Archive for March 21st, 2022

The Justice of Mishpat


Written by Timothy Keller, a contemporary pastor and author. This is an excerpt from his book “Generous Justice.”

Micah 6:8 is a summary of how God wants us to live. To walk humbly with God is to know him intimately and to be attentive to what he desires and loves. And what does that consist of? The text says to “do justice and love mercy,” which seem at first glance to be two different things, but they are not. The term for “mercy” is the Hebrew word “chesedh”, God’s unconditional grace and compassion. The word for “justice” is the Hebrew term “mishpat.” In Micah 6:8, mishpat puts the emphasis on the action, chesdh puts it on the attitude (or motive) behind the action. To walk with God, then, we must do justice, out of merciful love. The word mishpat in its various forms occurs more than 200 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. Its most basic meaning is to treat people equitably. So, Leviticus 24:22 warns Israel to “have the same mishpat (rule of law) for the foreigner as the native. Mispat means acquitting or punishing every person on the merits of the case, regardless of race or social status. Anyone who does the same wrong should be given the same penalty. But mishpat means more than just the punishment of wrongdoing. It also means to give people their rights. Deuteronomy 18 directs that the priests of the tabernacle should be supported by a certain percentage of the people’s income. This support is described as “the priests’ mishpat,” which means their due or their right. So, we read, “defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:9). Mishpat is giving people what they are due, whether punishment or protection or care.

This is why if you look at every place the word is used in the Old Testament, several classes of persons continually come up. Over and over again, mishpat describes taking up the care and cause of widows, orphans, immigrants, and the poor—those who have been called “the quartet of the vulnerable.” In premodern, agrarian societies, these four groups had no social power. They lived at subsistence level and were only days from starvation if there was any famine, invasion, or even minor social unrest. Today this quartet would be expanded to include the refugee, the migrant worker, the homeless, and many single parents and elderly people. The mishpat, or justness of a society, according to the Bible is evaluated by how it treats these groups. Any neglect shown to the needs of the members of this quartet is not called merely a lack of mercy or charity, but a violation of justice or mishpat. God loves and defends those with the least economic and social power, and so should we. That is what it means to “do justice.”


Written by John Chrysostom (AD 347-407), the archbishop of Constantinople and an early theologian of the church.

Lord, deprive me not of Your heavenly joys. Lord, deliver me from eternal torments. Lord, if I have sinned in mind or thought, in word or deed, forgive me. Lord, deliver me from all ignorance, forgetfulness, cowardice, and stony insensibility. Lord, deliver me from every temptation. Lord, enlighten my heart which evil desires have darkened. Lord, I being human have sinned, but You being the generous God, have mercy on me, knowing the sickness of my soul. Lord, send Your grace to my help, that I may glorify Your holy Name. Lord Jesus Christ, write me, Your servant in the Book of Life, and grant me a good end. O Lord my God, even though I have done nothing good in Your sight, yet grant me by Your grace to make a good start. Lord, sprinkle into my heart the dew of Your grace. Lord of heaven and earth remember me, Your sinful servant, shameful and unclean, in Your Kingdom. Amen.


In the Cross of Christ I Glory Performed by Jebi Koilpillai.

This hymn was written by Sir John Bowring (1792-1872). The hymn has been set to a new melody by Jim Spencer.

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