A World Waiting To Be Won  

14. People Matter

14-1 People Matter || 14-2 A Feeling God || 14-3 The Personal Pleading Of The Prophets || 14-4 Passionate Preaching And Prayer

15. Hearts That Bleed

15-1 Hearts That Bleed || 15-2 The Parable of The Three Friends || 15-3 Passion For The Lost || 15-4 Loving Our Brethren || 15-5 Reaching Those Who Left Church || 15-6 The Heart Of Jesus || 15-7 The Value Of Persons || 15-8 A dehumanized world || 15-9 Grieving for others || 15-10-1 The Spirit Of Prophecy || 15-10-2 The Counter-Cultural Message Of The Hebrew Prophets || 15-10-3 Frontal Attack On Indifference || 15-10-4 The Prophetic Attack On Pride And Wealth || 15-10-5 The Prophets And Injustice || 15-10-6 The Prophetic Criticism Of Israel’s Religion || 15-10-7 The Prophetic Experience And Prophetic Consciousness


15-10-5 The Prophets And Injustice

The prophets not only reflected God’s dismay and passionate feelings, they expressed their own dismay too. Lack of justice was a major concern of the prophets. But to us, injustice may be so commonplace we don’t really worry about it too much. Given all the idolatry going on at the time of Jeremiah, we'd have expected the condition for being spared judgment at the hands of their invaders to be: 'Throw your idols away!'. But Jer. 34:11,22 offers them a reprieve if they stopped abusing their brethren. When, temporarily, the Jews ceased doing that and proclaimed liberty to their brethren- the pending judgment was put on hold. When they again abused their brethren, not giving them the "liberty" which must be afforded to all those made in God's image, then the Babylonians returned. And we need to ask whether we proclaim liberty to our brethren- or abuse them by not allowing them the basic freedom which is the dignity God allows to each of His children. It’s rather like Paul writing to the Corinthians, and firstly addressing the sin of their divisiveness. What about their drunkenness at the breaking of bread, false doctrine, idolatry, using temple prostitutes? Paul focuses firstly on the sin of their divisions. Likewise, there were a host of issues the prophets could’ve raised with Israel; but injustice is the recurring theme. Because of the injustice going on in Jerusalem, Isaiah calls her a whore (Is. 1:21). Jeremiah speaks of running to and fro in the streets of Jerusalem, searching her squares, to see if he could find a single man who did justice and wasn’t greedy (Jer. 5:1,5; 6:6,13; 8:10). Why get so ballistic because people are greedy and have no real sense of justice? Isn’t that part of the human deal, don’t we see it every single day? Yes we do. But the challenge of the prophets is to feel its’ awfulness and realize that for this, an awful judgment is coming from God. It is indeed hard to see the world from God’s perspective; but this is what the spirit of prophecy was and is all about. The prophets stood in the presence of God, and partook in His “council”, i.e. His inner circle of trusted friends (Jer. 15:19; 23:18). Note that in this and many other passages, Jeremiah isn’t hitting at the specific sin of named individuals; rather does he criticize Jewish society as a whole for allowing such injustice. Jeremiah’s running around the streets was reflective of how God was desperately and urgently in search of men who shared His Spirit, who saw what He’s really getting at.

The American Rabbi Abraham Heschel made the point that it’s inaccurate to think of men searching for God- although we hear the phrase so often, and even think we may’ve done it (1). The fact is, God is desperately searching for man; hence the ecstatic joy of God and man meeting, with all the Angels in Heaven rejoicing over ‘just’ one repentance. Heschel came out with another phrase that rambles on my mind: “God is in need of man” (2). Indeed, the prophets present Him as searching for a specific man, and finding Him in Messiah. God is searching for us, longing for us, as the father watching for the prodigal’s return. And it is this spirit / disposition of God which we are to have in our pleading outreach to humanity. We’re extending the tragic and even desperate search of God for man. Our witness can certainly not be indifferent, take-it-or-leave-it, just a bald presentation of Biblical information… there must be some heart and soul and spirit to it, reflecting none less than the searching, longing heart of God Himself. Is our testimony to Jesus in this spirit of the prophets? With whom have you talked this week? To whom have you reached out, for whom have you prayed that they might return to their God? Why not make prayer lists of people whom we desperately wish would turn to God…? And when one does turn, this spirit will lead us to do all we can to ensure he never turns away again.

God's need for man- as it were- is brought out by the parable of the lost coin. It's been suggested that the lost coin was one of the woman's dowry coins, and thus the story speaks of how every lost person is a personal and deeply felt loss to God. However, this view has been criticized in that a drachma, which had the same value as a silver denarius, was the wage paid to a worker for one day's field work (Mt. 20:1-16). It was far less than the dowry coins. It could be that instead we have here a reference to a desperately poor housewife- who certainly had no dowry money left. The poor were so poor in Palestine at the time of Christ that they were selling their land, and many had become landless labourers. They worked for money, with which they bought food. The husband went far and wide searching for work; the Lord's parable pictures labourers waiting around for work. It's been calculated that on the basis of one denarius / day as wage, even if the worker worked 300 days / year, and had four children and a wife plus himself to support, this income would only enable them to buy enough bread to provide 1400 calories / family member / day (1). This isn't enough to sustain a person's ability to do manual work. Therefore mothers and children faced malnutrition, and the women tried to grow crops on waste land and did anything for money in order to buy bread. The smiling, full cheeked, charming Mediterranean woman with dowry coins around her forehead (beloved of those Sunday School books about Bible background) just wasn't the scene that the Lord had grown up in. The woman who'd lost her coin was searching desperately for it, because that was what she'd buy the kids food with. No coin, no food, whiny, hungry, sick kids. She needed, desperately needed, that coin; so that she could feed the hungry kids whom she loved and be the de facto domestic head which she was. And this is all a picture of God's need for the lost, His need for us, because He knows the feeding which that lost one can uniquely provide to His beloved family. And one wonders of course whether the Lord's parable wasn't drawn from real life incidents in His own childhood with Mary.

God’s search for man is a repeated theme of the prophets. “Like grapes in the wilderness, I found Israel. Like the first fruit on the fig tree, I saw your fathers” (Hos. 9:10). “He found him in a desert land… He encircled him, He cared for him, He kept him as the apple of his eye” (Dt. 32:10). “I said, Here am I, here am I… I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people… I called, no one answered” (Is. 50:2; 65:1,2; 66:4). “I have found David my servant” (Ps. 89:20). So it’s not us as it were reaching out to God; He is fervently reaching out to us, and we have to come to realize that. We don’t so much as find God, as realize that He already is earnestly with us. Every man and woman is somehow a life “bound in the bundle of living in the care of the Lord” (2 Sam. 25:29). We come to realize that before we were formed in the womb, God knew us (Jer. 1:5).


(1) These calculations are made in W. Schottroff and W. Stegemann, God Of The Lowly (Maryknoll, NJ: Orbis, 1984) pp. 129-135.