The Just Judge

(Please read Isaiah 11:1-5 and Acts 10:34-38.)

            A New Yorker was forced to take a day off from work to appear for a minor traffic summons. He grew increasingly restless as he waited hour after endless hour for his case to be heard.

When his name was called late in the afternoon, he stood before the judge, only to hear that court would be adjourned for the rest of the afternoon and he would have to return the next day.

“What for?!?!?” he snapped at the judge.

His honor, equally irked by a tedious day and sharp query, roared out loud: “Twenty dollars contempt of court! That’s why!”

Then, noticing the man checking his wallet, the judge relented: “That’s all right. You don’t have to pay now.”

The young man replied, “I know. But I’m just seeing if I have enough for two more words.” Read more:

A Charlotte, North Carolina man, having purchased a case of rare, very expensive cigars, insured them against …. get this …. fire. Within a month, having smoked his entire stockpile of fabulous cigars, and having yet to make a single premium payment on the policy, the man filed a claim against the insurance company. In his claim, the man stated that he had lost the cigars in “a series of small fires.”   The insurance company refused to pay, citing the obvious reason that the man had consumed the cigars in a normal fashion. The man sued … and won!! In delivering his ruling, the judge stated that since the man held a policy from the company in which it had warranted that the cigars were insurable, and also guaranteed that it would insure the cigars against fire, without defining what it considered to be “unaccep-table fire,” it was obligated to compensate the insured for his loss.

Rather than endure a lengthy and costly appeal process, the insurance company accepted the judge’s ruling and paid the man $15,000 for the rare cigars he lost in “the fires.” After the man cashed his check, however, the insurance company had him arrested… on 24 counts of arson! With his own insurance claim and testimony from the previous case being used as evidence against him, the man was convicted of intentionally burning the rare cigars and sentenced to 24 consecutive one year terms. Read more:

Examples of unjust judges and jokes about them abound.  In Scripture, one of the things God hates in injustice.  The abuse of power is a violation of the trust God and people invest in those in authority.  For example, in Leviticus 19:15, the LORD is quoted as saying, “DO NOT PERVERT JUSTICE; DO NOT SHOW PARTIALITY TO THE POOR OR FAVORITISM TO THE GREAT, BUT JUDGE YOUR NEIGHBOR FAIRLY.”

Get the Message = Isaiah predicted the Messiah would be a Just Judge; Peter announced Jesus Christ is the Just Judge.

  1. The Son of Jesse would be a Just Judge. (Isaiah 11:1-5)

CONTEXT: Isaiah has just written about how a remnant of Israel will survive all their tribulations and return to the land (ch. 10).   In chapter 11, he explains that one of the descendants of King David’s father Jesse will be the agent of saving the remnant.  In chapter 12, he pauses briefly to compose a song of praise for God’s salvation action.


As a human being, the Messiah would be an eternal version of a king in the dynasty of David (v. 1).  This is important because most of David’s descendants were lousy kings – either idolatrous or cowardly.  (This may be why Isaiah made no mention of David but jumped back to Jesse.)  The Messiah will dramatically break out of that pattern.

Isaiah used an arbroreal image to depict this prophecy of hope: A SHOOT…F/T STUMP OF JESSE.  It is a continuation of an imagery that appeared earlier in this book:  In chapter six, the burned-down forest symbolized the downfall of prideful Israel.  In chapter ten, the forest representing mighty Assyria grew up to replace Israel but was cut down. Now the imagery goes full circle as a SHOOT grows from the STUMP of the failed monarchy.

By the time Jesus was born, no king of the line of David had reigned over Judah for 600 years.  But, through Isaiah God promised that a fruitful BRANCH would grow FROM HIS ROOTS.  God worked powerfully to restore His people.

The Holy Spirit would empower His rule (v. 2).  In the Old Testament, when people do things that normal people couldn’t do, the explanation is always that the Spirit of the Lord empowered them to do it.  The prophet elaborated extensively on this point because, as we saw last week, it is crucial

– THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD WILL REST ON HIM.  (This prophecy was very literally fulfilled on the occasion of Jesus’ baptism, when the Holy Spirit, in the form of a DOVE, rested on Jesus.  Even more miraculously, a voice from heaven explained the meaning behind the event: “THIS IS MY BELOVED SON IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED.”  (See Matthew 3:17.)

(Notice that five of the six elaborations are things that occur between the ears.  This underscores the importance of the mind as the place where our life of faith is realized and sensed.)




This is summed up with a statement of the Just Judge’s character.  His would be the kind of life that makes justice possible and at the same time is a work of the Spirit = HE WILL DELIGHT IN THE FEAR OF THE LORD.  The kind of powerful but righteous individual, the perfect ruler described here, must be both divine and human.

As a divine being with perfect character, the Messiah will judge with perfect justice (vs. 3-5).  In the Old Testament, pronouncing wise judgments in court is the “acid test” of all authority, whether it is good or evil.

His godly character empowers His just judgment.  How the authorities treat the most vulnerable members of society reveals where their hearts and heads are.



Judgment is both recognition of the truth and an appropriate response: reward for the righteous AND wrath for the wicked.  Notice that it is the Just Judge’s WORDS that will accomplish this.  His judicial pronouncements have the authority to make the will of God occur.



RIGHTEOUSNESS WILL BE HIS BELT AND FAITHFULNESS THE SASH AROUND HIS WAIST.  The words BELT and SASH miss the imagery of the original language; the virtues just listed are like the undergarments of the Messiah.  When all outward appearances are stripped away, He is still righteous and faithful.  He does not go by appearances as people do, He is righteous all the way beneath outward appearances.

  1. Jesus is the Just Judge. (Acts 10:34-38)

CONTEXT: Acts 10 is an important transitional event in the history of the Church.  Peter received a vision and an experience in which God revealed that salvation is for the Gentiles as well as the Jews.  Our verses are Peter’s testimony about Jesus as he summarizes what he has learned.


The Just Judge will not show favoritism (vs. 34-35).  To the poor and oppressed, justice is equated with salvation; at last their cause will be vindicated.  PETER BEGAN TO SPEAK is a formulaic way to introduce an important address.

“I NOW REALIZE,” Peter began.  After the visions he and Cornelius had, Peter sees God at work to change his mind about the Gentiles.

“GOD DOES NOT SHOW FAVORITISM,” the word translated as FAVORITISM literally means “face-taking.”  God does not put on a smiley face for one set of people and condemn another based on arbitrary factors like nationality.

Here is a point on which Peter and Paul agreed.  In Romans 2:11 it is written, FOR GOD DOES NOT SHOW FAVORITISM.  (The context for this verse is what Paul wrote on the subject of God’s righteous judgment.)

“HE ACCEPTS MEN FROM EVERY NATION,” but NOT from every religion.  This text can’t be used to justify our culture’s indifference about religion, our studied attempt to overlook the differences or understand which faith is true.

This same point has already been revealed in Acts:

– Acts 1:8 = Jesus promised His disciples would be His witnesses “TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH.”

– Acts 2:17 = In his Pentecost sermon, Peter himself quoted the prophecy of Joel that the Spirit would be “POURED OUT ON ALL PEOPLE.”

– Acts 8:26-40 = An Ethiopian had already been saved and received baptism at Philip’s hand.

Also, prior to Jesus’ ministry, Luke 2:32 records Simeon declaring that Jesus would be “A LIGHT FOR REVELATION TO THE GENTILES AND FOR GLORY TO YOUR PEOPLE ISRAEL.”  In spite of these warnings, it required this experience to move Peter to an understanding of this revelation of God’s plan.

Persons who have made an acceptable response to God have two qualities.

– The FEAR God.  The oft-repeated teaching of the Proverbs is that FEAR OF THE LORD IS THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM.

– Because we tend to associate FEAR with negative things, this rubs us the wrong way.  BUT, it makes sense to fear God as He is our Judge.  Whether it takes the form of respect or anxiety, FEAR is a perfectly acceptable motivator to DO WHAT IS RIGHT =

In verses 36-38, we see that Jesus demonstrated He is the Just Judge.  For starters, He took the message went to Israel first: THROUGHOUT JUDEA, BEGINNING IN GALILEE; predominantly Jewish areas of the Roman Empire.  This was the plan of God, to offer salvation first to His people, and through them, to the world.

AFTER He had received THE BAPTISM JOHN PREACHED, Jesus began His public ministry.


– …do GOOD.  It’s incredible that though all Jesus ever did was good, He had to endure such opposition.

– HEALING ALL WHO WERE UNDER THE POWER OF THE DEVIL.  This explains part of the opposition He suffered.  The devil arouse opponent because Jesus delivered people from his influence.

All this was possible because GOD WAS WITH HIM.  May this be our greatest ambition, our most fervent hope.

At the height of a political corruption trial, the prosecuting attorney attacked a witness. “Isn’t it true,” he bellowed, “that you accepted five thousand dollars to compromise this case?”

The witness stared out the window, as though he hadn’t heard the question.

“Isn’t it true that you accepted five thousand dollars to compromise this case?” the lawyer repeated.

The witness still did not respond.

Finally, the judge leaned over and said, “Sir, please answer the question.”

“Oh,” the startled witness said, “I thought he was talking to you.”

Justice is not something that just happens.  It is too contrary to our sin nature and human nature, the things that dominate our thinking otherwise.  Fortunately, we have Jesus as our example as the Just Judge.  We are given the same Holy Spirit by God the Father, so we have everything we need to obey His will and exercise His will.  In the name of the One who IS Justice, let us go forth and live justly.


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