״Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.״
If you have ever been wronged in life, you know what it feels like to be helpless, angry, and indignant. You might even be terrified to discover in your heart secret feelings of vengeance and struggle between letting God vindicate you, taking matters into your own hands - or both.
If that's you, you are not alone. The eyes of the world are turned to the never-ending issue of social justice or the lack thereof, whether that be racial tension, physical and sexual abuse, poverty, discrimination, or bribery. One of these injustices alone would be enough to leave one deeply offended and forever victimized.
Israel is no stranger to social injustices.
In 2020 reports of domestic violence to the Ministry of Social Affairs have increased by 800%, police calls have increased by 22%, and a total of 26 women were murdered in cold blood by their partners.
Covid-19 didn't just take a physical toll on those who became sick, but the many and prolonged quarantines created a prison for spouses and children stuck with a violent partner and an environment of economic tension.
Unfortunately, it doesn't end there - at the end of 2021, the National Insurance reported that 21% of Israelis live below the poverty line, and 8.2% suffer from a lack of nutritional security. That means that over 800 thousand families will suffer hunger!
Where is the solution? It seems that we hit a dead end when internal problems arise in the government and corruption takes over, replacing what could be an opportunity to bring recovery to the economy with politics and long discussions that often result in a lack of action.
A working group that tends to suffer the most is social services, who are overloaded with much work and get paid very little, making the motivation to serve very low.
The moral compass of many Israelis will not allow them to stay silent.
Business owners march to end high living costs, the disabled block main highways in protest, and feminists rally together to end rape and murder culture, blaming a system that seems to turn a blind eye. Wherever you turn, there is no shortage of injustice in this small country we call home.
Whether one fights for freedom in a small country such as Israel or stands with more famous movements like Black Lives Matter, the LGBTQ community, the MeToo movement, the message is the same:
"WE WANT JUSTICE - AND WE WANT IT NOW!".
Merriam-Webster defines justice as: 'the process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish crimes and criminals.'
A recent example is the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Boycott from many western nations over human rights abuse accusations. Their concern over the repression of the Uyghur Muslim minority and the mysterious disappearance and muzzling of tennis player Pend Shuai (accused a former top Communist Party official of sexual assault) has brought the nations to take a stand on the issue of human rights and social justice.
The tricky part is where each country or individual's opinion of justice differs. As a democratic state, Israel has constitutionalized laws and rules for fundamental human rights such as the right to personal freedom, equality, the Nirenberg code so that Israelis can live in a free and healthy society.
For those of us who have faith-based values, what is our standard, and how should we base our perception of justice?
The Bible is full of examples showing God's character as both a righteous judge and a defensive father.
When the Hebrews were set free from 400 years of slavery in Egypt, one of God's main priorities was teaching them right from wrong and good from evil.
God started by giving them the Torah on Mt. Sinai, with the ten commandments as a moral beacon of light in an immoral world. He proceeds throughout the following books to show what righteousness looks like in action, giving very specific rules to protect the rights of his people, gentiles, slaves, and even animals.
In Parashat Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9), the Torah reading portion "Judges", Moses instructs Israel to appoint judges and officials amongst the people and warns them not to abuse their authority, but to do what is right:
"Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every town the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly. Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent. Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you." - Deuteronomy 16:18-20 (NIV)
God even gets into the nitty-gritty of how a society should conduct themselves in everyday life; for example, Exodus chapter 21 talks about the rights of slaves and those suffering from personal injuries:
"Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death. However, if it is not done intentionally, but God lets it happen, they are to flee to a place I will designate. But if anyone schemes and kills someone deliberately, that person is to be taken from my altar and put to death." - Exodus 21:12-14 (NIV)
God even gave a solution for the most difficult cases, guiding the people to turn to the Levitical priests who would come to God on behalf of a sinner, asking Him to judge righteously through them:
"If cases come before your courts that are too difficult for you to judge—whether bloodshed, lawsuits or assaults—take them to the place the Lord your God will choose. Go to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office at that time. Inquire of them and they will give you the verdict." - Deuteronomy 17:8-9 (NIV)
The solution for human rights and social justice can be found in God and the many tools He gives us to overcome the hardships life throws our way. Be it forgiveness, the understanding of his word, or bible-based therapy and counseling–God's desire is for all to be healed.
It can be easy to forget that despite the injustice in the world, we still serve an omnipresent God who sees every deed, whether good or bad, and has a just response to all of them.
There is no wrong that will not be made right, and there is no darkness of any kind that can escape God's throne of righteousness.
Perhaps, on the personal level, our part in partnering with God's justice on earth is holding ourselves to His standards of holiness (Leviticus 20:7), the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and God's definition of love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
On the political level - God is calling political leaders to walk in accordance with the foundations of His justice. As a society, we should choose leaders who seek righteousness and walk in Biblical principles - hating bribery and considering the weak and the unprivileged as people who need justice.
The word is clear, even when men fail to do justice - God never fails. If you have suffered injustices and have a hard time believing God will do right by you, know there is hope because we serve a good and loving God, and He is the protector of your soul and the defender of your heart.