The Judge of All the Earth
Text: Job 34
Have you ever cried out: “It’s not fair!”? Perhaps you told you mom that, or a teacher, or a friend. Usually, people say it when they think they are not being treated justly or in a proper way.
Define the following:
We symbolize justice as a blindfolded woman holding a pair of scales in one hand. The scales represent the weighing of evidence to determine what is right or wrong. The blindfold means that there is no respect of persons with justice. In other words, justice doesn’t peek to see who is involved in a case. It is the facts, and not who is involved that matters in the outcome. The rich and powerful do not have an advantage, nor do the poor and defenseless have a disadvantage. Justice weighs the evidence and dispenses fair judgments to all.
Now think about the times you said, “It’s not fair!” Were you being just at that moment? Most people think so, but the problem is they are not impartial to the outcome. Let’s imagine that your mom gives you and your friend each a piece of cake. You’ll find a lot of people saying “It’s not fair!” when they see that they got the smaller piece. But you would have to look long and hard to find someone crying, “It’s not fair!” when they realize they got the bigger piece.
People who cry, “It’s not fair!” are usually partial. They stand to benefit if things change. Hence, in truth, they are not just because of their partiality. This is well illustrated in the parable of the vineyard workers recorded in Matthew 20:1-16.
Understanding the Text: Matthew 20:1-16
- How many groups of workers were hired?
- In negotiating their pay in advance, what was offered to each group?
- When payment came, who complained?
- Who stood to benefit if their complaint was addressed?
- Would the worker’s judgment of the master be unbiased and fair?
- Did the workers received their negotiated wages?
- Then why did the workers complain? What was their motivation?
Bias is a problem in any society. We don’t want judges having business dealings with people whose case they are deciding. We don’t want government officials involved in foreign policy taking money from foreign governments. In fact, most companies have rules against employees receiving gifts from clients and suppliers for this same reason.
Imagine reading an article about recent research that says product X is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Then you get down to the fine print and find out that the manufacturer of product X funded the research. Do you still look at the results in the same way?
In the Old Testament, God made rules against bribery – the giving of money or goods to gain an advantage. “You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous” (Deuteronomy 16:19).
Something to think about:
- Could God be bribed? (Deuteronomy 10:17; Romans 11:35)
- Could a rich person have an advantage over a poor person before God? (Job 34:16-19)
- Since God is interested in righteousness, would a righteous person have an advantage over a wicked person when judged by God? (Job 35:5-8)
- Would a smart person have an advantage before God? (Job 37:23-24)
Abraham called God, “the Judge of all the Earth” in Genesis 18:25, and so God is. God is a fair, impartial judge. God judges based on actual deeds and not who did the deeds. “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear” (I Peter 1:17).
It may seem obvious, but judgments must be based on some sort of standard. Imagine appearing before a judge, but knowing that the decision you are going to receive completely depends on the mood the judge happens to be in that day. You probably wouldn’t think you received a fair hearing because a person’s mood is not a good standard. When a judge does not live his life according to the law, then you have little reason to expect that the judge will use the law as a true standard in his decisions. “These things also belong to the wise: It is not good to show partiality in judgment. He who says to the wicked, "You are righteous," Him the people will curse; Nations will abhor him. But those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, And a good blessing will come upon them” (Proverbs 24:23-25). Think about it, would you expect a judge who uses illegal drugs to uphold the laws concerning illegal drugs?
Such injustice cannot occur with God. God is without sin. “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5). Because God perfectly lives by His law, He is able to perfectly judge us. “Now therefore, let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes” (II Chronicles 19:7). This is the point Elihu made concerning the justice of God. “Therefore listen to me, you men of understanding: Far be it from God to do wickedness, and from the Almighty to commit iniquity. For He repays man according to his work, and makes man to find a reward according to his way. Surely God will never do wickedly, nor will the Almighty pervert justice” (Job 34:10-12).
There exists a major flaw in our own justice system: men do not know everything. Hence, much of our court proceedings revolve around discovering facts and deciding which facts are relevant to the case being considered. Despite our best efforts mistakes are made. People are punished for things that they have not done and people are free who have committed crimes. God’s justice does not suffer from this problem. “For His eyes are on the ways of man, and He sees all his steps. There is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves. For He need not further consider a man, that he should go before God in judgment” (Job 34:21-23).
Something to think about:
Read the following verses and determine what God knows about and based on what information will we be judged.
- Proverbs 5:21
- Proverbs 15:3
- I Corinthians 4:4-5
- Ecclesiastes 12:14
- II Corinthians 5:9-10
When you were caught doing something wrong, have you ever said “I’m sorry” or “I promise not to do it again”? We ought to be sorry for our bad behavior, but some wait until punishment is certain to blurt things like this out. They are hoping that if they appear contrite enough, then the punishment will be not so severe. Such tactics don’t work with God. “For has anyone said to God, 'I have borne chastening; I will offend no more; teach me what I do not see; if I have done iniquity, I will do no more'? Should He repay it according to your terms, just because you disavow it?” (Job 34:31-33). The point is that it is the judge who determines the sentence, not the one being sentenced.
People commonly suppose that if they were unaware of something in advance or if they didn’t understand a particular rule, then it would not be fair to apply the rule to them. Of course, if that were true, the best thing a person could do is never learn a single rule because then nothing would apply to them. However people might think, God says laws apply whether you know them or not. This was true under the Old Testament: “If a person sins, and commits any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD, though he does not know it, yet he is guilty and shall bear his iniquity” (Leviticus 5:17). And it has not changed under the New Testament. If anything, God is more strict under the Law of Christ. “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).
Man is biased. He isn’t necessarily looking for justice. He is looking for the easiest way out. But God doesn’t think the way man thinks. God is a God of justice. He always does what is right and fair. “Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”” (Isaiah 55:6-9).
Something to think about:
- When you get mad, how fairly are you able to judge a situation?
- What is the problem with man’s anger? (James 1:19-20; Job 36:17-18)
- Do emotions cloud God’s judgment? (Romans 2:5)
- Can God be angry and just at the same time? (Psalm 7:10-11)
- In Ezekiel 18:20-32 is a discussion of the fairness of God’s judgments on the righteous and the wicked.
- Does God consider the past when judging a person?
- Why did the people think this was unfair? In what way were they biased?
- Why was God’s way fair?
- Why is it fair that the righteous and the wicked are judged in the same way?
- Rather than complaining about how “unfair” God was, what should these people do?
- Can people judge other people? Find verses to support your point.
- What can you do to make your judgments more just?
- How are trials conducted in your country?
- What do men do in an attempt to make the trials fair?
- Do these things always work?
- When God makes a judgment, does He face the same difficulty? Why?
- Find songs dealing with the justice of God. Ask one of the boys to lead one of the songs.