I recently had the privilege of teaching Sunday School, and the lesson centered on the story of the bronze serpent in Numbers 21. It was the perfect illustration of God as just and the justifier, and it was exactly what I needed after our lesson two weeks before on the divine execution of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10).
There was one child in the class who exclaimed, “Why was God so hard on those people? It was just one little mistake. That’s not fair!”
Now, that exclamation stuck with me for two weeks because I had to answer it in more detail than my short time allowed. At the heart of the question was this: how can God be both just and the justifier? How can he save sinners when he must punish iniquity?