Tag Archives: justice

The Good News of the King AND the Kingdom (or “Why Do We Need Kingdom Theology?”)

kingdom

breaking news. fake news.  lots of bad news.  we are bombarded with news so much that we’ve almost become desensitized to it and are unable to let it sink in.  in the midst of all the news where is the good news?  i mean, really good news that gives us hope and really lasts?   

i believe there is good news for us that is eternal: good news of a King AND a Kingdom that does real good in our lives, even now…not just in some distant future.  

this good news is the news that the God of all life saw our situation and stepped into our world as a human named Jesus Christ, not only to save us but to unite himself to us in order to show us how to truly live and transform the world around us.    

but wait a minute, this sounds like christianity.  aren’t these the hypocritical folks who are just like the world, sometimes worse? aren’t these the folks that are so “heavenly minded they aren’t any earthly good”?  

first off, sadly, i confess, we deserve much of that scorn.  i am sorry on behalf of the american christian church (of which i am a part).  this is not people pleasing.  i think christians (or at least those who call themselves such) have actually done some real bad (most recently in turning a blind eye or even supporting politicians and policies that take from the least, the last, and the lost in our society in order to privilege the prosperous, the powerful, and the prideful).  i think there’s a reason why christians have gotten to this place of such a bad reputation.  i think at least one reason is incomplete theology (literally the study of God).  

let me explain.

our american theology has focused on Christ for our personal salvation and sexuality but at the expense of the effect Christ should have in and beyond our own lives.  in other words, paraphrasing from james chong, a theology of the good news that is focused merely on decision, individuals, and an afterlife as opposed to transformation, community, and kingdom life.  to put it most simply we’ve focused on the King (the identity of Jesus who saves individuals) at the expense of the Kingdom (the reign and impact of Jesus upon the world).   

the american church (or at least in circles i’m connected to) loves the word “gospel” (good news).  it’s good.  it’s rich.  but it has developed some blind spots.        

namely, on how the Kingdom of God informs the good news.  the Kingdom of God is not a term that some folks just happened to pick up as a fad.  it is found all throughout scripture from OT (“Kingdom” and “God” are used together at least 27x) to NT (“Kingdom” and God are used together at least 67x….and yes, even in the epistles).  

and there is an intimate relationship between the word gospel (euaggelion/euaggelizo in the original greek) and the Kingdom (basileia in the original greek).  they are used together at least 9x in the NT.    

  • Jesus proclaimed the “gospel of the kingdom” or preached the “good news of the kingdom” throughout His ministry here on earth (Matthew 4:23, Matthew 9:35, Mark 1:14, Luke 8:1, Luke 16:16).  in fact Jesus says “I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43), and that the end will not come until “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world” (Matthew 24:14).  
  • when Jesus, sends out his 12 disciples on their first mission trip guess what he sends them out to do?  “[H]e sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (Luke 9:2).  a couple verses later it says they obeyed Jesus and “they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.” (Luke 9:6).  this is a particularly interesting passage because we see that the “kingdom of God” and the “gospel” are paralleled in v. 2 and v. 6, and used interchangeably.  
  • Acts 8:12 fleshes out the key components of the gospel most explicitly when it reports a disciple beyond the 12 disciples (read: beyond those holy gurus to everyday servants) reaching out to people beyond the jewish nation (read: beyond just american citizens of the dominant in-group): But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God AND* the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” (*emphasis added)

alright, so what’s your point?

my point is any scripturally honest discussion of the gospel or good news of Jesus CANNOT be separated from the Kingdom of God.  

this is so significant because if we don’t hold both together there can be grave consequences.  

  • if we only hold onto the identity of Jesus but neglect the rule of Jesus on and through our lives, the faith of Christians can just become “easy believism” of mental assent to some truths but no actionable change in our lives or the world around us.  in this kind of view it is easy for Jesus to just be about me and my own but not for my neighbor and “the other”.  this leads to the deadly poison of tribalism and comfortable cultural christianity.  this makes a person’s faith no better than demons, who know who Jesus is (often better than us), as they do not live lives of obedience to him and his work in the world.  this is Jesus as Savior but not as Lord.  
  • on the other hand, if we only hold onto the teachings of Jesus (which we are notoriously near-sighted with) but do not continue to hold onto the person of Jesus, the faith of Christians becomes rather a faith in ourselves and setting ourselves up to be God, often putting ourselves in the place of arbiter of what teachings of Jesus we want to hold onto and which we will conveniently move aside.  in this kind of view we more readily come to believe the ends justify the means (pursuing justice at the expense of the peace-making Jesus gave to us through the cross) and so what we think is our righteous indignation may end up just being indignation.  this makes it easier for us to write people off as “ignorant bigots” or “coddled snowflakes” rather than as people made in the image of God.  this leaves no room for the grace of Jesus that empowers our lives and enfolds others in, but is rather a recipe for legalism, judgmentalism, and burnout.  we need Jesus just as much as anyone else.  this is Jesus as Lord but not as Savior.    

the result of these gaps in our theology is what i believe we are now seeing playing out in america amongst so many who claim to be christian.  

and it’s a terrible witness to the world.    

by no means am i exempting myself from this warning and so i need Jesus and all of you Jesus followers to help keep me in check that i don’t let go of either Jesus as Savior or Lord.

the good news is not just about the person of Jesus but what the reign of Jesus looks like breaking into our real world (for more on that stay tuned).   

the good news is that the King AND His Kingdom are here.  let’s join in!    

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5 Reasons We Should Defend Undocumented Immigrants as Christians

First off, what I am NOT saying is that a complete open border policy is necessarily the best way to go nor that we should blindly defend those that intend harm (as it regards immigrants, actually, the opposite is true in comparison to native born folks).  Let us consider that if a stranger came to our home most of us would first want to make sure they are not there to harm anyone.  

But what I AM saying is that once we know their intent is not harm, if we are to be good neighbors, we ought to welcome them as we would want to be welcomed (as we work toward immigration and policy reform that reflects this spirit).  i would like to submit to you 5 reasons why we should seek to defend undocumented immigrants, especially if we call ourselves followers of Jesus. :

1) Jesus challenges us to welcome the stranger as we would welcome Him (Matthew 25:35)

There is a wealth of scriptures (from the law, from the narratives, from the writings, from the prophets, from the gospels, and even from the epistles) regarding the foreigner/immigrant that would make us think we ought to err on mercy over judgement.  Jesus’ very identity is intimately tied up with the foreigner that to reject the foreigner is to reject him.  the biggest, irony is that we ourselves were foreigners (unless you’re a Jew, which i’m assuming you’re not), enemies even, to God’s chosen people but were given the grace of being included in the family of God.  To be unmerciful to the foreigner is a deep hypocrisy we must keep in check as believers in Jesus (let alone as citizens of the U.S. with it’s troubling origins. R.C.W., W.H.*).  

2) Yes, we ought to submit to the government for they have been put in place by God. However, there is ONE case that trumps that verse, which is when the law of the land goes against the law of God who is the ultimate law giver.

In the case of our 45th president and his administration, they are going against God’s commands to defend the most vulnerable of our neighbors (Deuteronomy 24:14, Zechariah 7:10, Matthew 25:31-46) and instead are insulting them and enacting laws against them.

Please understand that by dissent, I do not mean violent resistance but rather civil protest.  The early church was not a stranger to civil disobedience, when it went against God’s conscience, as many were willingly arrested and even killed for their stances.  Let us not forget, the person who wrote that verse about submitting to the government, Paul the Apostle, was in PRISON when he wrote that very verse because he would not submit to the governing authorities to be silent about his faith.  Jesus himself confronted even the establishment of the temple (read church) authorities, over their corruption with money at the expense of making a way for the marginalized to worship, and he made quite a scene about it too (one of the few times in scripture where we see Jesus ANGRY is quite telling).  

3) Yes, people ought not cut in “line” to get in to the country but this is based on the assumption there is a “line” for those who are poor.

It seems from our current immigration policy (even before no. 45) this is not the case.  As of right now, the only ways you can enter the country to become a legal permanent resident (i.e. get a green card) are:

A) employment (i.e. You are invited in by an employer, most often does not apply to “unskilled” work of those who are poor.)

B) family (You have an immediate blood relative that is a citizen or permanent resident.  However, the sponsoring family member must demonstrate that they have the financial resources above the poverty line to support these family members coming in for which there is already a limit.  And even if this is approved the process can literally take decades, especially if you are from a poor country in which case waiting is particularly a luxury you cannot afford when your survival is on the line.  For more detail on what B might look like see this article by an immigration lawyer. S.W.P.*)

C) diversity lottery (Only applies if you are from a country that does not have very many immigrants in the U.S.  This leaves out many of our poor neighbors.)

D) refugee of persecution (Under the current administration these are being pushed to be more rarely granted and even before this administration there has been a HEAVY 20 step vetting procedure ALREADY in place.  Often refugee status is dependent on the type of relationship and interest the U.S. has with a given country and does not include fleeing from home country due to famine, natural disasters, or dire economic circumstances.)

For further and more comprehensive discussion on immigration policy I have found the book Welcoming the Stranger to be immensely helpful (written by two authors: Jenny Hwang, a director of advocacy and policy of the Refugee and Immigration Program of World Relief, AND Matthew Sorens, a Board of Immigration Appeals – accredited Immigration and Citizenship Legal Counselor at World Relief).   

4) The hands of the U.S are not clean regarding their role in these very countries, crisis, and conditions that gave rise to the need to emigrate.

Specifically regarding many of our neighboring Latin American brothers and sisters, the U.S. has been involved in the violence of supporting military juntas in civil wars to drug trafficking in these countries fueled by the U.S. demand for illegal drugs to the U.S. war on drugs that went into these countries (without supporting reconstruction efforts)  to exporting gang members into these countries ill equipped to handle them (K.C.*).  

Certainly, individual responsibility is important and even in terms of governmental responsibility the U.S. is not the only ones to bear that burden. But it is morally irresponsible of the U.S. to shift blame solely on the immigrant, especially onto the children and families fleeing the violence, when the U.S. has been complicit in contributing to these issues.  It is sobering to consider that one of the few clear instances in scripture of the case for a greater weight of sin is how it is heavier upon those in leadership.  It’s not going to be easy but if we have made such a bed we must work together to sleep in it.  

 

5) The unjustified and inhumane way the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement are going after folks with NO criminal records.

According to a recent Washington post article covering raids that happened this past week, “The raids, which officials said targeted known criminals, also netted some immigrants who did not have criminal records, an apparent departure from similar enforcement waves during the Obama administration that aimed to just corral and deport those who had committed crimes.”  However, with some fact checking (thanks to Dr. Ji Son) it turns out that the actions of ICE were worse than we thought.  An analysis by the New York Times in 2014 revealed that since Obama became president, “two-thirds of the nearly two million deportation cases involve people who had committed minor infractions, including traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all.”  Although the intent of the previous administration may have been better, the devil was in the details of the local execution of these policies, with devastating (S.C.*) results.  

There is little to no due process (precisely because their status makes them vulnerable to exploitation, S.C.*) or concern for tearing them away from family to a different country (something we don’t even do to our worst criminal offenders).  Let alone, that what counts as “criminal” can change depending on jurisdiction area (S.C.*) and as such can include violations and misdemeanors (including traffic violations), and broad definitions of “aggravated felony” (which includes even “filing a false tax return”).

Let us examine any prejudice within our hearts toward the immigrant and rid ourselves of the unfounded fears and lies concerning the immigrant who contribute to our communities. We as Christians have a responsibility to stand up for the most vulnerable coming from the most vulnerable situations.  In addition to deep 2 Chronicles 7:14 prayers, here is one more way to defend the undocumented immigrant.  Jesus advocated for us when we were defenseless.  Let us be merciful as Christ has been merciful to us.  

*thank you to my friends over at the Progressive Asian American Christian group.  Although I may not agree with everything that is said in the group (as is hard to say with anyone in a group that large), you’ve provided significant insight and perspective into this issue that has been helpful.  

what is biblical justice (and why does it even matter)?

for most of my life when I heard the word “justice” i thought of people getting what they deserved…and by that I mean punishment. and what did justice have to do with social justice? at best my understanding was fuzy and at worst they were on completely different planes. i suspect i’m not the only one. in so much of popular media and movies when a protagonist metes out “justice” it usually means some shady villainous character is in for some pummeling.

but is that the flavor of the word in God’s mouth? is that what the bible has to say about justice? and why does it matter?

let’s ACTUALLY take a look at what the bible has to say about justice.

FIRST, let’s see how much the word actually comes up and presumably how important the subject is to God:

in the old testament* (*i refer to the hebrew bible or the protestant old testament, as other groups add texts that are not in the canon of either traditions)

  • in hebrew (the original language of the old testament) the word that is translated in English as justice is the word: “mishpat
  • the word mishpat is used 426 times (according to the hebrew concordance of the nasb translation) in 403 verses.
  • the word for love (as in the word used concerning how abraham loved his son Isaac, how Isaac loved rebekah, how we are commanded to love the Lord your God from deut 6:5) used in hebrew is “ahab
  • the word ahab is used 220 times in 202 verses

the word “justice” is used about twice as much as the word love.

in the new testament

  • in greek (the original language of the new testament) the word that is translated in English as justice is the world: “krisis” (we know this is the equivalent word for the hebrew word mishpat as krisis is used in the greek when matthew quotes from the old testament book of isaiah 42:3)
  • the word krisis is used 47 times in 46 verses
  • the word for cross (you know, what Jesus was hung on to die slowly of suffocation) used in greek is “stauros
  • the word stauros is used 27 times in 27 verses

the word justice is used nearly twice as much as the word for the cross (what christians use as a symbol to identify their faith).

needless to say, even from a cursory reading of bible, it is fair to say that justice is a big deal to God.

in fact, the prophet micah sums up a God honoring life in this oft quoted verse:

“he has told you, o man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

– micah 6:8

how then do we “do justice”?  what is justice in the eyes of God?

NOW THEN, let’s look again to the scripture to see how the word justice is used:

in the old testament

often times the word “mishpat” is translated in english as other words such as “judgment”, “manner”, “right”, “cause”, or “ordinance.”   if we look at just the words that are translated as the english word “justice”, what was most shocking to me was how it was actually used and to whom it was most often applied. the word is not used, mainly, toward sinister abusive people…it is used more for the most needy and vulnerable in society (just for starters see exodus 23:6, deuteronomy 10:18, psalm 82:3, ecclesiastes 5:8, isaiah 1:17. there are so many more…if you don’t believe me do a word search on justice in any bible app/website and actually read the verses in context)

wait…so we’re supposed to punish the needy, the poor, the immigrant, the orphan, the widow (which it seems is the tact that too many are actually taking in america)?

NO! it is the definition of justice as mainly having to do with punishment that is not reliable. let’s take a closer look at a passage that talks about what God means by justice in more depth.

27 “‘Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of deceit;
therefore they have become great and rich;
28 they have grown fat and sleek.
They know no bounds in deeds of evil;
they judge not with justice
the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper,
and they do not defend the rights of the needy.

29 Shall I not punish them for these things?’ declares the Lord,
‘and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?’”

– jeremiah 5:27-29

in verse 28 justice is equated with making the cause of the fatherless prosper and defending the rights of the needy.

yes, those who do not do that, especially those who maintain power by neglecting those in need, will be punished. But justice is not just punishment of evil (which, in context, is neglecting those in need) but it is the doing of good (acting on the interest of those in need). we tend to focus on the former and neglect the latter.

in fact, whenever the word justice is used in the old testament, more often in the same breath it is linked to caring for and acting on the interest of those in need.

in the new testament

speaking of former and latter things, we see this same vein of the usage of the word justice carry into the new testament as even Jesus weighs in on the issue of justice in case it wasn’t clear.

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”

– matthew 23:23

in this passage Jesus underscores the importance of justice. he even ties justice together with mercy and faithfulness (and in the parallel passage of luke 11:42, to the love of God). the luke 11 passage calls to mind the greatest commandment which are to love God and to love others. justice, then, is paralleled with loving of others.

the reason why the term “social justice” is not used in the bible is because, to God, justice and social justice are inextricably linked.

 

IN SUMMARY then, what is biblical justice and why does it matter?

Q: what is biblical justice?

A: biblical justice ≠ mere punishment

biblical justice = social justice = taking action to uplift those in need

Q: why does biblical justice matter?

A: it is the weight of the heart of God, so heavy that it encompasses love and takes Him to death on a cross

or to put it differently

The exercise of justice is joy for the righteous, but is terror to the workers of iniquity.

– proverbs 21:15

So are we living justly?

to my dear 24-year-old david (from 36-year-old david),

i know you’re in the midst of the hardest year of your life thus far.  it’s your first year of teaching…in the hood of south los angeles.  you probably don’t have much time to spare, so let’s just get right down to it.  

none of your friends or family, well meaning as they are, understand what you’re experiencing right now.  i do. because i’m you 12 years later.  your world is being turned upside down.  you’ve come from a quiet asian american middle class life.  and let’s be honest, nothing has really prepared you for this.  you are experiencing the brokenness of what poverty does to young hearts and minds on a daily basis; poverty that you didn’t even acknowledge existed right in your backyard.  you can’t escape it because it’s your job to face it and try to teach in the midst of it every day.  you are being smacked in the face with the reality that public education in the u.s. is neither equal nor fair…and most of society has turned it’s back on this corner of l.a. because it’s easier to ignore than to deal with.  you’ve never seen this sort of institutionalized dysfunction.  you’ve never experienced so much hate thrown at you.  you’ve never had to work to the point of exhaustion…not just physically but emotionally.

press in.

don’t escape.  i know it’s hard.  i know it’s hell.  but don’t give up.  these very years will be what builds in you a character of perseverance.  these very youth will be the ones that break your heart in the best kind of way to get you to really consider what matters to the heart of God.  but most of all these very experiences will be what opens your eyes to the fact that you desperately need God every day.    

press in.

yes, some of these students will ignore you, some of them will curse at you, some of them will even push you. consider that it’s not so much that they hate you personally but that they will project upon you all the pain and confusion they have experienced at the hands of adults that were supposed to care for them.  if you are going to follow your role model, Jesus, remember He loved those that didn’t love Him back well…and remember that is you, that is us.  

press in.

yes, i know you’re lonely and REALLY wish you had a girlfriend.  but think about it, is that really going to solve your problems?  if anything you’re either gonna escape HARD into this girl or you’re gonna treat her like crap because you’ve got nothing left to give or both.  no woman, no matter how awesome, is going to be in the classroom with you and give you what you need to stand in love and power in the midst of this.  only an infinite God can do that.  yes, a girlfriend’s nice (and yes she will come to you and you’ll marry her and she’ll be pretty rad) but now is not the time…there’s some inner growth in your relationship with Jesus that needs to happen before that or else you’re gonna wreck two people in the process.  and Lord knows we don’t need any more brokenness.

press in.

the work you’re doing now will prepare you for the work i’m doing now (aka the work you will be doing in the future).  this work you’re in now is going to lay the groundwork for and open doors that you’ve never even considered of God’s vision for justice; it will help you see the Word of God in a whole new light…even if i tried to explain it to you now i don’t think you’d understand or appreciate it without what you’re going to experience in the next couple of years.  with that said, i think there are a couple of things you could understand at this time.  

1) david, if you’re serious about disciple-making and leadership development you can’t do it remotely.  at least not effectively. Jesus spent TIME with his disciples and you can’t expect to walk with those you are leading if you don’t even live in the same neighborhood with them.  and that’s how leaders are developed…not just through teaching…it’s through living.  

2) lastly, you need a mentor if you’re going to mentor.  not just a mentor that reflects your experience.  have some humility to recognize you don’t know it all and you can’t do it by yourself.  you need a mentor who has experience loving and walking amongst the least of these, because that’s where you will find Jesus (Matthew 25:40).  sadly, there aren’t that many asian american men that are doing this work, so it’s not like you have a lot of choice…you’re gonna have to be mentored cross-race.  it’ll be awkward at first but don’t let your pride get in the way of your growth to learn from someone different than you.          

press in.  because Jesus did for you.  

how we silence the prophets today

back in the day no one wanted to hear what the prophets had to say. not much has changed to this day.

i’m not even talking about modern day prophets…i’m just talking about the same ol’ prophets’ we find in the bible.  i’m not even talking about nonbelievers not listening to the prophets…i’m talking about believers (since the prophets were talking to them anyway).  when was the last time you heard a message from the book of ezekiel, amos, or even malachi?

why don’t we want to listen to the prophets?  yeah, some of the things they say might be confusing.  but most of what they say is quite clear.  they tell us things that aren’t always soothing to our ears.  they point out the blind spots in our lives. they warn us of things to come if we continue the way we do.  they tell us the truth.  we should be suspect of people who only tell us what we want to hear and should pay attention to people who call us out on our junk.

so what are all the prophets basically saying?  Jesus summed it up when he said “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  the prophets were God’s mouthpiece that continually pointed us back to these two things (bc of our infidelity and our injustice).

growing up in the church, i heard a lot about the first commandment.  this is not at all to say that we’ve graduated from the first and greatest command to love Him with our whole being.  however, there was a marked absence of the fleshing out of the second commandment.  i learned we should be nice to our neighbors and that should be all good.  but upon a closer examination of the scriptures, “my neighbor” is not who i expected and how to love them was much more inconvenient than i realized.  my neighbors are the ones this world considers “the least” (those in need, those forgotten, those rejected).  to love them is costly.

Jesus said he didn’t come to abolish what the prophets had to say but to fulfill them.   yes, Jesus saved us by grace (or else we’d be screwed).  yes, we’re not saved BY good works, however we are saved TO DO good works.

to see if this new perspective i’ve been learning, of God’s concern for the marginalized, was not just my bias, last year i began to actually go through ALL the books of the prophets in the bible (16) to underline the passages concerning “the least of these.”

i’d like to compile and share them all here for reference, but most of all, in hopes that we will truly engage with God’s heart.  please feel free to let me know if i’m missing any (i’m sure i will).

ISAIAH

  • 1:17 = learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless,  plead the widow’s cause.
  • 1:23 =Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves.  Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts.  They do not bring justice to the fatherless, and the widow’s cause does not come to them.
  • 3:14-15 = 14 The Lord will enter into judgment with the elders and princes of his people: “It is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses. 15 What do you mean by crushing my people,  by grinding the face of the poor?” declares the Lord God of hosts.
  • 10:1-3 = Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
    that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey! What will you do on the day of punishment, in the ruin that will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth?
  • 11:4 = but with righteousness he shall judge the poorand decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
  • 14:30 = And the firstborn of the poor will graze, and the needy lie down in safety; but I will kill your root with famine, and your remnant it will slay.
  • 14:32 = What will one answer the messengers of the nation? “The Lord has founded Zion, and in her the afflicted of his people find refuge.”
  • 16:3 =  “Give counsel;   grant justice; make your shade like night at the height of noon; shelter the outcasts do not reveal the fugitive;
  • 25:4 = For you have been a stronghold to the poora stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall,
  • 29:19 = The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lordand the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.
  • 32:6-7 = For the fool speaks folly, and his heart is busy with iniquity, to practice ungodliness, to utter error concerning the Lordto leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied, and to deprive the thirsty of drink. As for the scoundrel—his devices are evil; he plans wicked schemes to ruin the poor with lying words, even when the plea of the needy is right.
  • 35:5-6 = Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
  • 41:17 = When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
  • 42:7 = to open the eyes that are blindto bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
  • 56:3, 8 = Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,  “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.”The Lord Godwho gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.”
  • 57:15 = For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spiritto revive the spirit of the lowlyand to revive the heart of the contrite.
  • 58:6-7 = “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
  • 58:10 = if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflictedthen shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
  • 61:1-2 = The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenheartedto proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are boundto proclaim the year of the Lord‘s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
  • 66:2 = All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LordBut this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

JEREMIAH

  • 2:34-35 = 34 Also on your skirts is found the lifeblood of the guiltless pooryou did not find them breaking in. Yet in spite of all these things 35 you say, ‘I am innocent; surely his anger has turned from me.’ Behold, I will bring you to judgment for saying, ‘I have not sinned.’
  • 5:27-29 = 27 Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; therefore they have become great and rich; 28  they have grown fat and sleek. They know no bounds in deeds of evil; they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy. 29 Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the Lord,
  • 7:5-7 = “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm,then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.
  • 22:3 = Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.
  • 22:13, 15-16 = 13 “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice, who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing and does not give him his wages…15 Do you think you are a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness?  Then it was well with him. 16 He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well. Is not this to know me? declares the Lord.
  • 34:14 = ‘At the end of seven years each of you must set free the fellow Hebrew who has been sold to you and has served you six years; you must set him free from your service.’ But your fathers did not listen to me or incline their ears to me.
  • 49:11 = Leave your fatherless children; I will keep them alive; and let your widows trust in me.”

LAMENTATION

  • 2:19 = “Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children,
    who faint for hunger at the head of every street.”*

*why was this happening?

  • 4:13 = This was for the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests, who shed in the midst of her the blood of the righteous.**

**sins of the people are seen throughout prophets.  see in particular Ezekiel 18:5-9 (for definition of a righteous person: taking care of the needy is one of the key points)

EZEKIEL

  • 16:47-49 = 47 Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways. 48 As I live, declares the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. 49 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.
  • 18:5-9 (definition of someone who is righteous) = “If a man is righteous and does what is just and right— if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of menstrual impurity, does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord God.
  • 18:12-13, 16-17 = 12 oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination, 13 lends at interest, and takes profit; shall he then live? He shall not live. He has done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself…16 does not oppress anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 17 withholds his hand from iniquity,takes no interest or profit, obeys my rules, and walks in my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live.
  • 22:29-30 = 29 The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice.30 And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.
  • 34:3-4 = You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

DANIEL

  • 4:27 = Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

HOSEA

  • 12:6-9 =

    “So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.” A merchant, in whose hands are false balances, he loves to oppressEphraim has said, “Ah, but I am rich; I have found wealth for myself; in all my labors they cannot find in me iniquity or sin.” I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt; I will again make you dwell in tents, as in the days of the appointed feast.

  • 14:3 = Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride on horses; and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy.”

JOEL

  • 3:2-3 = I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land, and have cast lots for my people, and have traded a boy for a prostitute, and have sold a girl for wine and have drunk it.

AMOS

  • 2:6-7 = Thus says the Lord“For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals—those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicteda man and his father go in to the same girlso that my holy name is profaned;
  • 3:9-10 = Proclaim to the strongholds in Ashdod and to the strongholds in the land of Egypt, and say, “Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria, and see the great tumults within her, and the oppressed in her midst.” 10 “They do not know how to do right,” declares the Lord, “those who store up violence and robbery in their strongholds.”
  • 4:1 = “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are on the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to your husbands, ‘Bring, that we may drink!’
  • 5:11-15 = 11 Therefore because you trample on the poor and you exact taxes of grain from him, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. 12 For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins—you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate. 13 Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time,  for it is an evil time.

    14 Seek good, and not evil,  that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said. 15 Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

OBADIAH

  • 1:3, 5-6 = The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, “Who will bring me down to the ground?”…If thieves came to you, if plunderers came by night— how you have been destroyed— would they not steal only enough for themselves? If grape gatherers came to you, would they not leave gleaningsHow Esau has been pillaged, his treasures sought out!*

*gleanings were the leftover crops that God commanded his people to leave for the poor

  • 1:10-11, 15 = 10 Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever. 11 On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them…15 For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head.

JONAH

  • 4:11 =  And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”*

*In the book of Nahum the prophet you will see some of the sins for which Ninevah was judged

MICAH

  • 2:1-2 = Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.
  • 6:8 = He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindnessand to walk humbly with your God?*

*biblical justice often goes hand in hand with the needy being uplifted and the oppressor being brought low

  • 6:11-12 = 11 Shall I acquit the man with wicked scales and with a bag of deceitful weights12 Your rich men are full of violence; your inhabitants speak lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.**

** wicked scales and deceitful weights assumes that someone is profiting by taking advantage of another

NAHUM

  • 2:2 = For the Lord is restoring the majesty of Jacob as the majesty of Israel, for plunderers have plundered them and ruined their branches.

*Ninevah as plunderers (those who get rich at the expense of the destruction of others)

  • 3:1 = Woe to the bloody city,  all full of lies and plunder— no end to the prey!

HABAKKUK

  • 2:6-8 = Shall not all these take up their taunt against him, with scoffing and riddles for him, and say, “Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own— for how long?—  and loads himself with pledges!” Will not your debtors suddenly arise, and those awake who will make you tremble? Then you will be spoil for them. Because you have plundered many nations, all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you, for the blood of man and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell in them.
  • 2:9-11 = “Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house, to set his nest on high, to be safe from the reach of harm! 10 You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many peoples;  you have forfeited your life. 11 For the stone will cry out from the wall, and the beam from the woodwork respond.

ZEPHANIAH 

  • 2:3 = Seek the Lord, all you humble of the landwho do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the Lord.
  • 3:1 = Woe to her who is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city!*

*oppressing assumes the oppressed

  • 3:12 = But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowlyThey shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord,
  • 3:19 = Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame and gather the outcastand I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.

HAGGAI

  • 1:4 = “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?
  • 1:9 = You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house.

ZECHARIAH

  • 7:9-12 = “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, 10 do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” 11 But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. 12 They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the Lord of hosts.

MALACHI

  • 3:5 = “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

day 14: incarnation (God as a human)

Isaiah 11:1-9; John 1:14; John 8:12

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump ofJesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear,but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.” – Isaiah 11:1-5

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” – John 8:12

the artist joan osborne once asked in a song “what if God was one of us?” God actually gave us an answer: i was and i am…his name is Jesus of nazareth. it is a wonderful and terrifying mystery that God became a human being. so it begs the next question: what was/is He like? well if we use the scriptures listed above we learn that at the very least:

1) He has insight and understanding into ALL things. His discernment goes far beyond physical sensory perception…He sees beyond appearances. He does not make decisions like men do. who really knows anything to the heart, really, except God himself?

2) He really likes being in awesome reverence of God. its strange because even though He is God, He delights in God, and reveres God. maybe this means He has a totally right view of Himself, He is at total peace with himself. who has total insight, even into themselves, and still has total respect for themselves and are at peace with it?

3) He focuses on the poor and the meek. with all this power and authority, this is who He spends time with and lives among? its preposterous…it hurts our pride…its true…precisely because men wouldn’t do that. who, having all the authority and power of the world at their disposal, would give themselves to the poor and the nobodies?

4) His words have such weight people can die from just being in its presence. forget about that dos equis most interesting man in the world…He IS The Man in the world. people are cut to the quick by His words. no one can escape them. we’ve tried to hush them up, ignore them, or get rid of them for over two millenia…they just won’t die. whose words mean anything these days…who actually sticks to them…who actually has any authority to carry them out?

5) He is righteous and faithful. who is righteous and faithful? stop. ’nuff said.

6) He is full of grace and truth. He does not lie…He cannot lie…
He only speaks and lives the truth. yet, even though He knows all the truth about all of us, He overflows with the ability to give us good when we deserve the worst. whom of us pour forth only truth and always chooses to offer grace?

7) He is the guide to life. who can make the guarantee that where they are leading is absolutely the right way? only God who walked the way Himself first.

for reflection i’ll ask the same question joan osborne asked: “…if God had a face what would it look like / and would you want to see / if seeing meant that you would have to believe…?”

thank you Lord for showing us yourself.