Psalm 72:1-7                          "Justice"


            "Shaphet," that is the Hebrew word for today. It is translated as "justice" most of the time in English--not always though. And, it is the second candle we lit for Advent today. It maybe does not mean what you think it means. I looked it up in my Oxford Hebrew dictionary and discovered that the definitions ran for three pages long. And yes, this Shaphet is also the name of one of the Books of the Bible, that is "Judges" in the Old Testament. So, the judges of old Israel set the example for justice. I guess we could call them "justices." Of course Jesus is the final justice who will preside in the end.

            I thought I could explain this godly heroic concept in this way: You are driving out to Lihue from Waimea. You are coming over the bridge going the speed limit when you hit that point at the Corteva driveway where the road widens. All of the sudden that cute little sports car that was behind you zooms up to your bumper and passes you on the right hand side.

            Of course, you kind of chuckle and let him go by. In fact, you might even bless him as you think to yourself that this guy is going to be still getting into Lihue at the exact same time as you are, assuming he does not kill himself with his own bad driving first. You watch him as he zooms up to the next car in the line of traffic ahead of you. He drifts impatiently over the white fog line on the road several times. He is right on the bumper of the car in front of him, creating a distinct danger if the cars in front brake suddenly.

            At the incline going up to Kalaheo where the road widens to two lanes, you guessed it, there is a construction zone that does not allow him to pass. In fact all the cars must slow down. When you hit Papalina Road that same car is right in front of you. The driver is just as impatient as ever. So it goes all the way to the Tunnel of Trees and into Lihue.

            At the first traffic light in Puhi, sure enough, the road widens to two lanes and he stays in the right lane as you go to the left where there are fewer vehicles. At the red light there, the old church van actually passes the little impatient sports car. THAT is "Shaphet!" That is justice. We started off equally and we end up equally. You cannot help that you were born--that was not your decision. You cannot help that you are going to die--that is also not your decision. All you can do is choose to live well and as your God in heaven would want. That is a different way of seeing “justice,” no?


            Last Sunday we lit the first candle of Advent, the candle of "Peace." We see a natural progression here. I do not believe that we can have peace in our lives unless we believe in the concept of godly justice. Deuteronomy 32:35, "Vengeance is mine says the Lord."  We rarely read the next verse, but it is a couplet and needs to be read together, verse 36, "Indeed the Lord will vindicate His people." If we believe in this simple concept of divine justice, then we can truly find peace—this because God wants us to win. We will be vindicated.

            It is sadly the human tendency to focus on all the little nuisance injustices that we have suffered in our lives and even on a daily basis. We are brought up as children crying out to the adults in the room "That's not fair." At a birthday party the other piece of cake is always bigger and to be fought over. Somehow as children we are convinced always that we are not getting what we deserve. Then, as adults that just continues in our nature.

            Because of this tendency we have a hard time living happy thankful lives. It has gotten so bad that we have even designated just one day out of the whole year that we should be thankful, right? Thanksgiving is that one day when we remember all that God has provided for us in this life--and indeed life itself. Honestly, if we have to designate one day to be happy with all that we have received, then most of the time we are not happy. We are not accepting of God's divine justice over our daily lives.


            In the Tuesday morning bible study on this passage, we got into a lively discussion about homelessness as it relates to justice. You see, I have been asked many times on this island by people who have no homes whether as a Christian I think it is just that I should have a house when others do not. "Do you think you deserve a house, and I do not?" That is what I have been asked time and time again.

            The reality on this island is that we have so many empty houses because of non-resident ownership that if all the houses were available to use, we could easily house all the homeless. One can say that this is a justice issue. And, I really do not have a response to the person who asks me if I should have a house when others do not. I was lucky. Even at bible study the idea of plain "dumb luck" was discussed.

            Even in the very story of Christmas we see that Mary and Joseph could find no place to sleep and give birth to the Lord. There was no place at the Inn. They went to the stable instead. And this notion is repeated in Matthew 8:20 when Jesus tells a man who wants to follow him that the course is very rough and that even he had no place to lay his head at night. "Foxes have dens, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."  So, Jesus himself as an itinerant preacher lived this kind of injustice from the day he was born to the day he died. He died in Jerusalem, but had no home there. Remember when Jesus spoke in his own hometown that the people there tried to stone him to death.


            I was also reminded recently that homeless children tend to be picked on at school mercilessly by the other children. I had to stop myself from engaging that kind of thinking once when an exchange student we were hosting brought a new friend home from high school. This was a girl who I  knew from Bible Club actually. What I had not known was that she lived in the back of her uncle’s white pick-up truck down near the pier here in Waimea. 

            The friend of our exchange student was always over at our house, that is the church parsonage, so I asked if our exchange student would not want to go over to her new friend’s house. “Oh, well, she does not have a house. That is why she always comes here.” I felt so stupid and uncaring in that moment. I knew this child as really a lovely caring soul from Bible Club, but had never even considered her circumstances in life.

            Our exchange student noted later, “I have never had a homeless friend before. I just thought it was kind of a normal thing here in Hawaii. So, I did not make anything of it.” And, this was a great gut check for me.

            Have you ever stopped to consider how many of the characters of the bible are actually homeless? Adam and Eve were evicted. All of Israel wandered the Sinai for forty years. Noah slept on his boat. The Apostle John slept in cave. We count these people as our spiritual heroes! What does that say about divine justice?! Maybe God is even using these life situations to create in you a greater sense of what really matters—a glimpse at divine justice in the world.


            So far I have been tip-toeing around the fact that Jesus is the very personification of divine justice. In our text we see the line “He will live forever.” So, we know that this must be a reference to the Lord God in heaven. I said before that divine justice is based on the concept that we have no choice of birth or death. That we are all in fact equal in these facts. We are all, except for God in heaven! That is until God made the decision to also experience birth and death as God incarnate in the body of Christ. God did this out of His love for us. You see, divine justice is based on this love.

            Reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans 5:6-9, “While we were yet helpless, Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man—though perhaps for a good man will dare even to die. Bur God shows  his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”

            There must be heavenly love and the forgiveness of our sins for divine justice to be declared. Jesus is that justice as God loved us and forgave us though His death.