The eighth century BC prophet Micah of the Old Testament asked a question we sometimes ask in our own manner, “With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God?” (Micah 6:6). The prophet answered the question in a rhetorical way. Shall I bring calves? Or a thousand rams? Or ten thousand rivers of oil? Or, if all this is insufficient, shall I offer the sacrifice of my first born child? We all want to please God and offer Him the best. The prophet spoke for the Lord when he gave the answer to the question, “What does the Lord require of you?” (Ch 6:8). The Lord requires you “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (v 8). Justice is the key principle and virtue in the Bible. God is a god of justice, mercy and righteousness. Justice does not merely refer to legal penalty befitting a crime. Justice implies rights, deliverance and is associated with terms like faithfulness, compassion and honesty. The prophets’ demand for justice caused them unpopularity and disfavour.
When Jesus went to preach in his hometown, Nazareth, he chose verses from the prophet Isaiah concerning good news for the poor, freedom for prisoners, recovering of sight for the blind. At first the people “were amazed at the gracious words” but soon after became furious and drove him out of town. (Luke 4:14-30). The preaching of justice will continue to make us uncomfortable. We prefer to confine its meaning to the arrest and sentencing of those who flout the written laws of our country. Justice, however, inspires all of us to seek harmony and reconciliation, equality and respect for all. In scripture this respect extends to the created world for, “the earth is the Lord’s.” All human beings as well as all animals, fishes and plants are entitled to clean water and clean air. We have an inherent right to take a stand against injustice wherever it is observed and discovered.
The prophet Amos lashes out against those who are impatient and restless on the religious holidays, for they are anxious to go to the market to practice,” skimping the measure, boosting the price, cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals. (Amos 8:5-6). Do we not see the same attitude in those who are eager to hold positions where they can reap more financial benefits, or more easily defraud and deceive? In repeating the Lord’s Prayer we pray for forgiveness of our debts as we forgive those indebted to us. The Lord always loves righteousness and justice, judges the world in righteousness and governs the people with justice (Psalm 9:8). The kings of the Old Testament were reminded to do what is just and right and the prophets were warned against just telling people pleasant things and prophesying illusions. We must believe in the rights and dignity of all people. Whenever and wherever we see any kind of oppression, exploitation, slavery, suppression of the freedoms we expect for ourselves, it is necessary for us to rise against the injustice, for the “Lord loves the just and will not forsake the faithful ones.” (Psalm 37:38).