Love and justice. Sounds like the latest series on prime time TV, right? Actually, I found these two concepts clearly demonstrated in the Old Testament. In the book of Numbers, of all places. You know, the book that recounts the story of the children of Israel's opportunity to enter the Promised Land? But they chose to disobey God, and boy were there consequences! They had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years until the entire generation of those who disobeyed God passed away. The final chapters of Numbers find the new generation standing poised on the threshold of Canaan, ready to try again.
As the children of Israel prepare to enter the land, God gives Moses explicit instructions to pass on to the people. Once in the Promised Land, each tribe is to give some of their land to the Levites - the ministers of God. Makes sense, since these men didn't have a specific inheritance of their own. But now it gets interesting: God told the Levites to designate six of their cities as 'cities of refuge.' Places that were set up specifically to protect a person who had killed someone. Confused yet? Hang on!
The traditional customs of justice called for revenge when a loved one or relative was killed. The punishment fit the crime, "And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him; Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again," (Leviticus 24:19-20; KJV). But there were times when someone was killed unintentionally. Entirely by accident. The person who had caused the death was able to run to a city of refuge, and be protected until a trial was held.
"The Levites would hold a preliminary hearing outside the gates: then the accused person was kept in the city until the time of his trial. If the killing was judged accidental, the person stayed in the city until the death of the High Priest. At that time, he was allowed to go free. He could start a new life without worrying about avengers. If it was not accidental, the person was delivered to the slain person's avengers," (Life Application Study Bible, notes on Numbers 35:6). What a beautiful picture of God's love. And His justice. He made a way of escape for the one who hadn't intentionally committed the crime, while allowing the consequences to stand for the one who did.
God's character hasn't changed. I see Him use these same principles in my life every day. He demonstrates His love for me on a daily basis. He has already provided a way for me to spend eternity with Him (John 3:16). Every day He's kind, gracious, and patient with me. He's given me an entire instruction book designed to give guidance and set boundaries for my life. He desires a close relationship with me.
Just like a parent's love for a child includes discipline, God's love cannot be separated from His justice. He's holy and cannot tolerate sin. His Word reminds me, "Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people," (Hebrews 10:30). His discipline is for my good. "Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness," (Hebrews 12:9-10).
When I choose to disobey God's directives, there will be consequences. Yet His love for me doesn't end. He graciously gives me the opportunity to ask forgiveness and run back to the shelter of His arms, where fellowship is restored.
How have you seen God's love and justice demonstrated in your life? I'd love to hear from you!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for Your love and justice. I realize You are a holy God who cannot tolerate sin. Help me to walk in Your ways. When I sin, help me to understand that Your chastisement is for my good. Help me to be quick to ask forgiveness and for our fellowship to be restored. In Jesus' name, Amen.