Introduction: “Justice” and “mercy” are words in natural tension with
each other. It is justice to give you what you deserve! It is mercy
(perhaps) to protect you from getting what you deserve. As
beneficiaries of Jesus’ great mercy, we need to be careful about how
we apply these two concepts. We don’t want to be shown great mercy by
Jesus, and then fail to show mercy to others. The question is
always, “What is mercy in this situation?” Let’s see what we can
learn from the Bible about justice and mercy!
- God’s Justice Approach For the Oppressed
- Read Psalms 9:7-8. Why has God established His throne?
- What kind of judgment does God provide? (Equity. This
means that God is fair.)
- Notice the two roles of God mentioned in Psalms 9:8.
God manages the world righteously, and judges with
equity. Does that mean that true “equity” will
reflect God’s righteousness?
- Let’s apply that to a legal struggle that is going on
right now in the United States. The U.S. Supreme
Court recently decided a case in which a Christian
baker refused to use his artistic talent to create a
wedding cake for a homosexual “marriage.” Anyone
could buy anything from his shop, he just would not
create special cakes to celebrate things the baker
considered unrighteous. How would God decide this
issue if we use the standard of Psalms 9:8? (Equity
means taking into account the moral issues.)
- Read Psalms 9:9 and Psalms 9:16-18. I have heard it said,
with regard to this series of lessons, that God is always
on the side of the oppressed. That seems to be the message
of Psalms 9:9. Let’s apply that to our baker situation.
Are the homosexual couple oppressed by the Christian
- Is the baker oppressed by the government, which fined
him and shut down part of his business for following
his Christian conscience?
- Look again at Psalms 9:16. When we are told that the
wicked are “ensnared by the work of their hands.” What
does this suggest results from wickedness? (Problems. To
be “ensnared” is to be caught in a net.)
- Is a person caught in a net oppressed? (Yes. We see
here that just because a person is “oppressed” does
not mean that God is on his side. We have to
determine why the person is oppressed.)
- What does Psalms 9:16 suggest is the basis for
deciding which “side” God supports? (God supports
justice. Justice sometimes results in the wicked
- Read Psalms 101:1-4. What would King David do if he were
the baker? (This psalm of David tells us that his goal is
to “have no part” in doing things that are “vile” or
“evil.” This is the “gold standard” for those who have
faith in God.)
- God’s Defense for the Poor
- Read Psalms 82:1-4. What is the problem described here?
(The “gods” of the people defend injustice and are partial
to the wicked.)
- What should be done instead? (Rescue the weak, the
needy, the poor and the oppressed.)
- Who is causing problems for the needy and poor? (The
- Read Proverbs 22:7-9. What is the natural order of things?
(Those who borrow money are enslaved by debt. The rich
rule over the poor. If you are unjust, you will face
calamity. Your strength will be broken. If you are
generous with the poor, you will be blessed.)
- What overall lesson about poverty and wealth do you
find in these statements? (God naturally sorts these
kinds of things out.)
- Read Leviticus 19:15. What kind of justice does God
demand? (Even-handed justice.)
- Should the poor receive less justice because they are
- Should the rich receive less justice because they are
rich? (The answer to both of these questions is “no.”
You should not be penalized because you are poor or
- What does this suggest about God supporting the side
of the poor and oppressed? (It shows you cannot make
that assumption. God is on the side of justice.
Whether a person is poor or rich is not a basis for
- Read Psalms 146:1-4. Why should we turn to God for our
defense rather than humans? (Among other reasons, humans
- Read Psalms 146:6. What other reasons should we rely
on God? (Not only is He so powerful that He created
everything, but He is faithful.)
- Read Psalms 146:7-9. There are two statements in these
verses that seem to be in conflict. We are told that God
“sets prisoners free” and He “loves the righteous.”
Setting prisoners free to harm others is not an obvious
act of love. How would you resolve this apparent conflict?
(The implication is that the prisoners are wrongfully
imprisoned. Since God “frustrates the way of the wicked”
(v.9), He would keep dangerous prisoners in prison.)
- Notice that verse 7 tells us that God gives “food to
the hungry.” Does that let us off the hook? (Are we
not partners in doing God’s will on earth?)
- Read Proverbs 10:3-5. What does this say about God and
hunger? (God does not let the righteous go hungry.)
- Does that mean that God is in favor of the
unrighteous being hungry?
- What is God’s view of being lazy? (It brings
- What is the overall message of Proverbs 10:3-5? (If
you are diligent you will be fed and have wealth. If
you are lazy and prefer to sleep, you are disgraced
- Let’s go back to this idea that God is always on the
side of the powerless. If you just happened on
someone who was disgraced and poor, could you
automatically say God favored that person? (This text
teaches just the opposite – it is consistent with
God’s rules that a lazy person, one who prefers sleep
to work, will not be successful.)
- What should a merciful Christian do with a lazy
person? (Encourage work and the use of an alarm
- When Bill Clinton was the President of the United
States, Republicans and Democrats agreed on welfare
reform. The reform created a five-year lifetime limit
on welfare, and the number of individuals receiving
welfare declined dramatically. What do you think
happened to the poor because of this? Would you favor
or oppose time limits on welfare? What would God say?
(After this reform passed, employment of the least-skilled mothers surged, “the poverty rates of black
children and single-parent families dropped rapidly
to historic lows.” (Heritage Foundation Backgrounder
No. 1620, February 6, 2003.) This provides proof of
God’s view that work is the cure for poverty.)
- Is this conclusion about work being the primary
cure for poverty based on only this one Bible
verse? (No. The Old Testament instructions
about gleaning and the Jubilee return of land
are about helping the poor to feed themselves.)
- This week I was in Taco Bell (a favorite restaurant)
and one of the workers was leaving with her two sons.
I avoid this store because she cannot afford day care
and lets her sons run wildly around. Undoubtedly,
neither the mother nor her sons consider this ideal.
She is working. What is mercy? What is justice here?
- Middle of the Road
- Read Proverbs 30:7-9. What should be the goal for our
- Why are both wealth and poverty dangers to our soul?
- Friend, will you ask the Holy Spirit to help you see
situations involving justice and mercy in the way God sees
- Next week: The Cry of the Prophets.