Thus says the Lord:
“For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes.”
We moderns are often intimidated by the thundering of the prophets. We wonder nervously, “Does God have to be so frequently angry in the Old Testament?” But of course, that is because we are living out an old reality: namely, that children and victims look for justice, while adults and the guilty (often the same people) look for mercy. We think the two are opposites. But really they are twins. Without justice there can be no mercy, only capriciousness. Without mercy, there can be no justice, only a sort of inexorable pagan fate or meaningless chance. The message of the prophets is that God sees and cares passionately about the widow, the orphan, and the stranger (who is all of us). He will punish sins against them. But mercy, not punishment, can still have the last word, as it did when Jesus said “Forgive them, Father.” Today, seek God’s justice and mercy.