Do you remember the story of Joseph from the book of Genesis? The young man was sold into slavery in Egypt by his own brothers. Despite Joseph’s godliness, in fact, because of his godliness, he was falsely accused by his master’s cougar wife and thrown into the dungeon. Do you remember how you felt the first time you heard it? Maybe your young brain could only think: “Boy, that’s not fair at all!”
And then you heard the story of poor Naboth. Wicked King Ahab wanted Naboth’s vineyard, wanted it enough to hire false witnesses to lie about Naboth. There was no one to defend Naboth. They dragged him out and stoned him to death. Do you remember how you felt? Were you angry?
And then you heard the story of Jesus, sold by a friend for silver, falsely accused, wrongly convicted, cruelly crucified for crimes He did not commit.
Maybe you didn’t know words like “justice” and “righteousness” yet, but you knew that this was not fair and this is not the way things ought to be.
Then you saw it in others in your own little world. Someone said you were “out” when you were “safe.” A classmate told a lie about you and got you into trouble with the teacher. Someone spread a rumor about you and your friends chose to believe it. It wasn’t right. Or fair.
Then you saw it in yourself. Hard to admit. You said someone was “out” when you jolly well knew he was “safe.” You told a lie about a classmate and got him into trouble with the teacher. You spread a rumor, or chose to believe a rumor about another kid just because you didn’t like him. Then you heard the story of Joseph again, or of Naboth. You saw yourself.
God calls out through the prophet Amos: “Let justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like a never failing stream!” But you weren’t very old when you found that justice and righteousness were in short supply in this world and in your own heart. You couldn’t find it in others. You couldn’t find it in yourself. Where were you going to find this justice that rolls on like a river and this righteousness that flows like a never failing stream?
We need Another to satisfy the justice we could not meet, to turn the worst unfairness into forgiveness, to give us a righteousness we do not have.
On that hill far away, on that old rugged cross, God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, says the Bible. All this, said Paul, so that God might be just and the One who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. In Christ alone we see “justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like a never failing stream.”