Isaiah (2): Justice and Righteousness

In order to complete this section I used Biblegateway to find all the passages where Righteousness and Justice were mentioned and then did a limited topical Bible study on these sections.

Before going into the study I want to talk about the connection between worship and justice mentioned in Isaiah 1. These verses didn’t come up in the gateway search, but I think they capture an important theme within Isaiah, that is, that true worship is connected to justice. In chapter 1, God condemns the “multitude of sacrifices”, saying that they are meaningless and that He takes no pleasure in them. Despite them being the very sacrifices commanded in the Torah. His reasoning behind the accusation is given in verses 16-17, namely, that Justice has been neglected. Throughout Isaiah, the sins of God’s people are unpacked and the ways in which they have not sought justice are revealed. Justice is not just a supplement to worship, it is a foundation. In chapter 33 Isaiah again connects God being exalted with His Justice and Righteousness (33.5).

How are Righteousness and Justice used?

God will use them to reign (9.7) as should a good leader (32.1). These are more than tools, they are values for the leader and they should be intertwined with every decision.

They are used as a plumb line, as a standard of measurement (28.17). In those times an easy way to find a measurement of depth or straightness was to put a weight on a string/rope and let gravity work – it would be used in architecture mostly. God wants His city/kingdom to be built with the measuring line of righteousness and justice.

Finally God wants them used whether it is convenient or difficult, His people should always be operating in righteousness and justice. It is not a seasonal or circumstantial value. This is demonstrated when Isaiah writes that ‘The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert, his righteousness in the fertile land.’ (32.16). These values are not a whether it “feels right” thing.

What demonstrates that they are being met:

I want to answer by sharing two signs that Righteousness and Justice are being carried out, and then one sign that it is not. Firstly, when these Kingdom qualities are being acted upon decisions will be made in favour of the poor and needy (11.4). In other words, God’s people will act on behalf of the weaker. We see this as a Kingdom sign in Paul’s letter to Corinth as he commands that our use of knowledge and practices should always accommodate to those who are weaker (1 Cor 8). Secondly, when Righteousness and Justice are carried out God’s people will walk in obedience to His ways (51.1), in other words His commands will be carried out. If Justice and Righteousness are a river, they will feed the trees that bear fruit of obedience, such as children honouring their parents, tithing, no idolatry.

One of the clear indicators that Righteousness and Justice are not being met is violence and cries of distress (5.7). Violence usually stems from anger, which is a logical response to injustice. Furthermore anger that is not practiced righteously will result in violence towards another man; this is counted by the Righteous One commanding that we turn the other cheek. Cries of Distress bring us back to the language of Egyptian Slavery, when God heard their cries and acted on their behalf. When Righteousness and Justice are not carried out we can be sure God will hear and act in response and rescue.

Obviously God’s abundant blessing awaits those who walk in Righteousness and Justice. However, this is not always a clear indicator of a nation in Righteousness and Justice, since Babylon enjoys seasons of blessing but not because they are righteous, but because God is raising them up against an unrighteous people.

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