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).
- 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, 2 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! 3 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 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.
- 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 poor, a 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 Lord, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.
- 32:6-7 = 6 For the fool speaks folly, and his heart is busy with iniquity, to practice ungodliness, to utter error concerning the Lord, to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied, and to deprive the thirsty of drink. 7 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 = 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6 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 blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
- 56:3, 8 = 3 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.”…8 The Lord God, who 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 spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.
- 58:6-7 = 6 “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? 7 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 afflicted, then 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 brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to 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 Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.
- 2:34-35 = 34 Also on your skirts is found the lifeblood of the guiltless poor; you 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 = 5 “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, 6 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,7 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.”
- 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)
- 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) = 5 “If a man is righteous and does what is just and right— 6 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, 7 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, 8 does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, 9 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 = 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4 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.
- 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.”
- 12:6-9 =
6 “So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.” 7 A merchant, in whose hands are false balances, he loves to oppress. 8 Ephraim 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.” 9 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.”
- 3:2-3 = 2 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, 3 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.
- 2:6-7 = 6 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—7 those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicted; a man and his father go in to the same girl, so that my holy name is profaned;
- 3:9-10 = 9 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.
- 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?”…5 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 gleanings? 6 How 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.
- 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
- 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. 2 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 kindness, and 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 weights? 12 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
- 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!
- 2:6-8 = 6 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!” 7 Will not your debtors suddenly arise, and those awake who will make you tremble? Then you will be spoil for them. 8 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 = 9 “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.
- 2:3 = Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who 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 lowly. They 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 outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.
- 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.
- 7:9-12 = 9 “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.
- 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.