From Praying the Names of God Week Twenty-One, Day One

The Name
Justice is ultimately rooted not in a collection of laws or rules but in the very character and nature of God. As Judge of the whole earth, he is the only One competent to measure the motivations of our hearts. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word "judge" is often parallel to the word "king." When we pray to God our Shophet (sho-PHAIT), we are praying to the One whose righteousness demands perfect justice but who has also provided a way for us to be acquitted of our guilt through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son.

Key Scripture
Judgment will again be founded on righteousness,
 and all the upright in heart will follow it
. (Psalms 94:15)



Rise up, O Judge of the earth;
pay back to the proud what they deserve.
How long will the wicked, O LORD,
how long will the wicked be jubilant?
They pour out arrogant words;
all the evildoers are full of boasting.
They crush your people, O LORD;
they oppress your inheritance.
They slay the widow and the alien;
they murder the fatherless.
They say, "The Lord does not see;
the God of Jacob pays no heed."
Take heed, you senseless ones among the people;
you fools, when will you become wise?
Does he who implanted the ear not hear?
Does he who formed the eye not see?
Does he who disciplines nations not punish?
Does he who teaches man lack knowledge?
The LORD knows the thoughts of man;
he knows that they are futile.
Blessed is the man you discipline, O LORD,
the man you teach from your law;
you grant him relief from days of trouble,
till a pit is dug for the wicked.
For the LORD will not reject his people;
he will never forsake his inheritance.
Judgment will again be founded on righteousness,
and all the upright in heart will follow it.
(Psalm 94:2-15)

Lord, you alone can judge the motivations of the heart. I pray that your justice will reign in my life and in all the nations of the earth. Bless those who long for justice. May they be satisfied.

Understanding the Name

The Hebrew verb shapat (sha-PHAT) can be translated in a variety of ways, including "judge," "govern," "vindicate," "decide," "defend," and "deliver." In the Hebrew Scriptures the word often combined the three primary functions of government—the executive, legislative, and judicial—that modern Western nations separate. That's why leaders like Gideon, Samson, and Deborah were called judges. When we read the word "judge" (shophet, sho-PHAIT) in the Hebrew Scriptures, we need to remember that it often connotes the broader meaning of "rule" or "ruler."

The prophets often chided Israel's rulers for failing to act justly, reserving their harshest words for those who ignored the rights of aliens, the poor, the fatherless, and the widow.

When the word "judge" is used in the New Testament, it tends to mirror the meaning of the word in Greek culture, emphasizing judicial functions rather than overall rule.  The New Testament depicts Jesus as Judge of both the living and the dead.

Studying the Name

  1. Who are the victims of injustice the psalmist names? How are such people still victimized in the world today?
  2. What reason does the psalmist give for the brazenness of those who do evil? How does this perception of God shape our own world?
  3. Contrast the fool and the wise person as described by the psalmist.
  4. How have you experienced God's discipline in your life?
  5. Why do you think justice is often something we have to wait for?

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Meet your spiritual ancestors as they really were: Less Than Perfect: Broken Men and Women of the Bible and What We Can Learn from Them.