Justice & Wrath (Part 1)


by Rachel Mowers, CVCYouth intern

In this New Testament age the argument is commonly made that the Old Testament is irrelevant and inapplicable. They would also argue that:

  • Since Jesus has already come and fulfilled the Law, Christians are no longer bound by the Law.
  • Since the Old Testament is written under the Law, it can also now be discarded.

Yes, God made promises to Israel in the Old Testament, but the Church has the promises of Jesus and the encouragement and growth challenges found in Paul’s Epistles. But what such an argument fails to realize is that while the Church and Israel are indeed two distinct entities, and while the promises God made to Israel in the Old Testament do not directly translate to the Church, the Old Testament contains so much more than the Law and God’s promises.

The Old Testament details God’s character and dealings with man, and while the dispensation in which modern believers live has definitely changed, God has not changed. His character is the same. His dealings with man are the same. The writings of the prophet Zechariah contain much about the character of God as well as His dealings with man, specifically God’s priority of compassionate justice and His righteous wrath.

In the middle of his book, Zechariah relates this word from the Lord:

“The Lord of Hosts says this: Make fair decisions. Show faithful love and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor, and do not plot evil in your hearts against one another” (Zechariah 7:9-10 HCSB).

Through the prophet Zechariah, God is speaking in the imperative voice. This word is more than a mere statement; this is a direct command from God to His people. As Ralph L. Smith puts it, “Social justice is God’s requirement” (Smith 225). Zechariah’s communication parallels Micah’s declaration from God:

“Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8 HCSB).

Throughout the Old Testament God places a high priority on caring for the oppressed and the helpless. In the Law He gave to Moses, God makes special provision for widows, orphans, the sick, and foreigners. The Hebrew word hesed, translated here as “faithful love and compassion” richly connotes love and compassion, faithfulness, covenant loyalty, and grace all at once. George L. Klein quotes Glueck when he says “Theologically, the word hesed conveys the very ‘essence of the covenant relationship’” (Klein 222).

This is the type of relational living to which God calls His people. In the New Testament, James reiterates this policy when he says “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (…) Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:22, 27 HCSB). God’s care for the oppressed did not change when He sent His Son to earth and provided the fulfillment of the Law.

Rather, His provision of redemption is His greatest act of hesed toward us and is a potent example of what true hesed looks like. Smith also states, “In the sense that outward conduct is the expression of one’s inner disposition, social justice is related to true piety” (Smith 226). As followers of God, Christians are called to reflect His character, and Zechariah clearly communicates God’s command to practice compassionate justice.