“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. For if you will indeed obey this word, then there shall enter the gates of this house kings who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their servants and their people. But if you will not obey these words, I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that this house shall become a desolation.” – Jeremiah 22:3-5
I love the old testament prophets. In American Christendom, we all too often hear “warnings” about this or that direction of the country and this or that consequence from well-dressed, well-groomed preachers who almost have a wry look of “I hope you choose wrong so I get to say ‘I told you so.'” Not that I have anything against well-dressed or well-groomed preachers, but somehow the image does not fit with the prophets of old, including Jeremiah.
A few chapters earlier Jeremiah unleashed a lament on the Lord about how he didn’t want to prophesy anymore because the Lord only ever gave him bad things to say. But, when he refused to speak, there was “fire in his bones” and he had to let it out. He was an unwilling messenger of doom. Israel had run afoul of the Lord through misbehavior toward its fellow men (which we will cover momentarily) and the king of Babylon was on his way to exact revenge on behalf of the Lord God. This was not a message Jeremiah relished in delivering. But, open rebuke is better than secret love (Proverbs 27:5), and Jeremiah soldiered on.
And what was Jeremiah’s call to righteousness? Was there a 17-part plan to restore dignity? Was there wrangling over minutiae of the law or public policy? No, it was rather simple: do justice and righteousness, deliver the victims of robbery, don’t be unjust or violent toward the resident alien, widow, or fatherless, and do not shed innocent blood. That’s it folks. Do these things and the reign of the kings of Judah would be secure – don’t do them and desolation is on the way.
This seems like a pretty good list. I wonder how we’re doing, as a country.
Victims of robbery. This week the story broke that eight arrests have been made in Bell California in conjunction with corruption on the city council. For those not aware, the city council (and someone called a “city manager”) were making massive 6-figure salaries (around $800,000 for the manager) – that they had appropriated for themselves. They used city funds to repay personal loans, sold property to the city for significantly more than market value, and otherwise robbed the people of Bell. I would say this is the tip of the iceberg, but that doesn’t even come close. Around 10% of an iceberg’s mass is above water, owing to the greater density of water in liquid form. The highway robbery in Bell is an infinitesimal fraction of the actual theft going on in this country.
Politicians using taxpayer funds as personal piggy banks is nothing new. Some are slick enough to “launder” the money by taking direct bribes and then using taxpayer money to award bloated contracts to the bribers. Either way though, the citizenry is being robbed blind by the political class. This must stop. The country cannot go on like this.
Resident Aliens. It’s not at all clear to me that there is any major Biblical delineation with regards to legal versus illegal immigration. I’ll defer to somebody with more of a scholarly background to address that. What is fairly clear is that the resident alien doesn’t always get too warm of a welcome here.
Now, my conservative friends have some points to argue here – folks are coming across the border and soaking up all the freebies given away by an over-sized government bureaucracy, making an unsustainable trend. Agreed – but the problem is the bureaucracy, not the aliens. I personally support a secure boarder and a radically more open immigration policy.
Regardless of where you fall on the immigration debate, violence and injustice against the resident alien must stop. These people often feel that they’re “outside the law” and have nowhere to turn when oppressed (for fear of deportation). “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” – MLK.
Widow. Largely, widowhood isn’t as much of a victim class as it used to be. Oh, it still happens that somebody takes advantage of a widow now and again – and utterly disdainful and perverse act – but nowhere near like it was in the Old Testament days, or in other countries in our world (see India, for example).
Fatherless. As for the fatherless, I’d say we still have some work to do. The foster-care system, designed as a stop-gap for the orphans, has some cracks. There are those bad cases of foster-care parents just in it to collect a paycheck – unable or unwilling to care for their charges. The Lord has always made clear His intents regarding those, like the fatherless, who don’t have someone to stand for them.
Shedding innocent blood. You know well my thoughts on the innocent ones that die without cause in this country. The horror of genocide. Innocent blood. Innocent blood.
Simple warnings – not easy warnings – but simple. Our nation would doubtless be stronger and more blessed were we to heed these warnings.