15 December 2011

Isaiah 9:18 - 10:4 (Looking for justice for the poor)

"Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes,to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans our prey!" (vv. 1-2)


How powerful are the images in this passage - "They gorged on the right, but still were hungry, and they devoured on the left but were satisfied" (v. 20). To disobey God is to be ultimately unsatisfied. It is to eat food that does not nourish you; the very act of disobedience gives rise to a miserable consequence. Devouring the right is to prevent justice for the poor - it's not an individual morality of poor and foolish choices, ones that might bring us shame and embarrassment; it is the broader spectrum of human behaviour, of society based on rich people getting richer, and the denial of justice to those who can't afford its price. The very normality of such disobedience is shocking. But this is simply the way things are. Perhaps more shocking still for us to hear is that God is angry with this situation. In our wealth and power we devour the right, we eat each other, we 'devour on the left'. This is to the detriment of the powerful, so what good does it do us? "Where will you leave you wealth?" (v. 3) is the ringing cry. But there is not only this inevitable consequence of such depraved behaviour. God is also angry and implicit in this anger is the warning of judgment: "His hand is stretched out still" (v. 21). Not an easy passage to read!

To Ponder

In one way this is too hard a passage to simply ponder and think improving thoughts. This is hard to hear stuff. The challenge is to stay with it. God's out-held hand is the hand of the same loving God we know in Jesus Christ. So stay with the challenge.

Where do we 'gorge on the right and devour on the left'?

What is our response to God's anger?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Mark Wakelin

Born in Africa to missionary parents, Mark Wakelin is a Methodist minister, He was the President of the Methodist Conference 2012/2013, and before that worked for the Connexional Team, as the secretary for internal relationships. He is now the minster at Epsom Methodist Chuch.