hope for our King, who has promised to bring justice to the nations (Isa. 42:1-9).