But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness.
The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.Psalm 9:7-10
These days are marked by a renewed interest in issues of social justice. Of course, “social justice” means different things to different people. In our day, the phrase has been increasingly identified with what most would call “progressive” political ideology. As with most things political, this shift is lauded by some and loathed by others. More than any other time I can remember, the issues of race, gender, class and identity are at the forefront of our consciousness and our conversations. Personally, I am deeply sympathetic toward issues of social justice, at least as they align with the biblical vision of justice and righteousness. At the same time, I am more aware than ever that forces in our culture have co-opted the language of “justice” and exploited its meaning for political purposes.
Generally speaking, it seems to me that all of this prompts us toward one of two responses. On the one hand, some will feel greatly compelled to be swept up in the tide of “wokeness” and become simply a more modern (progressive) culture warrior. This is the view of celebrity Twitter and, consequently, our youngest generations who feel extreme pressure to conform to the left-leaning consensus view. This, in turn, prompts the second response, an alternative to the masses that objects to the very phrase “social justice” because of its progressive connotation today.
The Scriptures extol God as a righteous judge — an idea that has direct bearing on the biblical understanding of justice. Biblical justice is rooted in God’s good and holy character. These are the grounds for His just rule. This essential piece is often lacking in modern social justice movements. Moral knowledge cannot be claimed outside of the revelation of the Righteous Judge.
It should be a comfort to modern readers to hear the Psalmist declare that the Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed. Rather than seeking comfort in political expressions of justice or rejecting justice as altogether insignificant, we should rightly understand justice as intrinsic to God’s righteous character. The Psalmist points to the establishment of God’s throne as being “for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness.” True justice can never be achieved apart from the righteousness of God.
We would do well to heed these words.