Woe to the city of blood,
full of lies,
full of plunder,
never without victims!
Woe to those who profit from others. Oppression and justice is such a huge theme throughout the prophets and the old testament. Last night at church we learned about fasting, and we read this verse about true fasting. “Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice…Is it not to share your food with the hungry…Then your light will break forth like the dawn. ..then your righteousness will go before you…The Lord will guide you always.” (Isa 58)
I have been exploring the idea of light and its connection to righteousness. So much of being righteous has to do with helping others. So much of being right with God starts with doing right to others. So much of sin has to do with only thinking of ourselves, often at the expense of others.
Another translation of Nahum 3:1 is “She is crammed with wealth, and never without victims.” Does this mean that riches usually signify that someone is being oppressed along the way? We are wealthy at someone’s expense. “Dead bodies without end…all because of the wanton lust of the harlot, the countless whoring” It has to do with desire, lust, for other things. People are seduced away from God, away from what they know is right. They sell themselves for greed. How much do I want the things I have? The very first way John the Baptist told people to repent was for those who had two tunics to share with the person who had none. It all has to do with a self focus, with a feeling of entitlement.
“Behold, I am against you, declares the Lord of hosts, and will lift up your skirts over your face; and I will make nations look at your nakedness and kingdoms at your shame.”
The irony is that we clothe ourselves with many possessions. We furnish our houses with wonderful furniture, the latest designs. We fill up our lives with the things that ads have told us define us. Yet we don’t realize that the more things we put in our life, the more we are actually naked and poor.
“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.” (Rev. 3:16-18)
It is only with God that we are rich. It is only when we are poor in spirit that we have the kingdom. It is only when I consider everything rubbish that I find Him, having a righteousness that clothes me more than any trappings could. And every time I placate myself with my nice house, my nice house, my nice book to read I move further away from true comfort. The more I have, the more I perpetuate the illusion that I am clothed. I am the emperor who had no clothes. Can others see this?
What gold can I buy? What white garments? What salve? I should certainly do good to others, that is what God desires. I should certainly appreciate the blood of Christ, it is my only hope, every moment of every day. I should certainly build on the foundation of Christ — every other foundation will be burned away. Everything false in my life will be exposed, sooner or later.
Let me clothe myself with humility. Let me embrace weakness. May I truly care for others, place a spiritual hand of blessing on them in prayer. May I cut off every line that connects me to sin, so I do not return to it, play with it, flirt with it. May I seek holiness, the holiness that only comes as I empty my being of self.