God’s Social Concern

The Bible, as a book, has always been millenniums ahead of its time. An example is the area of social concern. Incredible.

Throughout history it has been the oppressed and disadvantaged that have championed social activism, social concern, social justice. But what we find in Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Jeremiah is very different. The Greatest, most abundant Being in the universe pushes for, and even requires social concern, including meeting the physical needs of foreigners and locals alike.

Terms of the Covenant

The Bible tells us that God founded a nation and he set it up with laws for its operation. Built into the law-code are instructions for all Israelis to provide for all the disadvantaged.

“You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. You must not exploit a widow or an orphan. If you exploit them in any way and they cry out to me, then I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will blaze against you.” Exo. 22:21-24.

This advanced code of social justice is not based on a sociological view of fairness or equality. It is based on a highly superior basis – the very nature of the Creator Himself.

“For the LORD your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed. He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. So you, too, must show love to foreigners.” Deut. 10:17-19.

Obedience to the Lord’s law involved active, intentional helping of all needy people.

“But if there are any poor Israelites in your towns when you arrive in the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight fisted toward them … Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do. There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need”. Due. 15:7, 10-11.

“When you are harvesting your crops and forget to bring in a bundle of grain from your field, don’t go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. Then the LORD your God will bless you in all you do. When you beat the olives from your olive trees, don’t go over the boughs twice. Leave the remaining olives for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. When you gather the grapes in your vineyard, don’t glean the vines after they are picked. Leave the remaining grapes for the foreigners, orphans, and widows.” Due. 24:19-21.

“Every third year you must offer a special tithe of your crops. In this year of the special tithe you must give your tithes to the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows, so that they will have enough to eat in your towns. Then you must declare in the presence of the LORD your God, ‘I have taken the sacred gift from my house and have given it to the Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows, just as you commanded me. I have not violated or forgotten any of your commands.” Due. 26:12-13.

The Enforcer

Jeremiah, like all the legitimate prophets before and after, was an enforcer of this Covenant. The Covenant between the Lord and his people. And he was most certainly a defender of the disadvantaged: The widows and orphans and foreigners and poor.

Here is what he told all the people:

“But I will be merciful only if you stop your evil thoughts and deeds and start treating each other with justice; only if you stop exploiting foreigners, orphans, and widows; only if you stop your murdering; and only if you stop harming yourselves by worshiping idols. Then I will let you stay in this land that I gave to your ancestors to keep forever.” Jer. 7:5-7.

This is what he told kings:

“This is what the LORD says: Be fair-minded and just. Do what is right! Help those who have been robbed; rescue them from their oppressors. Quit your evil deeds! Do not mistreat foreigners, orphans, and widows. Stop murdering the innocent! If you obey me, there will always be a descendant of David sitting on the throne here in Jerusalem.” Jer. 22:3-4.

And in his message to the kings he linked social activism for the disadvantaged to something very great indeed:

“But a beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king! Your father, Josiah, also had plenty to eat and drink. But he was just and right in all his dealings. That is why God blessed him. He gave justice and help to the poor and needy, and everything went well for him. Isn’t that what it means to know me? says the LORD.” Jer. 22:15-16.

Spokesperson’s Platform

God’s spokesperson definitely used his platform to promote social change: to help the poor, orphans, widows, slaves and foreigners:

“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the LORD who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the LORD, have spoken!” 9:23-24.

The way things are stated here, we could almost say that justice is God’s “middle name.”

No Recluse

Jeremiah was no recluse. His upbringing as a priest, and his calling to be a prophet, rules out such behavior. His business, his focus, his attention was people.

Yes. He was commanded to not marry (16:1-4). He was forced to stay away from funeral gatherings (16:5-7) and happy feasts (16:8-9). The Lord had specific reasons for this,[1] but it may have given him a reputation as uncaring and self-absorbed.[2]  His writing and his prayers, however, show otherwise (4:19, 8:18, 9:1,[3] 13:17,[4] 14:17, 23:9).

Jeremiah functioned amidst political turmoil, religious delusion, social unrest, severe injustice,[5] and wide-spread fear and suspicion. Rather than going “high brow” and judgmental, he did the opposite and identified with the people on all levels.[6]

Five different kings warmed the throne during his time of service. Two foreign powers invaded, deposed kings, and imposed taxes on their vassal state. And things got worse. The events surrounding Jeremiah’s lifetime formed one continuous downward spiral. His first assignment was to scour the streets of Jerusalem to find one honest person (5:1); he came up empty-handed.  For 40 years he fought with all his wisdom and strength to avert Judah and Jerusalem from destruction. But his efforts were not enough (25:3; 32:1-5), due to the impetulance of his people (32:30-31).  He wept and grieved not for himself, but for his beloved people.


[1] His life was to be a living picture of the severity of God’s deserved anger. Jeremiah was told the reasons behind the restrictions. The people were digging their own graves and the Lord wanted them to see this and change their ways. He had better plans for them but they were refusing to cooperate (16:12-18).

[2] Us modern people probably can’t understand the full burden and strain these restrictions caused him.

[3] In the next verse Jeremiah vents the feelings that could drive him away from society, but he did not act on it.

[4] “And if you still refuse to listen, I will weep alone because of your pride. My eyes will overflow with tears, because the Lord’s flock will be led away into exile.” 13:17.

[5] One example: The laws God gave his people called for mercy and justice. Those who went bankrupt would indenture themselves to a wealthy person. They served in a slave-like capacity, but this situation could only last a maximum of 6 years, because every sabbath (7th) year, slaves were to be freed with pay (Exo. 21:2, Deu. 15:2). But the wealthy of Jeremiah’s days refused to do so, and no leaders enforced it. (34:13-16).

[6] “My grief is beyond healing; my heart is broken. Listen to the weeping of my people; it can be heard all across the land. ‘Has the Lord abandoned Jerusalem?’ the people ask. ‘Is her King no longer there?’” “I hurt with the hurt of my people. I mourn and am overcome with grief… Why is there no healing for the wounds of my people?” 8:18-19, 21-22.