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Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches? Nothing will remain but to cringe among the captives or fall among the slain. [Isaiah 10:1-4]
Let’s look briefly at the details.
That means that seriously bad things are predicted for you, decreed. You don’t want that. You don’t want “woe.”
The suffering caused by those who MAKE those laws and decrees is terrible. Is it the fault of the victims? Not according to this passage. DOES IT MATTER that some laws are unjust? It matters to Isaiah! Isaiah 10.Click To Tweet
I. TWO SETS OF PEOPLE
A. THOSE WHO MAKE UNJUST LAWS / OPPRESSIVE DECREES:
Here is abuse of power, 2700 years ago! It’s no new thing – and the Bible complains about it, warns strongly against it. There are always people who have power – sometimes they have a great deal of power. It is frequently misused. Also: The concern expressed here is not about legality. Are they working within the laws? Then they are (at least temporarily) legal. But they are unjust; and that is deadly for all concerned.
B. THEIR VICTIMS – WHO SUFFER UNDER THE UNJUST LAWS / OPPRESSIVE DECREES:
The poor. Widows. Orphans. Those who have rights (that is, had rights), but have lost them to the arrogant abusiveness of the rich and powerful.
II. THREE SITUATIONS
A. THE FREEDOM, POWER, AND ARROGANCE
OF THOSE WHO MAKE UNJUST LAWS / OPPRESSIVE DECREES
Power always thinks it has a great soul, and vast views, beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God’s service, when it is violating all his laws.
– early American President John Adams
B. THE SUFFERING
CAUSED BY THEIR UNJUST LAWS / OPPRESSIVE DECREES: That is, the suffering caused by those who make those laws and decrees. Is it the fault of the victims? Not according to this passage. Does it matter that some laws are unjust? Clearly it matters to this prophet!
An unjust law is no law at all.
– Martin Luther King
C. THE SUFFERING OF THE ARROGANT, THE ABUSERS
“CRINGE AMONG THE CAPTIVES OR FALL AMONG THE SLAIN” “WHERE WILL YOU LEAVE YOUR RICHES?” – the worst kind of question for the truly wealthy. That’s pretty brutal, but it really happens. This was not idle ethical or religious speculation by the prophet. It was practical ethical analysis, and direct prediction. “Woe to you.” Or, as Jesus said,
Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.
– Jesus, Luke 20:46-47
The Bible teaches this.