People intuitively demand justice. Unfairness and unrighteousness move them to indignation. If their rights are trampled on, they revert to the revolutionary-era motto: “Don’t tread on me.” Perceived wrongs produce anger and lasting bitterness, often leading to vengeful violence. Is there any solution to this circular pattern of attack and counterattack? Thankfully, the Scriptures point to a better way—one that assures that justice shall prevail.
The Founding Principle of God’s Kingdom
“…Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (Ps. 97:2). The divine administration rests upon the principles of righteousness and justice; His rule is equitable and good. Our benevolent Creator wants what is best for mankind. We were created to know Him and to thrive in cooperation with His divine government (Gen. 2:15-25; Ps. 8:6-8). The fact that the world is unfair and often cruel is no reflection on God, for He created it good. In actuality, the human heart’s cry for justice reflects our origin as creatures hardwired for morality and truth by our righteous Maker.
Yet evil entered this planet due to man giving it access. Adam’s sin involved the entire creation in a cataclysmic moral and spiritual fall (Rom. 5:12; 8:18-25). Death and suffering became normal parts of earthly existence, and every subsequent generation’s continuing sin has contributed to the misery and spiritual malaise on planet earth. Broken families, racism, crime, as well as economic and political oppression all demonstrate the tormenting consequences of rebellion against the Almighty. Nevertheless, there is hope; the prayer that the Lord taught His disciples will be fulfilled: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). During His thousand-year reign, the Lord will reign in righteousness on the earth until all enemies are put under His feet (2 Pet. 3:13; Ps. 2:8-9; 110:1-2). This will be followed by the eternal state, where His kingdom will be perfect forever (Rev. 21-22).
Justice—Now or Later?
While it is reassuring to know that the Lord will bring justice to the earth in His future kingdom, what are believers supposed to do now? Three principles stand out in Scripture:
Submit to governmental leaders, where there is no conflict with our higher loyalty to God (Dan. 3 and 6; Matt. 22:15-22; Acts 4:18-20; 5:29-32; Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17)
Pray for governmental leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-7)
Commit instances of injustice to Him who judges righteously, knowing that He will protect and eventually vindicate us (1 Pet. 2:21-25; Rom. 12:17-21)
This last principle is particularly important and is well-illustrated in the life of David—especially when he fled Saul’s persecution.
Although David was rightfully anointed king by God, the rejected Saul refused to submit to this divine verdict. His opposition began with veiled attempts at killing David by sending him on dangerous military expeditions. When these schemes failed, open attack was the order of the day, Saul made repeated attempts to kill David himself, also sending his henchmen to do it. Eventually, David fled, enduring years of hardship and perilous evasion in wilderness areas. Throughout these trials, his only solace was that God was his rock, refuge, and strength. Numerous psalms attest to the comfort this theological understanding gave him (for example, Ps. 9, 34, 42, 61, 62, 63, etc).
David’s trust in God’s providence is evident in 1 Samuel 24 and 26. In the first passage, Saul stops in a cave to attend to personal needs—think of it as an ancient rest area. Obviously, he was in a vulnerable situation, completely oblivious to the commandos in the rear of the cave. David’s comrades immediately saw this as an opportune moment to dispose of their enemy. They rationalized that it was God’s providential provision to give David the throne. But their commander trusted in the Almighty, not in himself. He knew that Saul was also the Lord’s anointed, God had selected him. Therefore, God would remove him in His own time. David understood that there is a higher throne above the throne of earthly kingdoms such as Israel. God is the ultimate ruler, and He raises up whom He will and puts down whom He will (Dan. 4:17, 31, 34-36). In God’s time He would depose Saul and enthrone David. The man after God’s own heart did not need to retaliate.
In similar fashion, Chapter 26 provided a second golden opportunity for David to assassinate his persecutor. Once again, one of his trusted soldiers urged him to kill Saul, arguing that it was clearly God’s providence because the king and his secret service detail were supernaturally lulled into a deep sleep. But the Bethlehemite shepherd refused, averring that the Lord would eventually deal with him (1 Sam. 26:10-12). So vulnerable was the son of Kish, that David was able to abscond with his canteen and spear—two vital pieces of equipment for desert military campaigns. Instead of harming Saul, David humbly reasoned with him, pointing out that he was no threat to the king and that he had committed no sin worthy of execution by the government (1 Sam. 26:18-20; compare 24:8-15).
Exoneration And Enthronement
David’s faith and obedience to God’s Word were rewarded when Saul died in the battle of Mount Gilboa against the Philistines. In due time, David was enthroned in Hebron over Judah. Seven years later, all his Saulite enemies were defeated, and he ruled over the entire nation at Jerusalem.
At a higher level, this portrays the regal career of the King of kings and Lord of lords. When our Lord suffered, He threatened not, when He was reviled, He reviled not again, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously (1 Pet. 2:23-24). Our Lord did not call on any angelic help or use His power to escape from Golgotha’s injustice. He endured the cross, despising the shame, awaiting the day when His Father would raise Him from the dead and vindicate Him as the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness (Rom. 1:4). He rose on high and led captivity captive, and—true to form—instead of keeping the gifts for Himself, He gave gifts unto men (Eph. 4:8). He despoiled the strong and shared their riches with His saints (Isa. 53:11-12). Because “He was obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross,” He will eventually be exalted above the entire universe (Phil 2:5-11). As the hymn says, “Jesus takes the highest station, oh, what joy the sight affords!”1
The Bible clearly says that Christ’s suffering left us an example that we should emulate. Through the power of His Spirit, we can submit to governments and even endure injustice at the hands of wicked people, just as our Lord did. We bring glory to God by suffering as Christians (1 Pet. 2:18-23; 3:18). May we daily rely on Him and not avenge ourselves (Rom. 12:19). We know that at His coming, justice will prevail, for He shall establish a new heaven and new earth where righteousness dwells (2 Pet. 3:13).
1. Thomas Kelly, “Look Ye Saints, The Sight is Glorious.”