Today at services we had two messages that meshed well with each other. As I was the slightly hobbled songleader for Sabbath services this afternoon, it was my pleasure to thank both of the speakers after their excellent messages. Of particular interest to me was the sermonette, which was given by one of our younger speakers, dealing with some of the attributes of a just man in the Bible, and drawing worthwhile conclusions and applications from three short examples that he shared. Since the speaker said there were about eight examples that could be found in the Bible where someone was called a just man, I thought it would be worthwhile to do, as I sometimes do  and extend a message that has to be short because of its time constraints and reflect on the qualities that the Bible associates with being a just man.
Let us therefore first note the passages that describe someone as just and give some sort of attributes or context to what makes them just. We have, for example, Noah, spoken of in Genesis 6:9: This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.” There is the negative example of the absence of a just man in Ecclesiastes 7:20: “For there is not a just man on earth who does good And does not sin.” This matches well with what is said in Ezekiel 18:5: “But if a man is just And does what is lawful and right…” There is the example of Joseph in Matthew 1:19: “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.” There is the discussion by Pilate’s wife of Jesus as a just man in Matthew 27:19: “While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.”” There is the discussion of John the Baptist in Mark 6:20: “for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.” There is the discussion of Simeon in Luke 2:25: “And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” After this comes the discussion of Joseph of Arimathea, of whom it is said in Luke 23:50: “Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member, a good and just man.” Of Cornelius it was said in Acts 10:22: “And they said, “Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you.””
Putting all of these references together, we have a good sense of what the Bible means when it calls someone a just man. It should be noted that while Noah is the only person labeled specifically as a just man in those terms in the Hebrew scriptures that quite a few people are labeled that way in the New Testament. Additionally, it should be noted as well that both Ecclesiastes and Ezekiel agree that obedience to God is the essential element in being a just man, and at the time Ecclesiastes was written no one had been perfectly obedient to God and therefore perfectly just. Nonetheless, the other passages include what makes someone a just man, including walking with God, waiting on God, fearing God, and making actions that are unpopular but kind to those who could easily be piled on and unjustly maligned who are the subject of rumors and hatred by the powerful. At times, being a just man makes others suffer, especially if that person is connected with injustice, as was the case with Pilate’s wife. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Jesus Christ is labeled by the Bible as a just man in association with quite a few just men, including his stepfather Joseph, his relative Joseph of Arimathea, his cousin John the Baptist, and Simeon, who saw him as a baby in the temple.
Given all of this, what would it take for us to be just? The Bible gives us two paths to follow, and unsurprisingly they relate to the two great commandments. On the one hand, being just involves our obedience to God and our walking with God and following His ways. To the extent that we live our lives in obedience to God’s commandments, laws, and judgments, we are just people. To the extent that we rebel against God, we are unjust by definition. That said, there is clearly an aspect of justice that involves our relationship with other people, and here what is said is very interesting, namely that justice involves our showing kindness when it would be popular to show unkindness to others. This obviously would suggest a drastic change for many of us in the way we behave towards others. How many of us are willing to do the kind thing that is the right thing when it is so easy to behave cruelly towards others?
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