Listen to this message from God, O King of Judah, sitting on David’s throne; and let your servants and your people listen too. The Lord says, “Be fair-minded. Do what is right! Help those in need of justice! Quit your evil deeds! Protect the rights of aliens and immigrants, orphans and widows; stop murdering the innocent! If you put an end to all these terrible deeds you are doing, then I will deliver this nation and once more give kings to sit on David’s throne, and there shall be prosperity for all.”
And woe to you King Jehoiachin, for you are building your great palace with forced labor (slave labor). By not paying wages you are building injustice into its walls, and oppression into its doorframes and ceilings….Why did your father Josiah reign so long? Because he was just and fair in all his dealings. That is why the Lord blessed him. He saw to it that justice and help were given the poor and needy and all went well for him. This is how a man lives close to God. Jeremiah 22:2-4, 13, 15-16 (TLB)
Please refer to my previous post (part 1).
The second major point that I see in the Book of Jeremiah (as with nearly all the major and minor prophets) is the tremendous emphasis on “social justice.” I know that is a loaded term now days, but the above verses put it in context. One cannot get away from this clarion call that God wants his people and their leaders to “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) The problem I see is that some isolate justice issues and empty them of their spiritual dimension. In the same way, others isolate the spiritual from social realities—separating out walking humbly with God from doing justice and loving mercy.
Israel was punished by God because of idolatry; they broke the first and second commandments and all of their other grievous sins as outlined in the passages above flowed out of this. “Idolatry isn’t just one of many sins; rather it’s the greatest sin that all others come from….Idolatry isn’t an issue; it is the issue.” (Kyle Idleman) Read Ezekiel 20 and see that the history of Israel was a history of idolatry.
The “social justice issues” raised in the passages above illustrate this. Protecting the rights of the most vulnerable, providing justice for the oppressed, paying fair wages, etc., flow from knowing and worshipping the true God and bestowing honor and dignity upon all those whom he has created. Replacing the knowledge and worship of the true God with idolatry (like King Jehoiachin and Israel had done) exposed the social order to injustice and removed the protective shield of ultimate value of the individual that worship of the true God alone provides.
Paul’s graphic portrayal of idolatry in Romans 1:21-32 clearly reveals the connection between the refusal to believe in the Creator God, the worship of created things (idolatry), and all forms of consequences which plague our world, our society, our families, and our own personal lives today. When we exchange the truth of God for a lie, we believe the lie and live our lives any way we choose, often to our own self-destruction. We also give ultimate value to issues that we deem most important such as freedom, nationalism, institutional racism, social justice, immigration, reparations. We worship these idols and they drive us to actions where the end often justify the means—like an attack on the Capitol. When you have a god before God it can lead to a toxic and self-destructive springboard to all kinds of havoc and injustice.
“Racism, therefore, is not merely horizontally unjust, depriving other creatures of what they are due; it is also vertically unjust, failing to give the Creator his due by making race and ultimate issue of devotion….Look deep enough underneath any horizontal human-against-human injustice and you will always find a vertical human-against-God injustice, a refusal to give the Creator the worship only the Creator is due.All injustice is a violation of the first commandment” (Thaddeus Williams, “Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth.” p 18)
The Black church was at the center of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s-60s. Many of its most prominent leaders were empowered by the belief that all humanity was the children of God to be treated with justice, kindness, and equality—because God gave them that dignity. As long as we fail to recognize that all injustice is a deeply spiritual issue (“a violation of the first commandment”), we will never have a unified platform from which to solve the multiplex of social justice issues facing us today. Instead, we will divide ourselves into tribes, declare war on other tribes, and arrive at solutions that only satisfy our tribe and the gods we worship. Our nation needs revival if it is to have unity!