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Temper and Justice


Is it correct to say that Jehovah's mercy tempers his justice?

Although this expression has been used, it is best to avoid it since it seems to imply that Jehovah's mercy softens or restrains his justice, as if his mercy were superior to the harsher quality of justice. This is not correct.

Jehovah is a God of both justice and mercy. (Exodus 34:6, 7; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 145:9) His justice and his mercy are both perfect, and they work together harmoniously. (Psalm 116:5; Hosea 2:19) Both qualities perfectly balance or complement each other. Hence, if we were to say that Jehovah's mercy tempered his justice, we would also have to say that his justice tempered his mercy.

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1965 July 1 p.415 Tempering Justice with Mercy

As during Noah's day when Jehovah tempered his justice by deferring execution for 120 years, so today he tempers his justice by deferring his war, called "the war of the great day of God the Almighty." (Rev. 16:14) Since 1918, he has shown undeserved kindness toward disobedient mankind by holding back his executional forces in the heavens in order that some "flesh would be saved."

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1997 December 1 pp.10-11 Jehovah, a God "Ready to Forgive"

Why Is Jehovah "Ready to Forgive"?

4 We read: "As far off as the sunrise is from the sunset, so far off from us he has put our transgressions. As a father shows mercy to his sons, Jehovah has shown mercy to those fearing him." Why is Jehovah disposed to show mercy? The next verse answers: "For he himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust." (Psalm 103:12-14) Yes, Jehovah does not forget that we are creatures of dust, having frailties, or weaknesses, as a result of imperfection. The expression that he knows "the formation of us" reminds us that the Bible likens Jehovah to a potter and us to the vessels he forms. (Jeremiah 18:2-6) A potter handles his clay vessels firmly yet delicately, ever mindful of their nature. So, too, Jehovah, the Great Potter, tempers his dealings with us according to the frailty of our sinful nature.—Compare 2 Corinthians 4:7.

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1965 July 1 pp.413-4 Tempering Justice with Mercy

Tempering Justice with Mercy

IN THE shop of an apothecary there usually is a set of balance scales that is capable of weighing very small amounts of fine powder. A standard weight is placed on one pan and powder is put on the other one until there is enough powder to balance the weight. Justice is like that scale. When a person's actions are compared with a specific law and they do not balance out because he has been disobedient to that law, justice requires that he be punished. This action balances the scales of justice. But should the rendering of justice be limited to the cold balancing of matters?

The great God of the universe has given mankind good laws, and from time to time he has had to balance the scales of justice by punishing those who violate those laws. In so doing, however, he warms up cold justice and tempers it with kindness and mercy. A representing angel said of him: "Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth." (Ex. 34:6) Such are the gracious qualities he puts into the scales of justice.

When one violates God's law, thus throwing off balance the scales of divine justice, action must be taken to right matters. Strict justice calls for punishment to the full extent specified by the law. However, when heartfelt repentance is shown on the part of the wrongdoer, mercy can be extended. Such mercy is not something that God owes to one who violates His law; it is an undeserved kindness, but the sincere repentance of the sinner provides a basis for mercy to be shown. As a result there may be a lessening of the punishment administered. In the case of King David, the sentence of death was not carried out on him when he sinned with Uriah's wife because of his sincere repentance. "David now said to Nathan: 'I have sinned against Jehovah.' At this Nathan said to David: 'Jehovah, in turn, does let your sin pass by. You will not die.'" (2 Sam. 12:13) But he was punished by losing his infant son by Bathsheba.

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1955 July 15 pp.421 How Bible Principles Apply to Your Life

The instructions about child training? The responsibility is upon the parents to train the children in the right way. "Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it." Proper parental authority must be exercised: "Withhold not correction from the child; for if thou beat him with the rod, he will not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from Sheol." However, this should never be in anger, just to ease the parent's emotions, but should be tempered with mercy, justice and love, and should be consistent, just as Jehovah tempers his discipline with mercy, justice and love and is always consistent. To parents who themselves set the right example, and who properly discharge this obligation, delinquency is no problem.—Prov. 22:6; 23:13, 14, A .

[Emphasis Added]

Watchtower 1952 August 15 pp.489-90 In the Image and Likeness of God

God's law in Israel stipulated regular provision for the poor, and not on the basis of favors in return, either. (Ex. 23:11) Furthermore, Jehovah tempers his absolute justice with undeserved kindness, something for which modern man has no parallel in his merciless international dealings. Were it not for this mercy none of us would have been born following the rebellion of Adam. But this does not require God to simply overlook this fallen world's travesty on justice, as he shows by the warning to Israel when guilty of the same:

[Emphasis Added]

Our Problems (brochure, 1990) p.28 Our Problems—Who Will Help Us Solve Them?

The Bible tells us that our problems started when the first human pair that God created misused their free will and chose to disobey God's wise instructions. God had warned them of the punishment for doing so—loss of perfection, loss of their Paradise home, and loss of their right to continue to live on earth forever. God justly enforced his laws. This left their offspring crying, as it were, because of their great loss. But because God tempers his justice with love, he arranged to give humans the chance to regain what the first pair had lost. Like the kind gentleman in the illustration, God provided the exact price of what had been lost. He did this by sending his own spirit son from heaven to be born on earth as a human known as Jesus Christ. When Jesus willingly sacrificed his perfect human life, which was equal to the life that the first man, Adam, had forfeited, and presented the value to God, then that price could be used to buy back for humankind what had been lost, namely, perfect life forever on a paradise earth.

[Emphasis Added]

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