Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Thursday, 11 December 2008


by Jim Jordal

The Lord stands up to plead,

And stands to judge the people.

The Lord will enter into judgment

With the elders of His people

And His princes;

For you have eaten up the vineyard;

The plunder of the poor is in your houses.

What do you mean by crushing My people

And grinding the faces of the poor?

Says the Lord God of hosts.

Isaiah 3:13-15 (NKJV)

Note: Today we begin a several-part discussion of the above charge by the prophet Isaiah against the mainly economic sufferings of his people at the hands of their leaders. We will compare the situation then with world conditions today, giving special attention to the U.S. We will also suggest ways—mainly biblical—that our situation could be improved.

Some 2770 years ago the prophet Isaiah wrote this scathing denunciation of the oppressions practiced by political and economic leaders against the working people of his nation. However, he could just as well be referring to the world today because in many respects he foresaw the tearing economic injustices so prevalent in modern society.

But first let’s define what Isaiah called God’s people, and what we today might call the middle class. Isaiah spoke, not for the rich and powerful, but for the poor and powerless—those artisans, workers, vine dressers, small merchants and others who worked for a living, and did not live, as the upper classes did, on the work of others. Similarly, we might define the middle class today as working people of moderate means who have almost no ability (now that labor unions have become so ineffective) to control their status as victims of political and economic decisions made by the power structure.

To begin, Isaiah laid the responsibility for his litany of disasters upon the "elders" and "princes" of the people, meaning the political, economic, religious, and social leaders of the nation. By virtue of their positions in the religious and social hierarchy these people had power to exert their will upon the masses. In defense of their oppressions they did what domination systems always do: justify their actions as necessary to internal stability, persuade the people that whatever injustice occurs is for their own good, and attempt to achieve legitimacy through manipulation of compliant religious systems. Today we’ve further refined the methods of defense by blaming the supposedly dysfunctional behaviors of the poor and middle classes for their poverty and suffering, rather than the powerful persons and groups making the decisions. (As I’ve mentioned before, only about 30 of the about 2,000 verses on poverty in the Bible blame the poor for their plight. The remainder identify systems manipulated by the rich and powerful for their own benefit as the cause of oppression).

One of the psychological imponderables of the present political situation is why the suffering poor and middle classes so often vociferously support the system that keeps them continuously on the margins of existence—a few paychecks away from disaster. It doesn’t make sense, but it happens because the country’s elite have successfully persuaded those it discards that they deserve their fate and cannot in any meaningful way change the outcomes of their lives. Thus they become depersonalized, disheartened victims.

Writing a few years earlier the prophet Amos also catalogued these same evils when he charged the nation’s leaders with oppressing and crushing the poor and needy, withholding justice from the poor, and not caring about the suffering caused by their actions. Amos also castigated the elite of his nation as "not grieved for the affliction of Joseph," meaning they were unconcerned for the sufferings of people other than themselves.

Do you see any evidence today that members of the power elite earning hundreds of millions per year and having wealth counted in the billions exhibit any concern for those being destroyed by their machinations? Oh, yes, they give to charity and, as the Pharisees of Christ’s day did, make sure their generosity is well known. But you don’t see them—except for a few of the more enlightened and socially aware--advocating for the poor by demanding changes in the laws and policies that uphold the rich and oppress the poor. As the prophet Jeremiah lamented concerning the ways of the leaders of his nation: "You [God] are near in their mouth but far from their reins." They speak of faith in God, but do not advocate His ways.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1978, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



Last Updated ( Thursday, 11 December 2008 )