Psalm 40, 51, 54
Zechariah 7:8 – 8:8
Zechariah’s directions in verses 9 – 12 reflect a common social ethic found in various other prophets. Isaiah, Malachi, and Amos are just some of the prophets who share an admonition to “Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.” None of this is far off from the commandment Jesus cited to “Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Unfortunately too many headlines concerning the Church today reflect the verse that follows, “But they refused to listen, and turned a stubborn shoulder, and stopped their ears in order not to hear.”
The directions come in three parts:
1) Render true judgments. We must be honest and when judgment is called for, we are obligated to follow God’s law in making it – and very little in God’s law allows us to judge. How many times in this season has He reminded us that He will judge? We are to continue doing the directions in part two and really leave the judgment to Him. Our responsibility is to show kindness and mercy to each other, which may be harder than rendering a true judgment.
2) Do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor. In the time of the prophets (and Jesus) these were the lowest on the social rung and ripe for being used for the advantage of those higher up the social scale. Oppress means to burden with cruel or unjust impositions or restraints. Placing such unjust impositions could translate into them becoming slaves for those with means or it could just condemn them to continually being kept in the meanest state.
3) Finally the direction not to “devise evil in your hearts” remains open to so many things. From coveting those things that belong to your neighbor to seeking ways to make the person experience loss, devising evil could be interpreted as anything opposite of showing kindness and mercy to one another.
As we see in the remainder of the passage and throughout the Psalms of the day. God takes matters into his hands when we do not do as directed. The Israelites were shown time and time again through conquering armies that God is just, and in his forgiveness he returned them to nationhood repeatedly.
We, like the Israelites, cannot afford to ignore the commands about caring for one another. As we prepare our hearts for the season of his coming, let us also open our hearts with care and concern for others facing struggles we may never imagine.