Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Thursday, 04 December 2008


By Jim Jordal

Those persons engaged in the worldwide fight against poverty and injustice quote the 58th chapter of the Book of Isaiah perhaps more than any other biblical reference, and rightly so. Why? Because this chapter constitutes a "values statement" about what needs to occur before God’s people can recover their greatness and assume their place in the restoration of the earth to what God originally intended.

First, God’s people need to become aware of their sin and its result. That’s why we need people with prophetic gifts to speak truth to power. Political and economic leaders must be confronted with the massive suffering caused by their misguided and power-driven policies. That’s especially true of the failed policies now driving the debacle in Iraq and the near-recession at home. Prophets, contrasted with most political advisors, tell leaders what they need to know not what they want to hear. That’s one reason why the political morass now existing in Washington has become so bad—leaders don’t hear the truth from their favor-currying advisors. It’s an old truth that you (or your nation) can’t change troublesome behavior until you know you have a problem, and you won’t know you have a problem until you reap some adverse consequences—either as a result of negative policy outcomes or from the mouths of prophets.

Second, we need to recognize that religious ritual, tradition, and even sacrifice will not substitute for obedience to God’s law. This message runs throughout Scripture—from the Mosaic Law through Christ to the Pauline epistles. It seems today as if obedience to God’s will is missing from mainline Christianity. What’s replaced obedience is the gospel of self-fulfillment, personal growth, psychological adjustment, and just plain feeling good. All this is excused through the misapplication of God’s undeserved and unmerited grace that covers a multitude of sin. Grace, as taught in Scripture (not necessarily in church doctrine), demands a response from us. It demands our respect, allegiance, and especially our obedience. Without our responsive obedience we fall into the dangerous throes of what has become known as ‘cheap grace," or the idea that grace transcends all human behavior and demands nothing but our passive acceptance. I’m sorry folks, but that’s not enough to deal with what’s happening today.

Third, God’s people must take specific actions to release people from the bondage and affliction so hated by God. It’s not right that the modern craze for free market economics should devastate native farmers in Mexico and rust-belt workers in the U.S. It’s not right that the poor should have their assets (mostly in the form of home equity) stripped away from them by the sub-prime mortgage market, which some writers are now labeling, not as an unfortunate accident, but as a deliberate criminal conspiracy to transfer wealth from common people to the upper classes. And it’s not right that the top five hedge fund managers last year made 13,000 times (yes, 13,000) what the top five military leaders did.

But what do we get from politicians in response to these pitiful situations? Excuses and "Band-Aid" reforms. For example, what will now be done to help the millions of homeowners faced with loss of most of their net worth through home foreclosure? We bailed out the big banks first, and only now is any attention being paid to the people losing their homes. Most commentators label these puny efforts as "too little, too late." So the march toward disaster continues with politics as usual and economics as always.

Fourth, the result of taking the actions required by God against injustice, deceit, and oppression will be a resurgent national vision and sense of purpose. America’s greatness will be revealed, not through awesome military power, massive national wealth, ability to explore outer space, or economic penetration of the developing world; but in renewed service aimed at the welfare of earth’s peoples. We will build bridges instead of walls, schools rather than prisons, houses rather than mega-mansions, and self-contained communities instead of massive, polluting, dehumanized metropolises.

This resurgence will be so dramatic that our nation and our political and economic systems will then be called a "Repairer of the Breach," and a "Restorer of Streets to Dwell in," as Isaiah describes in Isa. 58:12.

Isaiah also promises that "Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard" (58:8).

This sounds a lot better to me than what we now have. But it will cost something—our obedience to what God clearly commands. Not more worship, but more obedience!

Last Updated ( Thursday, 04 December 2008 )