“But if you or your descendants abandon me and disobey the commands and decrees I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods, then I will uproot Israel from this land …. reject this Temple …. [and] make Israel an object of mockery….” 1 Kings 9:6-7
“…the problem that now jeopardizes the city [Jerusalem] is not a large disregard of creation. That is too cosmic for this poet [Jeremiah] or the God he speaks. The problem for biblical faith is always more concrete. When the moral shape of reality is disregarded, the crisis does not show up in some generalized way. It shows up, characteristically, as neighbor crisis…:
“Like fowlers they set a trap;
they catch human beings.
Like a cage full of birds….”
“They use and abuse and exploit because, without an ‘if,’ [see 1 Kings above] everything is possible – greed, brutality, despair, all of it, with the neighbor as target. In our stupidity, these folk do not look like neighbors that are protected by God’s ‘if.’ They look only like an inconvenience, or even a threat. And, you guessed it: this whole abusive insensitivity comes down, as it always does, to economics. it does not come down to sexuality or to purity or to private morality, but to dollar power and dollar manipulation:
“Therefore they have become great and rich,
they have grown fat and sleek,
They know no limits in deeds of wickedness;
they do not judge with justice
the cause of the orphan, to make it prosper,
and they do not defend the rights of the needy.”
…The poet makes a very quick, very large travel from the God who tames chaos (v. 22) to the crisis of drought (v. 24) to economic abuse of neighbor (vv. 26-28). In such a quick review, the poet places on God’s lips the assertion of a connection between specific neighbor care and the vast problem of chaos and order. And between the specific neighbor and the large order of the cosmos is the problem of drought and the undoing of a ‘sustainable creation.’ It is all there, all held together, in five quick verses, all an invitation for the numbed city to awaken, for those who refuse to see and to fear and to tremble [vv. 21,22].” Walter Brueggemann
Moving From Head to Heart
- If “neighbor crisis” signifies a society’s moral failure, how would measure your society?
- The prophets emphasize economic justice (“defending the rights of the needy.”) Is this important to you?
- Today, when our cities “refuse to see and to fear and to tremble” we are hardly surprised, but what about when Christian communities are “numbed?”
Abba, may we not be your foolish and senseless people.
For More: Threat of Life by Walter Brueggemann
Thanks for reading/sharing! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)