I mentioned recently that God is both the embodiment of love and justice. I wanted to take it a step further and convey that we are able to see God’s love for us in his justice. Please hear me out.
In an ancient world marked by child sacrifice and appeasing the gods with human sacrifice, the God revealed through the story set forth in the Bible set himself apart from the other gods. In that day, people could please their respective gods through crass commercialism. Perform X (sacrifice this child or these animals) and you would receive Y. These gods were made in the image of their creators, crafted out of wood, stone, or metal.
Compare the bad tempers and capricious acts of the deities with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who is characterized as slow to anger and quick to forgive. He defends the weak and wants his people to choose justice. Reading through the Minor Prophets (Amos, Micah, etc.) will reveal how much of an issue this is to the character of God.
God physically stepped into history
Keep in mind though, the God revealed to us in Scripture does not send us happy thoughts and a celestial thumbs up. Instead, God invests in his broken creation through the incarnation when God became man. He chose to come down, endured injustice firsthand and was tempted in every way.
The Book of Hebrews would record, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” In light of this reality, we can boldly draw near to the throne of grace, and can find grace in our time of need.
Yes, the Old Testament is full of sacrifices that covered over sins and also gave thanks for God’s provision. The New Testament follows this line when he chose to once and for all cover the sins of humanity.
The love of God is seen in the propitiation for our sins and the absorption of God’s justice. Indeed to make your headspin, God took on God’s wrath through the sacrificial death of Jesus (remember, Jesus is fully God) for our sins. He demonstrated his immense love for us that while we were sinners, he chose to die for us.
How do you hold onto the tension of justice and love?