BLESSED ARE THE RIGHTEOUS
“Blessed Are Those that hunger and thirst after Righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Mt. 5:6). Jesus was not talking about righteousness or righteous people, but about those that were harmed and hurt without recourse. They were then and shall always be the victims of a justice system that is blinded by convenience and reciprocation. It is extremely difficult for a judge with a beam in his eyes to render justice to a victim that is guilty of a speck. Such an act is throwing what is holy to those that are not, and when it is their turn to be judged they will turn on their own judge and destroy him (Mt. 7:1-6). Justice is a two-edged sword. The rules a judge uses in sentencing shall also be used to sentence him (Mt. 7:2). The dispensing of grace in justice is one of the most difficult tasks.
Jesus echoed the words of Psalm 106: 3, “Blessed are they that keep justice and do what is right.” Jesus reinforced the instructions of Moses, “Do not pervert justice with partiality. Do not be bribed, for it will blind and twist your ability to render justice to the innocent. Practice justice and justice only; it shall help you live and keep the land the Lord your God has given to you” (Deut. 16:19-20). To Jesus’ contemporary teachers He said this, “You have neglected the more important aspects of the law, namely justice, mercy and faithfulness. These you should have included in your sentencing. You blinded yourselves by straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel” (Mt. 23:23-24). Jesus, Himself, was denied justice (Jn. 7:50-52).
Justice was and remains ordained of God and so are the people that practice it (Ro. 13:1-7). It is also the most difficult area to administer. Jeremiah the prophet was sent into the street to find one man who dealt honestly and found no one (Jer. 5:1). Instead, he found plenty scribes who falsified the law to suit their purpose (Jer. 8:8). If Jeremiah were writing today, we would have absolutely no doubt that he was describing our justice system and those who administer it. No writer has written a more fitting description of our age than this weeping prophet who gave his life for what was the truth and still is. Truth is harsh and demands admission of guilt and change. Jesus brought mercy and truth to set man free (Jn. 1:17; 8:32). But, Jesus was quickly put out of the way by making Him look guilty.
Jeremiah hoped, and so should we, that his people would repent so that God could make a new covenant with them and write His fear and law in their hearts. He wrote, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (Jer. 31:33-34). Justice must be rooted in the heart or the mind before it can become functional. Habakkuk was sent to tell his people that those that do what is right would have their faith verified (Hab. 2:4). Jesus informed Nicodemus that those who do not obey the Son would not see life (Jn. 3:36). Jesus accepted the righteous into eternity for their deeds and not for their faith (Mt. 25:34). Faith did not replace righteousness, or the Law and the Prophets or doing the will of God (Mt. 5:17-20). Faith to Jesus, to the Apostles, to Paul and to the Hebrew mentality was active and not passive (Ro. 3:27-31; Ja. 2:14-26). Faith by human laws and a misdirected conscience will not see the pearly gates (Ro. 2:14-16; Rev. 14:13).
The world has been and always will be in trouble because it refuses to follow the Biblical principles of justice. The world’s legal systems hinge on political power. The Romans had their law and their citizens received special treatment. The Hebrew religious leaders had their tradition that satisfied their supporters that favored their own. The Samaritans and not the Jews were still obeying the Law of Moses. The Greeks actually were the people in search of truth and they saw it in Jesus (Jn. 12:20-22).
Truth, yes, what was the truth? This was a burning question for Pilate who was coerced into sentencing Jesus to death. By the Roman law, Jesus should not have been sentenced and neither was Jesus condemned by the Law of Moses. The leaders declared, “We have our own law and by that law he must die” (Jn. 19:7). Jesus was in their way because of their abuse of the justice system. It favored only the elite defined by those in power. These leaders were not hungry or thirsty after righteousness but after retaining their lucrative positions. How did they put it? “If we let this man live, the Romans will come and take it from us” (Jn. 11:48).
The hunger and thirst after righteousness was a cry for justice. Man is a genius in perverting or altering the scales of justice. The Psalmist called such men “ungodly” and wondered how long God would allow them to prosper (Ps. 94:3). Paul, the Apostle, depicted his age in the same way that the Psalmist and Prophets did before him. He summarized it as follows, “No one is righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks after God; and they all have gone astray and become worthless. There is no one who does useful things, not a one. Their throat is an open grave, their tongue lies, their lips spit viper poison, and their mouth is full of curses and gull. Their feet are quick to spill blood, their way is ruin and destruction and they know not how to find peace. They see no fear of God” (Ro. 3:10-18).
To us in the 21st century, this sounds like our daily news. In spite of the claims man is making progress regarding justice, man still does what he thinks best; rather, than what is just. Our times have been described in these words, “We are at one of those cynical junctures of history where men have discovered the almost rightness of a great deal that is wrong, and the almost wrongness of a great deal that is right” (Wa. 2038). Compare these and see whether man has improved or merely changed one system for another. Ovid, a Latin poet and contemporary of Jesus, wrote, “I see the right, and I approve it too; Condemn the wrong, and yet the wrong pursue” (Wa. 2040). Mark Twain has Huckleberry Finn ask, “Well then, what’s the use you learning to do right when it’s troublesome to do right and ain’t no trouble to do wrong” (Wa. 2041)? William Howard Taft told a clergyman, “You ought to know that in our world the best things get crucified; but they rise again” (Wa. 2044).
Unfortunately, when good things rise, they are quickly crucified again. We might agree with Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, “Right is right if nobody is right, and wrong is wrong if everybody is wrong” (Wa. 2039). However, nothing stands in the way of those who are in power to declare things right by passing laws that protect certain causes and people. I have lived under German, Polish, Russian, Canadian and U.S.A. rules and every one of these systems has amended and bent laws and constitutions to further ideologies and protect certain interests. Whether we like it or not, might makes right. Some kill truth with the sword and others with new legislation. My wife was told, at work, to her face that,, “Nice people don’t get anywhere.” If Patrick Henry were among us today, he would replace liberty with justice and proclaim, “Give me justice or give me death!”
Long, long ago the writer of Proverbs put his finger on the heart of the problem. He wrote, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). Paul, quoting Psalm 36:1 concluded his critical characterization of mankind as having no fear of God (Ro. 3:18). Man has been told that the only thing he has to fear is fear itself. After all, man has become the measure of all things and therefore the creator of fear itself. Being an end in himself, he can design laws and regulations that suit his needs. Like Israel of old, man wants a man king and not a God king to rule over him. God’s rules are too rigid and too harsh for man. What man does not know is that, “God does not pay at the start of the week, but He pays at the end” (Wa. 1131).
Fear is as essential to life as is the air we breathe and the water we drink. No human law is an end in itself. It requires a lawmaker and a law above it. In the Hebrew and Christian traditions, God’s Ten Commandments are the foundation of a just legal system. Long before Jesus came, God instructed judges to temper His law with righteousness, justice, mercy and faithfulness (Ps. 89:14). Jesus reinstated that idea (Lk. 11:42). God has placed justice in human hands. God does not need a law or the extras. Man does. Man must return (repent) to the Law to avoid God’s wrath (Lk. 3:7-9). Jesus added the following, “Let me tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body and after that can do nothing else. Let me show you whom to fear. Fear him who after the killing has authority to throw into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him” (Lk. 12:4-5).
The key word is authority (exousian) rather than power (dynamenon) (Mt. 10:28). “Exousian” was used specifically for beings with more power than man. To Jesus, God has that final word on justice. And God would most certainly bring justice to his chosen children (Lk. 18:7-8). Moses told the people in his day that God had one wish, “Oh, that their heart would be inclined to fear me and keep my commandments always, so that it might go well with them and their children” (De. 5:29). “And,” added Moses, “If we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness” (Deut. 6:25). To do what is right is dispensing grace.