“With liberty and justice for all” … so says the final phrase of the Pledge of Allegiance. What is justice for all? How is it achieved? Is it possible for human government to grant justice for all citizens?
In today’s reading we see the tables completely turned against evil and justice prevailing in a situation where previously it appeared that power was on the side of wrong-doing …
8:1 That same day King Xerxes gave Queen Esther the estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came into the presence of the king, for Esther had told how he was related to her. 2 The king took off his signet ring, which he had reclaimed from Haman, and presented it to Mordecai. And Esther appointed him over Haman’s estate.
3 Esther again pleaded with the king, falling at his feet and weeping. She begged him to put an end to the evil plan of Haman the Agagite, which he had devised against the Jews. 4 Then the king extended the gold scepter to Esther and she arose and stood before him.
5 “If it pleases the king,” she said, “and if he regards me with favor and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me, let an order be written overruling the dispatches that Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king’s provinces. 6 For how can I bear to see disaster fall on my people? How can I bear to see the destruction of my family?”
7 King Xerxes replied to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, “Because Haman attacked the Jews, I have given his estate to Esther, and they have impaled him on the pole he set up. 8 Now write another decree in the king’s name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king’s signet ring—for no document written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring can be revoked.”
9 At once the royal secretaries were summoned—on the twenty-third day of the third month, the month of Sivan. They wrote out all Mordecai’s orders to the Jews, and to the satraps, governors and nobles of the 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush. These orders were written in the script of each province and the language of each people and also to the Jews in their own script and language. 10 Mordecai wrote in the name of King Xerxes, sealed the dispatches with the king’s signet ring, and sent them by mounted couriers, who rode fast horses especially bred for the king.
11 The king’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies. 12 The day appointed for the Jews to do this in all the provinces of King Xerxes was the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar. 13 A copy of the text of the edict was to be issued as law in every province and made known to the people of every nationality so that the Jews would be ready on that day to avenge themselves on their enemies.
14 The couriers, riding the royal horses, went out, spurred on by the king’s command, and the edict was issued in the citadel of Susa.
The law that Haman had written could not just be undone, so the king gave authority for a new edict to also be given to supersede the prior law. This gave the Jews the just authority to prepare and fight against any who attempted to take action against them, giving the Jews even the lawful ability to plunder any who made an action against them. This law was sent out about two months after Haman’s first edict, thus giving about nine months for preparation.
What an incredible turn of events! Justice was achieved.
Justice is a worthy goal, but it is not defined by everyone in the same way. Take for example the story of an illegal immigrant who was fleeing persecution in his home country. It can be argued that it is just to send him back there, doing so because he broke the law by his method of entry. But is it any sort of justice to send a person to a place where their life is certainly in danger?
The reason injustice exists is because sin exists. In Genesis 4, after Cain killed his brother Abel and was confronted by the Lord, God said to him, “Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” This was a cry for justice.
God cares about justice. It says in Psalm 9:16 — “The Lord is known by his acts of justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands.” And indeed, justice will prevail, as Psalm 45:6 looks forward to that time — “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.”
However, until that time, we live in a fallen world where justice does not always prevail (in this world) in every circumstance. For it to prevail, there needs to be objective standards of truth and righteousness. This comes perfectly from God’s Word, though fractional and imperfect portions of it are found in the human conscience as the remnants of the image of God in man.
But the conscience may be suppressed, ignored and rejected. There is not a lot of conscience and perfect truth seeping to the surface in the ISIS/ISIL craziness we see in the world today. That is an extreme example, but it is evident as well in our own culture in the rejection of objective truth in preference for the relativism of individual desire.
So justice will rise and fall with the standards of acknowledging God’s truth. And this is why the character of people in government matters so much. John Adams wrote that if this newly-founded USA ever gave way to unrestrained individualist passions that “… this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world; because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
The USA is exceptional in the sense that no other country in any time or place has given so much consideration to foundations upon moral and biblical principles. But we see very clearly in our time that it is “wholly inadequate” to achieve true justice.
So we wait and look forward to a future, perfect time where Christ will rule and reign, and where justice will truly prevail.