Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Wednesday, 27 July 2016


By Jim Jordal

 Forasmuch therefore as you trample on the poor, And take taxes from him of wheat: You have built houses of hewn stone, But you will not dwell in them. You have planted pleasant vineyards, But you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many your offenses, And how great are your sins-- You who afflict the just, Who take a bribe, And who turn aside the needy in the courts.                                     Amos 5:11-12 WEB

If you read economic reports, you’ll know that the U.S. is not an egalitarian nation with all people supposedly sharing equitably in the nation’s wealth and social benefits. The already vast gulf between the poor underclass and the wealthy powerful elite grows wider daily as the rigged political system and its economic component continue to deliver wealth earned by the people to those holding the reins of power.

Amos perceived the same problem in his country. He said the wealthy, powerful leaders trampled on the poor and took bribes for merely doing their duty. They instituted unfair taxes and turned aside the needy in the courts. With the ill-gotten proceeds they built ornate houses of hewn stone surrounded by gardens and pleasant vineyards. And only God knew the depth of their perfidy, lust, chicanery, falsehoods and arrogance.

As I’ve said before, I think the major message of the Bible is deliverance from all forms of human depravity and oppression. It’s what Jesus said about his mission in his first sermon in Luke 4. It’s what the prophets taught, and it’s the major subject of Jubilee. Yes, Jesus delivers from sin, but that’s not all. He delivers the poor and those deprived of the necessities of life. He gives sight to the blind, not only physically, but spiritually. He delivers captives enslaved by evil systems and unjust laws. He heals the brokenhearted, and delivers all those afflicted by abuse and oppression of any kind.

 Human history is replete with numerous examples of serious and continued physical and psychological torment---from Roman slaves to feudal serfs, galley slaves of the European navies, and indigenous victims of conquest and empire-building by nations driven to profit from the labor of the unfortunates they dominate. And today it’s most of humanity that cannot prosper because of unfair trade agreements and other national and corporate policies of exploitation and domination.

Both recent political conventions have been forced by public opinion into recognizing the depth of public anger against the unfair and horribly skewed distribution of wealth in the U.S. Candidate Bernie Sanders attacked it powerfully and often. So did Sen. Elizabeth Warren whenever she spoke. So did several major news articles and commentaries. The truth is out now: this country remains a democracy in name only. Power is held---not by the people---but by major corporations who have free rein to spend billions (called the exercise of free speech by Supreme Court decision) in their capturing the hearts and minds of too many national leaders.

Isaiah 65 is entitled by the translators “The Righteousness of God’s Judgment.” Among other things it says that in the New Creation promised by God the people shall not build and another inhabit because those who build houses shall dwell in them, untroubled by violence and fears of foreclosure. It also says that those who plant vineyards and tend gardens shall eat of their own produce. And it promises that workers shall enjoy the fruits of their labor, nor shall they bring forth children for trouble.

There is nothing inherently wrong with being wealthy if the wealth arises from hard work, good planning, and fair dealing, and is not used to oppress and enslave others less fortunate. But today that’s not the way it usually works. Now we find massive wealth arising from abuse of the environment, exotic financial instruments, corporate governance gone crazy, and unfair and manipulative laws.

Yes, Amos would have plenty to say had he lived today. In actuality, however, he does speak today through writings that are as relevant and vital as ever. It’s too bad that governmental leaders and many church leaders who should know better don’t heed his advice, but they will as adverse circumstances open the gates to God’s truth.