Balancing Justice and Mercy

Much to our dismay, God will often not judge those we would judge, choosing mercy.  He also holds high standards in cases where we probably wish he was more lenient.  The heavenly balance of justice stretches our minds and challenges our approaches in life…

Show no pity. You must purge from Israel the guilt of shedding innocent blood, so that it may go well with you.

The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against a fellow Israelite, then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party. You must purge the evil from among you. The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you.
Deuteronomy 19:13, 18‭-‬20

Deuteronomy 19 speaks of cities of refuge, the process for obtaining witness evidence for trials, and the balance of wrath and grace.  We are not under these laws and yet there are principles we can learn here.  We see something here about the character of God…

Cities of refuge were set up for those who accidentally killed someone to flee to a safe place where the death will not be avenged.  That is a very merciful idea.  We see, however, in our verse above that if a person who intentionally murders tries to flee there, they are to be brought back and dealt with harshly.  There will be no pity for murderers under God’s law.

The laws around witness testimony speak of the fairness of God’s justice for all – the conviction of a person must be proven by more than one witness. At the same time, the false testimony of a witness will not be tolerated.  If a witness is found to be lying, the punishment was the same punishment the accused would suffer if convicted.  No pity.

Purge these people from your midst. Set an example.  And we see the example of God is both of his wrath on those who deserve it, and his fairness and mercy toward everyone else.

How merciful are you? Often we swing to judgment more than mercy.  We ought to be more balanced in our approach.  And when we add the grace of God through Jesus into the mix, we see a level of mercy which is transformative.  Even though the earthly consequences of action are dealt with through laws and the processes of justice, the eternal justice of God includes the blessing of Jesus taking our consequences for our sin upon himself.

Even though we might do many things which deserve his wrath, God sent Jesus to die for us and to give us his grace undeserved.  God’s ways are so much higher than ours and so amazing to comprehend.  May we seek to understand and to live out the character of God and the mercy of Jesus today…


Marc Kinna


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