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!

  1. God’s Justice Approach For the Oppressed

    1. Read Psalms 9:7-8. Why has God established His throne?
      (For judgment!)

      1. What kind of judgment does God provide? (Equity. This
        means that God is fair.)

      2. 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?

      3. 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.)

    2. 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

      1. Is the baker oppressed by the government, which fined
        him and shut down part of his business for following
        his Christian conscience?

    3. 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.)

      1. 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.)

      2. What does Psalms 9:16 suggest is the basis for
        deciding which “side” God supports? (God supports
        justice. Justice sometimes results in the wicked
        being oppressed.)

    4. 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.)

  2. God’s Defense for the Poor

    1. Read Psalms 82:1-4. What is the problem described here?
      (The “gods” of the people defend injustice and are partial
      to the wicked.)

      1. What should be done instead? (Rescue the weak, the
        needy, the poor and the oppressed.)

      2. Who is causing problems for the needy and poor? (The

    2. 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.)

      1. What overall lesson about poverty and wealth do you
        find in these statements? (God naturally sorts these
        kinds of things out.)

    3. Read Leviticus 19:15. What kind of justice does God
      demand? (Even-handed justice.)

      1. Should the poor receive less justice because they are

      2. 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

      3. 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

    4. Read Psalms 146:1-4. Why should we turn to God for our
      defense rather than humans? (Among other reasons, humans

      1. 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.)

    5. 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.)

      1. 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?)

    6. Read Proverbs 10:3-5. What does this say about God and
      hunger? (God does not let the righteous go hungry.)

      1. Does that mean that God is in favor of the
        unrighteous being hungry?

      2. What is God’s view of being lazy? (It brings

      3. 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
        and poor.)

      4. 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.)

        1. What should a merciful Christian do with a lazy
          person? (Encourage work and the use of an alarm

      5. 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.)

        1. 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.)

      6. 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?

  3. Middle of the Road

    1. Read Proverbs 30:7-9. What should be the goal for our

      1. Why are both wealth and poverty dangers to our soul?

    2. Friend, will you ask the Holy Spirit to help you see
      situations involving justice and mercy in the way God sees

  4. Next week: The Cry of the Prophets.