Many children in United States begin their school day reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, ending with the phrase, “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
It’s a wonderful ideal, “liberty and justice for all.” But reality is harsh. The fact is, my nation—indeed, our world—drifts ever farther from that dream. Instead of indivisible, we are increasingly fractured, and many fingers point to injustice as a leading culprit.
Racism has dominated the headlines recently, but that’s only the tip of the injustice iceberg. Around the world injustice rears its ugly head in so many ways, among them:
- Employment exploitation, forced labor and slavery.
- Social exclusion.
- Educational exclusion.
- Denial of basic human rights.
- Religious persecution.
- Economic discrimination.
- Inequality of opportunity.
- Unfair taxation.
- Minority marginalization and/or majority favoritism.
- And even injustices in, of all places, our justice systems!
This abuse of our fellow brothers and sisters inflicts lifelong emotional and, sometimes, literal scars. Predictably, such suffering fuels bitterness, distrust, hatred, retaliation—and the wedges of division are driven ever deeper.
Why does justice elude us? Why haven’t we learned to deal fairly and respectfully with one another? Why do Plato’s writings about injustice in his society, centuries before Christ, still read exactly like our world today? And what did Plato conclude? Simply that people commit acts of injustice whenever they calculate it’s in their best interests to do so. Self-centeredness, hardwired into our human nature, never seems to go away.
Hundreds of years before Plato, an even wiser man, Solomon, observed, “If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter” (Ecclesiastes 5:8).
It seems these two wise men resigned themselves to a rather fatalistic view of man’s ability to create a just and equitable society. Given that another 3,000 years have passed and we still haven’t figured out how to fix self-centeredness, shouldn’t we reasonably conclude that human effort will never solve the plague of injustice?
“A change is gonna come”
More than 50 years ago, Sam Cooke recorded “A Change Is Gonna Come,” which has become an anthem for justice-seeking people around the world. “It’s been a long, a long time coming,” he sang, “but I know a change gonna come.”
He was right. A change is coming. Only it’s coming in a way few expect, and we’re told why and how in a place few consider—an ancient book that offers modern guidance.
Long ago, the nation of Israel was morally decaying and declining in power. Through the prophet Isaiah, God spoke heart to heart with His people, pinpointing their problems and pleading with them to employ His solutions. Among their greatest troubles was that of injustice. Justice, and its absence, is addressed in many places in the Bible, but Isaiah focused on it with more frequency and detail than anyone.
His writings are fascinating in that they intermingled prophecies that have yet to be fulfilled with forewarnings to the Israelites that came to pass with their defeat and captivity by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. In both those past warnings and those future prophecies, God clearly shows His contempt for the injustices in the world then and now, and His promise and plan to make it right.
If your hope is fading that you’ll ever see justice, God, in essence, says, “Don’t despair—I give My word, things will change!” Isaiah 9:7 records one of the great promises for a future: “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.”
But how can this be? The only way we’ll see such a time is if Christ takes over all the affairs of humanity—our governments, religious and educational institutions, legal systems, etc. But that is indeed the core message of the good news—the gospel—of the Kingdom of God coming to this earth.
It clearly pains God to watch His children, many of them sincerely and deeply concerned, sad and groping for solutions to create a better world, yet blind to the obvious—that pursuing His righteousness is the only path to justice.And God assures us He is passionately dedicated to this cause: “The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” He further guarantees in Isaiah 42:4: “He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth.”
That marvelous day lies ahead, but God also has some serious words for today!
The real roots of injustice
The ubiquitous protest slogan we see today is, “No Justice, No Peace!” It’s a true statement because justice and peace come as a team. If a society, or an individual, does not practice the ways of peace, you will inevitably have problems with injustice. Conversely, when you practice injustice, you will inevitably destroy peace—peace of mind, peace in families, peace between citizens and their governing agencies, peace between nations, peace between races.
But God tells us something most people miss about how life works. In the 59th chapter of Isaiah, He says, “The way of peace they have not known, and there is no justice in their ways.” Why? “They have made themselves crooked paths; whoever takes that way shall not know peace. Therefore justice is far from us, nor does righteousness overtake us” (verses 8-9).
Do you see God’s logic? Unless and until all of us, in all of our ways, begin to follow the straight path of obeying God, we can’t create a just society! We can’t cry out for justice from others in one situation and ignore our own unjust behavior in other situations. We can’t find our way to justice when our paths—our ways of life, thinking and behaving—are crooked!
Isaiah continues: “Nor does righteousness overtake us; we look for light, but there is darkness! For brightness, but we walk in blackness! We grope for the wall like the blind . . . We all growl like bears, and moan sadly like doves; we look for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us” (verses 9-11).
It clearly pains God to watch His children, many of them sincerely and deeply concerned, sad and groping for solutions to create a better world, yet blind to the obvious—that pursuing His righteousness is the only path to justice. Only when every person begins to accept personal responsibility for behaving justly—honestly, fairly, truthfully, impartially—with God first and then each other, can justice begin to settle into society.
Will we do that? Earlier God had warned Israel, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (5:20-21). Have we learned from their mistakes, or are we today imitating the ancient Israelites?
Going on in chapter 59, verses 12-13, Isaiah confesses the spiritual state of the nation: “For our transgressions are multiplied before You, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and as for our iniquities, we know them: in transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.”
When a people depart from God and sin against Him, the foundations of their personal lives and society begin to crack and decay, and collapse is predictable. The fall of justice is one of the chief indicators of sin. Isaiah goes on to say, “Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. So truth fails, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey” (verses 14-15).
The lesson is, before we protest against the symptom of injustice, we should first address the many root sins that cause it! But God also warns that those who “cry aloud, spare not” and who “lift up your voice like a trumpet [and] tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (58:1) will find themselves a prey—a target of scorn, ridicule and hatred. Isaiah himself, according to tradition, suffered a horrific martyr’s death (very likely one of the heroes of faith alluded to in Hebrews 11:37).
Why doesn’t God do something?
So where is God in all this? Isaiah continues, “Then the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no justice” (59:15). One might logically ask, “If God hates injustice so much, then why does He continue to allow it?”
It is indeed time to fervently pray, as Jesus said, “Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10) and strive to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (verse 33)!The simple answer is that the biblical record shows most people really don’t want Him to tell them how to live. It didn’t take Adam and Eve very long to turn their backs on their Creator and choose to follow Satan. The vast majority of their descendants followed their same path. So, God gave what we demanded. We have not chosen well. To add insult to injury, we chose to crucify His Son, who was sent to give His life to save ours.
Does God know injustice? Oh, yes! If anyone has endured injustice at the hands of man, it is God and Christ!
Nevertheless, though God has pulled back from interfering in human affairs, He has not abandoned us altogether. He’s waiting, for the moment (perhaps to let us learn these hard lessons), but at the time of His choosing, He will step in.
Continuing, “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him” (verse 16). The word wondered in Hebrew can mean “was appalled.”
Do you, like God, see that there is no man who can solve the problem of injustice? Are you also appalled that there is no intercessor who can stem our moral and spiritual decline? If so, have you opted to turn your heart to seek God, to rest your hopes on His promise to bring salvation, to look for Christ to return and right the wrongs of this world? It is indeed time to fervently pray, as Jesus said, “Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10) and strive to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (verse 33)!
God speed the day of Christ’s return and the fulfillment of this prophecy of Isaiah! “Listen to Me, My people; and give ear to Me, O My nation: for law will proceed from Me, and I will make My justice rest as a light of the peoples. My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth, and My arms will judge the peoples” (Isaiah 51:4-5).
Keep justice, do righteousness
Meanwhile, we cannot individually transform the world, but with God’s help, we can change ourselves. He tells us in Isaiah 56:1, “Keep justice, and do righteousness”—remember, both go hand in hand—“for My salvation is about to come, and My righteousness to be revealed.”
A short article like this cannot offer the final word on everything the Bible says about justice. But it can get to the essence of God’s message: there is hope in our future!
God understands the pain of injustice. He is pained to see His children suffering at the hands of their brothers and sisters. He is pained by the greatest injustice of all—that His children rejected Him and killed His only Son, sacrificed to give His life for all humanity.
But He promises that “a change is gonna come!” Christ will return, will rule the earth and will teach His ways. And among the great changes this world will finally see is “justice for all.”
To learn much more, download our newest booklet, The World to Come: What It Will Be Like. It will open your eyes to the fantastic future God has in store for all humanity!