Rejection of God’s Standard
Scripture is more than a manual for prayer and Sunday worship, it is the standard for how we are to live the entirety of our lives. No doubt, we must be fervent in personal devotions and have the church shaped by Scripture alone. Yet, as important as these realms are, we can never limit the Scripture solely to those spheres. As I have preached the Word, I have seen the Bible discuss the issue of justice over and over again. It rebukes those who reject the Word of God as the authoritative standard. Habakkuk 1:4 provides something interesting for us to consider on this point:
“So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.” -Habakkuk 1:4
The people had rejected the law of God which is His authoritative standard. Instead of submitting to it in obedience, they were living in rebellion. As a result, justice was not going forth. If you reject the Holy Word of God, then you will not have justice being executed amongst the people. There will not be any desire for submission to Christ in every sphere of life. As a result, justice doesn’t go out individually or societally. We see this aspect in our own day in so many ways. Whenever we look across the landscape of our culture we can see where justice is not being done in the realm of abortion. Lawmakers hold back from protecting innocent life. Instead of enacting justice for murder, they hold back, they shrink from the execution of justice because they have no respect for God or His authoritative standard. It seems as though the wicked surround the righteous on that particular issue. Unregenerate men who have no regard for God’s commandments will not enact justice. Abortion is a primary illustration of that reality.
Replacement of God’s Standard
Yet, not only is God’s justice not being done, but there is also the reality of a perverted standard of justice being instituted. In other words, a society that does not seek to follow God in obedience to Scripture does not stop enacting a standard of justice. Rather, they inject a false standard of justice instead of living by the true one. Notice, the very last phrase of Habakkuk 1:4 says “so justice goes forth perverted” which demonstrates that while true justice was paralyzed false justice was having its run amongst the people. Nations that refuse to bow before God in obedience pay homage to men executing horrifically perverted justice.
Perhaps no better example of perverted justice could be found than Governor Gavin Newsome, along with several other California politicians, who desire to make California a “sanctuary state” for abortion should Roe v. Wade be overturned.1 It’s not just that wicked rulers like Newsome refuse to enact justice for the unborn, but also that they want to go so far as to institute perverted standards protecting those who desire to murder babies. He is an illustration of the principle we see that Habakkuk recognized as well. A failure to hold to God’s standards results not only in justice not going forth, but also in perverted standards of justice being instituted. This reality is powerful to understand, for it demonstrates that not only will the innocent not be protected, but also that the guilty will be acquitted and celebrated when sinful men institute their own rules.
Rejoice in God’s Standard
We have seen the horrific results of rejecting the standard of justice God has given to us from Genesis to Revelation. Lost individuals do not view God as the authority before whom they must submit, instead, they seek to live according to their own ways. What we must do is rejoice in God’s Word as our authority. This truth is seen multiple times throughout the Old and New Covenant Scriptures. For example, Psalm 19:7-9 states:
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.” -Psalm 19:7-9
Here David repeatedly emphasizes the perfection of God’s law and the entirety of His revelations. The Word is something that should bring us joy as we seek to live in obedience to God. This reality is reiterated by the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:22 where he states, “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being” showing the joy he found in the law of God. Obviously, we understand we are living on this side of the cross so we do not institute temple sacrifices, meaning we must seek to see how the shadows of the Old Covenant are fulfilled in the Lord Jesus. Yet, we do recognize the entire Word of God as authoritative. Therefore, we seek to rightly interpret everything from Genesis to Revelation applying all of God’s Word for the glory of His name. This action of studying and applying Scripture should bring us great joy as we live by God’s commands. In His Word, we find commandments which reprove our error, doctrines that delight our soul, and a standard of justice that is righteous and true.
Rightly Applying This Standard
King Josiah is marked in the Bible for the reforms he brought during his reign. In 2 Kings 23:3 we read:
“And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people joined in the covenant.” -2 Kings 23:3
The king sought to be obedient to everything God had commanded in his work of reform. We should take the same approach when it comes to seeking reform in our own day, we should strive to set forth God’s Word and live obediently. Take Deuteronomy 22:8 as an illustration:
“When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it.” -Deuteronomy 22:8
This text is advocating for fences to be built around rooftops because back in the days of the ancient world they built houses with flat roofs where they would often spend time. The fence was to prevent anyone from falling from the roof and suffering a catastrophic injury or even death. Today, we would not draw the application from this verse that every house must have a fence on the rooftop but, we would be right to apply this principle saying each has a responsibility to do what they can towards making their property safe for others. For example, if you live in a neighborhood and own a pool, then you would build a fence to prevent the neighbor’s kids from wandering into it and drowning in a catastrophic accident. That is rightly applying the Word of God with proper interpretation seeking to live according to His perfect standard.
What we see is that where individuals or societies neglect the Word, true justice is enacted and perverted standards of justice are utilized in that culture. As believers, we need to have a focus on knowing God, understanding His Word, rejoicing in Him and the Scripture, then going out and applying it all for His glory calling others to do the same. That is our focus and our calling as we go out teaching the nations to obey all that Christ has commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). I pray that we will be faithful to Christ in this realm!