Social Justice and the Hebrew Prophets

But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).

Social Justice is a big topic today, along with Critical Race Theory, Marxism …. A plethora of books have been written on the subject with titles like: Social Justice Jesus, Christianity and Wokeness, Christianity and Social Justice, Social Justice Goes to Church, and many others. While I have not personally be able to read many of these books in there entirety, I am struck by the timing of many of them. It appears that the more recent writings directed toward the Christian community are tailored towards addressing Marxism, Critical Race Theory, socialism in relation to Christianity set a tone that may or may not be of the mind of Christ. My prayer is that the authors sought God’s heart and wisdom on these matters. Throughout the years Christianity has been tainted by politics and cultural conflicts. Progressive Christians and Conservative Christians have diverged so much in their core values. Our faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (1 Cor. 2:5). That got me to thinking about social justice and the Hebrew prophets and what the Bible has to say. While Marxism is a false dichotomy, the issue of social justice is a concern of the Almighty as revealed by the Hebrew prophets.

A study of the Hebrew prophets provides a wealth of insight into their social world and the cultural areas they impacted. The writings of the Hebrew prophets has a particular place in history. They spoke within the social, economic, and historical context of their own time. They were primarily concerned either with current events or recent happenings in their day. Their message had influence on prophets and writers centuries after their deaths, including me. The many references to earlier prophetic speech (e.g., Jer. 26:18 quoting Mic. 3:12) or the reuse of their words in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament (e.g., Matt. 1:23 quoting Isa. 7:14; and Matt. 2:18 quoting Jer. 31:15) can be found throughout Scriptures. I also quote or reuse their words in many of my writings keeping in context that the cultural settings in their day are much different than ours. Their lives were hard, and too often dominated by environmental and political forces beyond their control.

One thing I want to point out is that the life of an average Israelite was not an easy one. Their ability to feed their families and occasionally produce a surplus for trade or as a hedge against future privations was often limited. Many people in America and other countries are facing similar impoverished conditions today. It brings to light the conditions many Ukrainians are facing at this very moment. I pray and intercede every day for God to prevail over this war on their behalf. I am reminded of a time when

I was going through a difficult financial challenge as a single mother. I didn’t understand until later that this was a season of divine testing. Psalm 66:8-12 (MSG) taught me to praise Him in whatever circumstance I found myself: ”Bless our God, O peoples! Give him a thunderous welcome! Didn’t he set us on the road to life? Didn’t he keep us out of the ditch? He trained us first, passed us like silver through refining fires, Brought us into hardscrabble country, pushed us to our very limit, Road-tested us inside and out, took us to hell and back; Finally he brought us to this well-watered place.” Road-tested!! It was indeed a hardscrabble (barren) season of testing, a meager living and other challenges that pressed my faith in God to the limit. With each test God taught me how to live by faith in Him and not shrink back “For in it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous by faith will live” (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:28). There will be difficult seasons that will challenge us to the very core of our belief, yet God is faithful to bring us through as a testament to Him.

We are facing many grave global challenges, including global climate change, wars and rumors of wars, proliferation of nuclear weapons, environmental degradation, accelerating inequity between the few who are privileged and the many who suffer in poverty, growing numbers of failed states, and the rise of authoritarian regimes in formerly democratic societies. In the face of these grave dangers, humankind needs to take wise, courageous, and visionary action to create the conditions in which all life can flourish.

The Hebrew prophets arose in a era similar with our own. A growing gap between the rich and the poor caused widespread suffering and political instability. In the face of these grave dangers, humanity needs to take wise, courageous, and visionary action to create the conditions in which all life can flourish. Flourishing comes from living by faith and finding strength in God. Psalm 92:13 says, ”Planted in the house of the LORD, They will flourish in the courtyards of our God.”

I pray for the wisdom, courage and vision I find in the Hebrew prophets for myself and all of us. It requires strength to love, wisdom and courage to face squarely the depth of injustice and oppression in the current societal order, and call out that the status quo is fundamentally immoral and cannot be maintained as is. We can become deeply discouraged and disheartened by the present chaos and upheaval. We need moral awareness to see beyond the current order and perceive profound possibilities of the moment to see justice prevail and impact the world for Christ.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Note: All Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

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