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Last month, Corina and I had the opportunity to see Andrew Peterson in concert at the Ryman during his annual Christmas tour – Behold the Lamb. The event took place just three days after the horror of Sandy Hook, and the freshness of that event made the hope-filled lyrics of Peterson and his friends even more meaningful.

I especially enjoyed the song, “Rise Up,” performed by Ben Shive. It reminded me of the good news of God’s justice, and how in the gospel, we see the Judge as the Justifier. I’ve included a video of the song, and the lyrics below.

But first, here’s an excerpt from the Christmas lesson I contributed to The Gospel Project, where we wonder out loud how the coming judgment of God can be both good and frightening.

He Will Strike the Land

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him—
a Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
a Spirit of counsel and strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
His delight will be in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what He sees with His eyes,
He will not execute justice by what He hears with His ears,
but He will judge the poor righteously
and execute justice for the oppressed of the land.
He will strike the land with discipline from His mouth,
and He will kill the wicked with a command from His lips.
Righteousness will be a belt around His loins;
faithfulness will be a belt around His waist. (Isaiah 11:1-5)

Wired for Justice

Take a look at the passage above and see what actions this Spirit-filled King will take. Jesus is the King who will flood the world with God’s justice.

Human beings long for justice. It’s wired into us as people made in the image of a just God. I remember hearing about a friend of mine who debated back and forth with his five-year-old daughter about life being fair or unfair. He told his little girl, “Life isn’t fair,” to which she replied, “Yes, it is! Says so in the Bible.” (He was happy to see her going to the Bible for her answer!) Truth be told, both my friend and his daughter were right. Life isn’t fair right now, but the Bible points forward to the day when injustice will be done away with.

My wife grew up in Romania during the Communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu, whose choices left the economy in a shambles. Evangelical church leaders were persecuted. Freedom of speech was nonexistent. I’ve sat in the homes of Romanians and listened to their tales of living during those times. The common thread that runs through them all is the tragedy of being forced to accept injustice as a common way of life.

This world, affected by our sin and subjected to futility, is an unjust place. But when the Messiah-King foretold by Isaiah comes again, He will flood this world with justice. Things will be made right.

The Frightening Beauty of God’s Justice

Yet there’s a scary side to this justice: “He will judge the poor righteously” (great news) and “execute justice for the oppressed of the land” (wonderful; a just, fair society). But Isaiah goes on: “He will strike the land with discipline from His mouth” (sounds ominous), and “He will kill the wicked with a command from His lips” (yikes). Factor in what Isaiah says right before, about this King seeing and hearing everything, and you start to realize that in longing for God to execute justice, you’re longing for God to judge you too. You long for the solution, but you’re part of the problem.

The Judge is the Justifier

You see, the only way this gospel of God’s justice is good news for us personally is if we, through repentance and faith, make sure we are on the right side of His justice. Christ brings the justice we desire but also takes upon Himself the judgment we deserve. He provides the perfection we need to be part of God’s just world while paying the price for our sinful choices.

God is just. So stand in awe. He is also the Justifier. So savor His grace.

Rise Up (words and music by Ben Shive)

Every stone that makes you stumble
and cuts you when you fall
Every serpent here that strikes your heel
to curse you when you crawl
The king of love one day will crush them all

And every sad seduction and every clever lie
Every word that woos and wounds the pilgrim children of the sky
The king of love will break them by and by

And you will rise up in the end
You will rise up in the end
I know the night is cruel
but the day is coming soon
And you will rise up in the end

If the thief had to come to plunder when the children were alone
If he ravaged every daughter and murdered every son
Would not their father see this? Would not his anger burn?
And would he not repay the tyrant in the day of his return?
Oh, wait. Oh, wait the day of his return

Cause he will rise up in the end
He will rise up in the end
I know you need a Savior
He is patient in his anger
And he will rise up in the end

And when the stars come crashing to the sea
and the high and mighty fall down on their knees
When you see the Son descending in the sky
the chains of death will fall around your feet

You will rise up in the end
you will rise up in the end
You will rise up in the end


Click to purchase the song Rise Up.

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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