Hearing the Prophets on Justice: A Response

One of the assignments I have given some of my students as we discuss the writing prophets of the Old Testament is to reflect on the following:

“What might be some ways that the prophetic words about justice for the poor and foreigner in the prophets studied this week speak to specific issues today?”

Here was one of the finest answers I’ve read from any student on this (I received permission to share from the student, but have left it anonymous). I find these points cogent and pointed and hear the prophetic voice echoing in them as a call to justice and righteousness as the “branch of Jesse” who was anointed by the Spirit to set to rights all things. I can see the blessed outstretched hand nailed to a tree in both the raised fist and the embracing arm.

Student Response:

The terms mišpāt (justice) and ṣedeq (righteousness) are paired together throughout OT prophecy and are concepts that are “indicative of God’s expectations for his people with regard to every aspect of society.”1 It is also not an accident that those made “right” with God and declared “justified” before Him in passages like Luke 18:14, Romans 2:13, James 2:21-25 (among many others) are expected to have the correct attitude about their salvation which will, in turn, compel them to do good works, stop judging people who aren’t like them or who have yet to get their act together, and instead, deliver people from their oppressive situations.

In order to avoid becoming too political, I will simply share some practical examples of how twenty-first century Christians can “do” justice.

  • If we know of someone who doesn’t share our nationality, and who is being oppressed by someone else who thinks they are somehow superior, step in for them and speak up to the oppressor. Be a peacemaker and do not allow the situation to escalate any further than it already has.
  • If we know of a single mom who is struggling to get by and her child’s father isn’t doing his part, offer her child care, or to pick up her groceries when we are at the store.
  • If we have the means, pay for the education of someone who couldn’t otherwise afford a higher education.
  • Seek employment in social services positions (the injustices going on in the American family are unprecedented).
  • Become a lawyer or a judge.
  • Start a food bank (or help someone already feeding the poor).
  • Become an advocate for people in nursing homes or care centers for the disabled (they often have no one to make sure they are receiving proper care. I believe this is a blight on our society).
  • Befriend someone who has moved to the country recently. I can’t imagine how frightening it might be live in a land where I don’t know the language, culture, or how to get around. 
  • Work in a center that is giving unwed mothers options other than abortion.
  • Adopt a child.
  • Mentor the child of a single mom or dad (or any child in a home where their level of care is sub-par).
  • If we know someone who is being abused by their significant other, counsel them to get out of the relationship and find them options that will help them get out.
  • Run for political office and be the change that you would like to see happening in our government.

The list could be longer, but I’m sure that you get the idea. As in every aspect of ministry, the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few.

1. Hayes, E. R. “Justice, Righteousness.” In The IVP Bible Dictionary Series: Dictionary of the Old Testament: Prophets, edited by Mark J. Boda, and J. Gordon McConville. InterVarsity Press, 2012. https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/ivpmmwd/justice_righteousness/0?institutionId=9758.

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