“Justice and righteousness.” Any good First Century Jew had a keen sense of these words, because they fill the pages of the OT. Let’s look at some examples, as they characterize the Messiah’s Kingdom.
Psalm 72 is captioned “of Solomon.”
(Psa 72:1-2 ESV) Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son! 2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice!
The psalmist prays that the king will rule with justice and righteousness. Meaning what?
(Psa 72:4 ESV) 4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!
(Psa 72:12-13 ESV) 12 For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. 13 He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.
Now, there are also prayers for prosperity and safety from neighboring enemies. But any king should do that. A truly righteous and just king will honor the Torah by also caring for the oppressed, the poor, the weak, and the needy.
(Jer 22:3 ESV) 3 Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.
(Eze 45:9-10 NET) “‘This is what the sovereign LORD says: Enough, you princes of Israel! Put away violence and destruction, and do what is just and right. Put an end to your evictions of my people, declares the sovereign LORD. 10 You must use just balances, a just dry measure (an ephah), and a just liquid measure (a bath).”
What are justice and righteousness? Well, protecting someone who’s been robbed, being concerned about the resident alien, the fatherless, the widow, the innocent, and having honest scales and measures.
Part of justice is plainly economic justice. It’s being fair and not cheating people, even when you won’t be caught.
But it’s not just being moral. It’s also working to help those who can’t help themselves. It’s living the way God told the Judeans while they lived in exile in Babylon —
(Jer 29:7 ESV) 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
“Seek the welfare of the city.” Not just your people, all the people who live there. Not just your family, but all the families. And pray on behalf of these people.
Remember: the other citizens of the city, as likely as not, were Babylonians. Their captors! The people who tore down Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. These are the enemy. And God tells them to seek their welfare and pray for them.
(Mat 5:44 ESV) 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you … .
This was no new teaching. Jesus just applied Jeremiah’s teachings regarding the Babylonians to the Romans. One enemy is the same as another. They may be conquerors and ruthless taxers — oppressors. The rule nonetheless remains the same, because God’s kingdom is one of righteousness and justice. It’s about becoming like God.