Justice in the Old Testament – Part One


This week we explore Justice in the Old Testament as part of our Lenten Justice discussion  On Tuesday morning we viewed the SMA programme, Living Faith Means Living Justly below. We encourage everybody to take 30 minutes out of their week to watch this video presentation and join us in reorienting ourselves towards living justly.

 


Questions for consideration this week:

  1. What do we understand by Justice as 'relational'?
  2. How do we respond to the 'stranger' or 'alien' who enters into our community?
  3. Consider the God of the Old Testament as a God of 'Saving Justice' rather than 'vengeance'.
  4. What do we understand by 'Fear of the Lord', and what role does it play in our faith?
  5. How do we recognise the 'Just person' in our community?
  6. How does Justice inform our relationship with Creation?

*In each question above, make it concrete to your life.

 

You are most welcome to join us next Tuesday, 26 March, 2019 to take part in our discussion. For more details click here : OLA Lenten Justice Mornings 2019


Key Points

Justice is relational – Relationship with God, on another, and Creation

Justice is multi-faceted but can be thought of as “fidelity to the demands of relationship”.

Justice in the Old Testament is communal then, not individualistic – life means life with others.

The three relationships are interdependent.

For Israel, the relationship with God is a holy Covenant which defines the demands of relationship.

The relationship with the “stranger” or “alien” features strongly in the Old Testament – the stranger enters into the web of relationships of a community without being in relationship to anyone in that community.

The just person is the one who properly responds to the demands of relationship.

 

God’s justice is a “Saving Justice”, not a vengeful justice

Yahweh sets out to save not to condemn.

Punishment is always oriented towards restoring the right relationship.

God’s saving justice is exemplified in the delivery from Egypt in Exodus. As the Jews celebrate Passover and their delivery out of Egypt they are obliged to free the other in response.

The Psalms are about all aspects of life including justice. Two themes are central to the psalms:

 Yahweh is God, Creator and Saviour

 Our reaction to Yahweh

 

The Just Person “Fears the Lord”

What is Fear of the Lord: Dread before power, reverence for God’s greatness, fear of offending our heavenly father? It is perhaps all these things together.

CS Lewis wrote of fear of God, that it is being filled with awe and a feeling of shrinking before it.

Abraham’s fear of God was mixed with his trust in the Lord.

The just person upholds peace:

    • She cares for the weak and defends them.
    • She maintains the community

Psalm 112: “Happy are those who fear the Lord, [...] and their righteousness endures forever. [...] They have distributed freely, they have given to the poor”

    • To be just then is also to distribute the fruits of creation.

The Just person then protects the marginalized: those without the defence of kinship – the widows, orphans and foreigners. They are isolated because they lack relationships in the community. To use modern parlance, they have no social capital.

This concept of the Just Person is rooted in the idea of God Himself as defender of the oppressed – the just person then copies God’s saving justice – in this way we live in His “image and likeness”.

 

Justice includes Care for Creation

There are three pillars to care for creation in the Old Testament. 

God is creator and owner of all.

There is a special place for the human being in Creation.

    • The human person has a special relationship with the earth – God made Adam from the earth – Adam literally means “of the earth”.
    • However, Adam was also made in the image and likeness of God – we are a copy of God as mentioned above, not physically, but in our ability to reason and be just.
    • Woman is of the same sovereign nature as man – the Book of Genesis then emphasises equality between man and woman, not patriarchy.

God gave responsibility for care of the earth to human beings.

    • “To till it and keep it” – here the word “to keep” is rich in meaning; it signifies to sustain and nurture, not merely to hold or exploit.
    • This responsibility to care for creation also comes with the duty to rest on the Sabbath. We humans rest on the seventh day and the land, the fields, must rest on the seventh year.

 

At the centre of the Old Testament view of Justice is harmony in our relationships.

 

Downloads:

“Living Faith Means Living Justly: Justice in the Old Testament – Part One”  Key Points

“Living Faith Means Living Justly: Justice in the Old Testament – Part One”  Scripture