How righteous is God? Everything God does is perfectly right in every way. David tells us,
“The Lord is righteous in all His ways and loving toward all He has made” (Psalm 145:17, NIV).
For God, righteousness is not an external standard that He must adhere to; righteousness is part of His very nature. It emanates from His inner being. As a result, whatever God wills is perfectly right. It is impossible for God to do anything wrong.
All righteousness within the entire universe has its origin in Him. The psalmist exclaims, “Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, You who have done great things. Who, O God, is like You?” (Psalm 71:19, NIV). Every action God has ever taken or will take is righteous. As a judge, He has never made a wrong determination. He has never had to reverse a decision when He learned more facts. His moral directives do not change over time as He acquires more knowledge because He already knows everything. As Job discovered, no one can question His judgment in all His actions.
Heaven is filled with God’s righteousness. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (Psalm 97:2). Because God is righteous, He wants righteousness to fill His universe.
When you walk into a courtroom and face the judge, you may wonder, “Who gave this judge the power to decide between right and wrong? Who gave the judge the moral and legal authority to pronounce what is righteous behavior and what is grievous misbehavior deserving punishment?”
In America, whether judges are elected directly by the people or appointed by the politicians we elect, they ultimately owe their power to us, the people. However, these judges are subject to human passions and ideas, and can misuse their power. A New England judge was removed after a grand jury indicted him for forcing young men to have sex with him in his private chambers—in return for dismissing their cases. An Illinois judge was removed for “fixing” speeding tickets in return for illegal bribes.
But when we discuss the righteousness of God, we are not talking about an appointed or elected judge, prone to weaknesses and hidden personal agendas or ideologies. An infinite and powerful God does not need anyone to elect or appoint Him, to give Him righteousness. He was righteous before the beginning of time and always will be.
God told Jeremiah, “I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight” (Jeremiah 9:24, NIV). He is the standard by which every evaluation of righteousness must be compared. If God were not inherently holy and just, He could not act righteously.
Just like us, human judges may be caught up in the culture, swayed by their own personalities and ideologies, and limited to the evidence presented in court, which may not accurately portray the truth.
The Dred Scott v. Sanford Supreme Court case in 1857 shows how little righteousness we really have as humans. The case began when Henry Blow filed a suit trying to free a slave, Dred Scott, who worked for him. The problem, however, was that Henry did not own Mr. Scott; a Mrs. Emerson did. Although she lived in New York and Dred Scott lived in Missouri, she would not give him his freedom.
The case wound its way from the lower courts to the Supreme Court. By the time the Supreme Court Justices heard the case, the abolition movement in the US had grown strong. Abolitionists wanted slavery outlawed in all new territories and states. Southern slave owners were desperate to keep their legal right to own slaves.
The Supreme Court could not make up its mind. It heard oral arguments twice, then the Justices recessed for two months. They were so divided on the issue that they did not even meet during that time. Finally, each Justice wrote his own opinion. Seven of them ruled that Dred Scott was still a slave, while two ruled that he was free. Since the Supreme Court ruled that slavery could not be prohibited in new territories, only a constitutional amendment could outlaw the expansion of slavery. It took the Civil War and the 14th Amendment to overturn it.
A more recent miscarriage of justice was the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 in which the Supreme Court mandated that abortion be made legal in all 50 states. Violating God’s law by killing helpless babies still in their mother’s womb is certainly not righteous. Yet the Court approved of this travesty, concluding the unborn baby is somehow not a “person” and therefore not entitled to protection under the law. There have been many occasions when I have very ardently considered chaining myself to the Supreme Court until Roe v. Wade is overturned. I am praying that the Supreme Court will, one day soon, reverse its decision in Roe v. Wade. As our own Civil War and ancient Israel’s history so powerfully demonstrate, we ignore God’s laws to our own peril.
God does not struggle with right and wrong. The psalmist declares, “Righteous are You, O Lord, and Your laws are right” (Psalm 119:137, NIV). His laws reflect His own righteous nature and the moral perfection of His character. Cultural bias, ideology, a lack of knowledge, or any other factor does not alter His rulings.
God’s spiritual laws are every bit as absolute as His physical laws. If we break God’s natural laws, we pay the consequences. For example, if you jump off of the Empire State Building in New York City, the law of gravity will guarantee your death. Likewise, if you lock yourself in a garage and breathe carbon monoxide instead of the oxygen that your body needs, you will die.
God’s spiritual laws are no less binding. As the perfect Judge and Lawgiver, God is also the law enforcer. His laws lay out the responsibilities for which He holds us accountable. They are a yardstick by which God measures our righteousness. When His righteous laws are broken, punishment must always follow.
You may wonder why God is so exacting about His spiritual laws. He did not make rules just for the “fun of it.” His righteous laws focus on standards for acting rightly toward one another.
Consequently, God’s spiritual laws are the pillars for justice and morality within any nation. To restate this fact, the laws of a nation are just only to the degree that they conform to the laws of God. When national leaders reject and disobey God, they cut their nation loose from the anchor of morality—the foundation of justice—and set it adrift in an ocean of moral relativity. Without God they lose their moral compass and doom their society to injustice, dishonesty, and depravity.
Excerpt from GOD, Who are You Anyway? by Bill Bright, with Brad Bright
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