The AMI QT devotionals from July 16-22 are provided by Cami King. Cami, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), is currently serving as a staff at Journey Community Church in Raleigh.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
“Justice for the Oppressed”
Jeremiah 21:11-14 (NRSV)
To the house of the king of Judah say: Hear the word of the Lord, 12 O house of David! Thus says the Lord: Execute justice in the morning, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed, or else my wrath will go forth like fire, and burn, with no one to quench it,
because of your evil doings. 13 See, I am against you, O inhabitant of the valley, O rock of the plain, says the Lord; you who say, “Who can come down against us, or who can enter our places of refuge?” 14 I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings, says the Lord; I will kindle a fire in its forest, and it shall devour all that is around it.
One thing clear to me throughout the witness of Scripture is that God is very serious about JUSTICE. Oftentimes, when Christians think of God’s justice, we think of it in terms of our transgressions against God. We sin against God and God’s justice requires that we atone for our sin– atonement that Jesus completed on our behalf so that we can be reconciled to God (hallelujah!). Scriptures certainly speak of justice in this way. But more often than not, the Bible speaks of justice as it relates to our dealings with one another. We do sin against God, yes, but just as both arms of the Great Commandment (to love God & love neighbor) serve as two sides of the same coin, our sins against God are linked to our sins against each other.
I often wonder if the Church is as concerned about justice as God is and in the way God is. Does what grieves God’s heart – a burden for the poor, vulnerable, exploited (v.12) – grieve our hearts as well? It’s easy to be hung up on our own personal holiness before God (which is certainly important), but the God of the Old Testament and Jesus in the Gospels more often condemned the people of Israel for a lack of justice, and a failure to deal ethically (and in love) with one another, than for a lack of personal piety.
Furthermore, God’s focus in today’s passage is on national leadership (we’ll return to this in Jer. 22). Not only are we called to justice, but our leaders are as well. Finally, this passage ends with a warning: the apparent might of the nation would not protect them from God’s judgement for their failure to do what was right – to do justice.
How important is justice to you? Do our actions toward others matter as much to you as personal holiness? Look around you today. Who are the weak, vulnerable, and oppressed in our society today? What would justice look like for them?
Prayer: Sovereign Lord, You are a God of justice, and You call Your people to be people of justice. Teach me what it means to leverage the privilege You have granted me, toward the goal of fairness for the weak, oppressed, and vulnerable around me. Break my heart for the things that break Your heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Daniel 11
Lunch Break Study
Read Matthew 23:23-24 (NRSV): “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!
Questions to Consider
- Who were the scribes and Pharisees? Why is this important?
- What was Jesus’ indictment against them?
- What are some ways that the Church today might fall into the same hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees? Are there ways you might stumble as well in your life?
- The scribes were experts in the law and the Pharisees were a Jewish sect who strictly observed the law to the letter. Together, they knew and purportedly sought to practice the law best among the people of God. // They were leaders of God’s people and they were leading them astray!
- Jesus indicted them for not only failing to understand the teachings of God but for misrepresenting them as well. They were hypocrites – the beliefs and standards they claimed did not match their behavior – and what’s worse they were guiding others to do likewise. They got hung up on details of religious rituals (which Jesus says are good), to the complete neglect of what was really important (justice and mercy and faith).
- “It is usually the case that legalists are sticklers for details, but blind to great principles. This crowd thought nothing of condemning an innocent man, yet they were afraid to enter Pilate’s judgment hall lest they be defiled (John 18:28).” (Wiersbe)
- SPECIAL NOTE (for background information on the laws to which Jesus referred): “The Mosaic Law required the Israelites to tithe grain, wine, and oil (Deut. 14:22-29). How far they had to take this was a matter of debate. Jesus did not discourage scrupulous observance of this law. He directed His condemnation to the leaders’ failure to observe more important “weightier” commands in the Law while dickering over which specific plants, spices, and seeds to tithe. He went back to Micah 6:8 for the three primary duties that God requires [justice, mercy, faith].” (Constable)
- Personal Response.
When rebuking the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23, Jesus referred to what is written in Micah 6:8 which states:
He has told you, O mortal, 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?
Spend some time reflecting on God’s call for us to do justice in the world. Meditate on the passage above from Micah 6:8. What would it look like for you to do justice in your present context? What would it look like for the church to live out God’s call for justice throughout the world?