When I read scripture, I remind myself that most of scripture (a few chapters in the Old Testament address nations that oppressed Israel) was written to people who professed to follow God and live in obedience to his commands. The Old Testament is the theological history of the nation of Israel and the promise of a Messiah. The New Testament is written to those who follow Jesus, the fulfillment of the OT promise for a Messiah.
Scripture is relevant to everyone in every time in every place. I believe God is interested in seeing belief in Jesus translate into behavior that points others to him rather than away. In my recent reading of scripture, I pondered on these two passages.
16Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. 17Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. 18“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”Isaiah 1:16-18
3This is what the Lord says: Be fair-minded and just. Do what is right! Help those who have been robbed; rescue them from their oppressors. Quit your evil deeds! Do not mistreat foreigners, orphans, and widows. Stop murdering the innocent!Jeremiah 22:3
These two passages, written hundreds of years ago to the people of Israel and Judah, remind me that my responsibilities are the same today. Speaking up for those who don’t have a voice, learning to do good and help the oppressed, fighting for the innocent — it was God’s heart then. It is God’s heart today.
As always, the promise of God is to cleanse me from whatever keeps me from his presence. He takes care of the sin problem in my life, setting me free to love others radically. I confess, I don’t always do this well. The learning curve seems quite steep at times, but my heart is willing.
How can you help the oppressed? The voice-less? The innocent? Oh that we would love and advocate for others the way God has always intended!