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Exalted in Justice

Crime dramas are all the rage these days.  We love the mystery.  We love the suspense.  But most of all, we love it when the good guys catch the bad guys.  Most of us don't really like those episodes where the crime is left unsolved or the murderer gets away.  We feel cheated. Similarly, as Americans we all cheer when our military brings down another terrorist leader or is victorious in a campaign against the enemy.  We want the enemies of freedom stopped and brought to justice, and it just won't do for us to allow terrorists to assault us on our soil and get away scott-free.

The point is that justice is a good, honorable, and praiseworthy idea.  A crooked cop or judge is one of the most reprehensible creatures imaginable, but those who uphold justice are to be respected, honored, and trusted.

But while practically everyone would agree with what has already been said about the praiseworthiness of justice, that is arguably the most unpopular attribute of God.  When God executes justice on the guilty, the majority of people in the world (including some Christians) question His goodness, His power, His sovereignty, and even His existence.  "How can a good God allow such horrible things to happen?" is the way the complaint normally goes.

The problem seems to be that we have a hard time identifying who the enemies of God are.  As long as we cling to the idea of "good and innocent" people, we will not be able to understand how a loving God can allow them to be wiped out by an earthquake, or a flood, or a tsunami, or an invading army, or whatever.

Why is the murderer in the crime drama a "bad guy"?  It is because he has 1) broken a law, and 2) committed a great offense against another human being.  Is there anything beyond these two things that makes him so evil and deserving of the wrath of a just government?  No, not really.

So let's consider what makes someone an enemy of God.  An enemy of God would 1) break God's Law, and 2) commit a great offense against God.  What we ought to notice right away is that this enemy of God should be considered a more heinous "bad guy" than the murderer on the TV.  Breaking the law of a state like Illinois is certainly less of an offense than breaking the law of the Creator of the universe!  Also, committing an offense against another human being just doesn't measure up to the seriousness of committing an offense against the Almighty Ruler of everything!  So why don't we get all up-in-arms about the wickedness of these enemies of God and their need for being brought to justice.  Well, that's easy: it's because "I are one!"

Yeah, it's true: we've all broken the Law of God, and in the process we have committed a great offense against Him (Romans 3:23).  And yet, we don't like to consider ourselves as worthy of instant and eternal death and torment (that would be the just penalty for offending an infinitely holy God).  No, we like to think of ourselves as deserving to live and breathe and be happy today.  And if we think that way about ourselves, we have to think that way about other people.  It's hard to imagine that someone else deserves death and eternal punishment when you are guilty of the same things and you feel entitled to life and liberty.

The testimony of the Word of God is that you are not entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  You and I and everyone else have been working a lifetime at a job paying the maximum wage of death (Romans 6:23).  This is why the gospel is so precious.  If we are in Christ through faith, then He took the wrath that we deserved.  He became the enemy of God on our behalf and suffered our just penalty so that we could inherit His just reward: eternal life (Romans 3:21-26).  No one goes to heaven because they deserve it, but because He does!

So that's what we have to understand if we are to give God the proper honor and praise for defeating His enemies.  As Isaiah 5:16 says, "The LORD of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows Himself holy in righteousness."  It is a good, honorable, and praiseworthy thing for God to squash His enemies.  He is exalted in His justice.  He's like your favorite character in your favorite crime drama that always catches the bad guy.  The fact is that it would have been good and holy for Him to crush you and me.  But just because He is gracious toward us does not meant that His justice and wrath toward unrighteousness is less praiseworthy.  If we get a proper understanding of the wickeness of fallen man, we'll have far less trouble finding God's goodness the next time a tsunami wipes out a hundred-thousand of God's enemies.