Once you read the history of the divided kingdoms from 930 BCE to 586 BCE, it is easy to understand the opening words of God as recorded by Isaiah (vs.2-4a).
Let the heavens hear
And let the earth listen.
For the Lord has spoken:
I have nourished children
And brought them up,
But they have rebelled against me;
The ox knows its owner,
And the ass its master’s manger,
But Israel does not care,
My people give me no thought.
You are a nation rotten to the core! Phillips Four Prophets
We must not misread verse 10 by thinking that Sodom and Gomorrah survived the fiery destruction. God is calling the two kingdoms by those dreaded names. What is happening in Israel and Judah is just as offensive to God as what was happening in S & G. In verse 21, as Phillips translates it, God skewers Jerusalem with; See what a slut the city has become.
Back to the assigned reading, we see that God is displeased with all the people’s attempts to worship God. I am sick of the burnt rams offered to me. Phillips Why? God instituted the sacrifice system, so what is the problem? The reason is; Your hands are dripping with blood. Phillips
As is always the case, God supplies the cure for the illness. Cleanse yourselves; make yourselves pure! Phillips But how? Seek justice, restrain violence, defend the right of the orphan, champion the cause of the widow. Phillips In other words, Learn to do good. Phillips
How should that look in 2019 America?
Currently, in the US, there are 2.3 million people in prison. That is one-fourth of all the world’s prisoners. Is that justice? We also detain tens of thousands of people who legally enter the US until we can be sure they will not commit crimes here. Justice?
Experts disagree on what constitutes poverty, so they also disagree on how many people live in poverty. But, nearly all agree that poverty has increased since 1960.
The Dow Jones web site gives us this detail: We estimate that there are 14,814,453 millionaires in the United States. In contrast, in 1960, there were about 80,000. Worldwide, 26 billionaires have as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population. The spread in the US has the top 1% controlling 29.5 trillion dollars and the bottom 50% controlling less than 2 billion dollars.
Even in earthly terms, that cannot be called justice.
The military in the US ranks in the top six with 5,137,000 troops to call on, or, about 15 for every 1,000 citizens. North Korea leads the world with over 7 million troops, 278/1,000. More importantly, the US is the single largest seller of weapons in the world. Depending on the details, the US accounts for one-third to one-half of all arms deals. Russia is in second place.
We still like to call ourselves a peace-loving nation, but our record belies that. In fact, on average, the US has sent troops into other countries at least once a year since 1789. We have only declared war 11 times, none since 1941.
We do not live in North Korea, China, Russia, or any other dictatorship. We live in a country where we can speak out and have some influence on the injustices that we all must accept as our own. If I remain silent, I must accept the curse for the sin.
The most popular book in China in the 1990s was, To Get Rich is Glorious. Sadly, many American Christians subscribe to that philosophy and follow misguided preachers of the notion.
Equally sad is the popular Christian notion that we must protect ourselves with the biggest and best military in the world. There are times when we are forced to fight, but to consider war as the best option for problem-solving is so far from the teachings of Jesus as to be from another world altogether.
God seeks justice. The world I see today is more unjust than ever. We live in a world of sin, and we can never pull ourselves out of sin. We will always see poverty, prisons, and war, but we can reduce those sins. We must work to at least achieve justice for one other person.
Be righteous and do good.