Justice in the Earth
Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the Lord, that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to idols.
See, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth,
I tell you of them. ~ Isaiah 42:1-9
What is justice?
There is more than one word for justice in the Hebrew scripture. Here, the word mishpat means a kind of corrective justice. It means both punishing wrong doing as well as making sure the rights of everyone are lifted up - in other words, caring for the victims of unjust treatment.
It means there should be a state equity among all people regardless of station in life, and when there is not, there is a course correction that needs to take place.
On the other hand, tzadeqah refers to live righteously where we treat everyone with fairness, generosity and equity. When tzadeqah is kept, then mishpat becomes unnecessary.
Both of these words are used here in this passage from Isaiah: mishpat as justice in verses 3 and 4 as justice, and tzadeqah in verse 6 as righteousness.
Justice and righteousness go hand in hand for God.
So what does that look like?
When the blind see. When the prisoners are set free.
And in other places, we know also that it is when widows are fed and the stranger is welcomed.
We tend to focus on righteousness in first person terms - often in terms of not being caught in the sins of the flesh.
But God's justice is very much centered on relationship, and righteousness is when those relationships are put into a fair and equal and loving stance.
Let your justice roll down in waves of love, dear Lord! Amen