Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Friday, 13 July 2007


By Jim Jordal

And God was angry at David's arrogant sin, so He sent the prophet Nathan to David with this parable: "There were two men living in the same city, one rich and one poor. The rich man had great wealth in the form of flocks and herds, while the poor man had nothing but one ewe lamb that was a pet of his children and was like a daughter to him. A traveler came to lodge with the rich man, who refused to kill any of his own sheep, but instead took the poor man's lamb for a feast." Upon hearing this, David became angry at the rich man, and said to Nathan, "As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die! He shall restore the lamb four-fold because he had no pity." Whereupon Nathan replied: "You are the man! God says 'I anointed you king of Israel, and delivered you from attack by Saul. I gave you everything your former master had, even the whole house of Israel and Judah. And if this were not enough, I would have given you much more.' So why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing this evil in His sight?"

2 Samuel 12:1-9 (My paraphrase)

As you may remember, the occasion for this episode was that legendary King David, possessed of great power, a newly united kingdom, uncommon courage, much wealth, and the respect of his people, spied the beautiful Bathsheba bathing upon her housetop. Lusting after her, the king used his unquestioned power to plot the death of her soldier husband in battle, then took Bathsheba for his own. But the thing greatly displeased God, who sent the prophet Nathan to rebuke the king.

The account reveals several biblical principles. The first is that God hates oppression and injustice, especially when it involves pitiless arrogance of the rich toward the poor, as evidenced by the continuing appropriation of poor persons' money and property by those who already have far too much.

The second principle is that the religious establishment has a duty to "speak truth to power," as Jim Wallis so succinctly says. Unfortunately, the prevailing practice today in many church bodies is to emphasize mainly personal salvation and Christian living to the virtual exclusion of the clear biblical message of social and economic justice.

One good thing arising from the current debate over separation of church and state is that many church leaders are awakening to the vital imperative that they, while not actively presenting candidates for office, must act to "inform the debate" (Jim Wallis again) on social and economic issues. Why? Because God says so in the thousands of prophetic utterances against societal injustice found in Scripture.

One is continually struck by the brazen arrogance of many wealthy, powerful people who seemingly have everything, yet unceasingly seek more. One thinks immediately of certain corporate CEOs who, even while presiding over the decline and even failure of their companies, often costing tens of thousands of jobs and reducing the corporate stock price to near zero, receive immense separation bonuses, known euphemistically as "golden parachutes." Or the CEO--also an elder of his church--who announced from the pulpit after the revelation of his gross misdeeds that he "hoped this situation would not detract from his Christian witness."

Do you suppose the church to which this CEO belonged had a clear ongoing message of biblical social and economic justice? I very much doubt it.

Another prophet who spoke truth to power was Elijah. When accused by wicked King Ahab of being the cause of unrest in the land, Elijah replied: "I have not troubled Israel; but thou and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and have followed Baalim" (I Kings 18:17-18, KJV). So Elijah, at the risk of his life, hit the king squarely with God's truth as to why Israel was in trouble. Too bad we don't have more Elijahs today!

One of my favorite Scripture passages is Proverbs 31:8-9, which mandates: "Open your mouth for the dumb, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy" (NASV). So who is commanded to do this? Is it just political leaders? Philosophers? Economists? Social workers? The clergy? Yes, all of these, but also everyone else who professes to be a Christian. It's all of us who are commanded to demand justice for the afflicted and needy. So why isn't this message being thundered from every pulpit in the land?

As I've said before, we have been seduced into believing that personal salvation and right living are the only messages in Scripture worthy of serious attention. But the perilous times in which we now live demand a new paradigm of action-oriented Christianity able to confront the arrogant manipulators of money with their sin, inform the political debate with God's truth, and speak truth to power with wisdom and courage..