God of stars and stables, God of angels and shepherds, I thank You for the gift of the Christ-child.
Read Isaiah 9:18-10:4
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“He has showed all you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). We must never forget this!
God’s hand, the demonstration of his power, is outstretched not in mercy but in judgment. Condemnation is combined with the threat of punishment. Chaos will throw the brother-tribes Ephraim and Manasseh into conflict with each other. Injustice, greed and oppression will corrupt, just as the expensive vines of the vineyard (ch. 5) have been destroyed. The “woe” oracle of 10:1-4 picks up the woes of ch. 5. Israel in the north heads for disaster at the hands of Assyria, just as Judah in the south will be exiled in Babylon some 150 years later. The prophet foreshortens the timing in this poetic, prophetic vision of judgment. The seventh woe, a poignant exclamation (alas!) combines lament with threat. What more heartfelt expression could convey God’s concern for his people?
“Woes” can appear excessive, melodramatic and undeserved! But the prophets, acutely conscious of God’s holiness and righteousness, long for these to be demonstrated in Israel’s social and political life. Righteousness is measured not by how much we go to church, but by the fairness of our dealings, our curtailment of greed, and our defense of the poor. Justice in scripture is not so much an abstract idea or absolute standard of morality, but a basic responsibility to be in “right relationship” with God and neighbor. Integrity, honesty and fairness, tempered with mercy, generosity and compassion, are what are required of Israelites to live at peace within their community and model God’s standards to the nations. Often we over-individualize the Bible’s understanding of justice, without seeing its social expression, but our individual consciences alone are not sufficient; we need to think through how society treats rich and poor alike, and strive to create a just way of life for all.
What examples of social injustice should the church challenge today? How can you play a part?
Lord, I pray for Your empowerment. I can’t act justly, love mercy, or walk humbly with You unless You enable me.
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