Friday, February 19, 2010

Justice in the Balance: Learning from the Prophets

By John L. McLaughlin, 216 pages.

McLaughlin examines select statements from the Old Testament prophets, reminding the reader that these teachings have meaning for us today since God demands the same justice throughout history.

Justice in the Balance starts with the basics. The prophets based their messages on God's covenant with Israel, a relationship that began with God bringing the slaves of Israel out of Egypt. Because God was not a typical God of hierarchy, as many other divinities of the time were, Yahweh was concerned with the poor and the needy. Because God called the Chosen People out of slavery, the covenant was based on an egalitarian society.

The prophets constantly called Israel back to this justice, because without such a society, the Israelites as a people or as individuals could never have a real relationship with God. Before rituals or prayer to God, they had to make things right between themselves and their neighbours, something, McLaughlin notes, we need to do today: "The challenge for us is to translate ideas like the Sabbath Year into our modern situation."

Since each short chapter focuses on a catchphrase of a given prophetic writing, readers can get to know certain prophets quite well for such a short book. Micah lived in a small village, and judged the people of Jerusalem as oppressing the rural folk, something of which the city people were unaware.

Hosea was the first in the Judeo-Christian tradition to use marriage as a metaphor for our relationship with God. He accused Israel of being unfaithful to God, since the people of the North were worshiping the fertility god Baal rather than the true God. Christianity later borrowed this idea of marriage, calling the Church the Bride of Christ.

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