Thoughts on Social Justice from Isaiah Chapter 1








The following is some devotional thoughts about Social Justice from Isaiah Chapter 1

Isaiah 1:17 says the following

Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;[a]
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.

Some back ground information on the lead up to this verse

The Assyrians were about to attack Judah and the people turn to religious traditions but their heart didn’t turn to God and they didn’t turn away from their sin.

Is 1:4

Alas, sinful nation,
A people laden with iniquity,
A brood of evildoers,
Children who are corrupters!
They have forsaken the Lord,
They have provoked to anger
The Holy One of Israel,
They have turned away backward.


“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?”
Says the Lord.
“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
And the fat of fed cattle.
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
Or of lambs or goats.

12 “When you come to appear before Me,
Who has required this from your hand,
To trample My courts?
13 Bring no more futile sacrifices;
Incense is an abomination to Me.
The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.
14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts
My soul hates;
They are a trouble to Me,
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Even though you make many prayers,
I will not hear.
Your hands are full of blood.

Then he gives them a plan of genuine relationship with Him

Is 1:16-23

“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
17 Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;[a]
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.

18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
20 But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

21 How the faithful city has become a harlot!
It was full of justice;
Righteousness lodged in it,
But now murderers.
22 Your silver has become dross,
Your wine mixed with water.
23 Your princes are rebellious,
And companions of thieves;
Everyone loves bribes,
And follows after rewards.
They do not defend the fatherless,
Nor does the cause of the widow come before them

Two things stand out about this passage.

The first is  repentance:


“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil

But then God tells them to do something and its like He is saying this is a manifestation of their heart toward God


1) Learn to do Good

2) Seek Justice

3) Rebuke the oppressor

4) Defend the fatherless

5) Plead for the widow

I see in this verse a thread of thought that is developed as the verse transpires.

1)Learn to do good.

Cause this does not come naturally to man. The bible says that the heart of man is deceitfully wicked. So much of the bible is about our actions to our fellowman.

This was the situation at the time of this Chapter

  • Social advancements.
  • Under King Uzziah, Judah reached the very peak of its economic & military power.
  • Yet still injustice happening.
  • Landlords ripping off farmers
  • The rich exploiting the poor.

Description of Israel in first 16 verses –

  • they have rebelled against Me
  • sinful nation,
  • A people laden with iniquity,
  • A brood of evildoers,
  • Children who are corrupters
  • They have forsaken the LORD
  • They have turned away backward
  • The whole head is sick
  • Your country is desolate

Israel was at a place of living in immense sin, but still offering sacrifices to the Lord. Still keeping ‘sacred’ feasts, still honouring sacred celebrations, but not correctly. They had become so distasteful to God, that He couldn’t even stand the offerings (yet at other points in the OT, burnt offerings are referred to as a sweet smelling aroma to God). Israel had become so rebellious towards God that He chose not to hear their prayers or show any favour on them.

The Solution that was offered from God –

  • Wash themselves, make themselves clean (in heart & deed)
  • Cease doing evil
  • Learn to do good.

They had to re-learn everything. They had gone so far away from the ways of God, they had to learn how to live right, over again.

2) Seek Justice

The definition of justice is  the quality of being righteous or fair. Many philosophers, theologians and others define justice as the proper ordering of people and things. Behind the concept of justice lies the notion of balance-that people get what is right, fair and appropriate.

That people get what is right, fair and appropriate

God is saying I can see your heart for me – if you seek what is right fair and appropriate

There are nine words that are most often associated with the word, “justice,” in the Bible. “Widow,” “fatherless,” “orphans,” “poor,” “hungry,” “stranger,” “needy,” “weak” and “oppressed.” In this list of words, you did not find the word, “rich.” Indeed, rich is often associated with injustice. You don’t have to worry about the rich, because the rich will be able to afford justice. Worry about the widows, the fatherless, the orphans, the poor, the hungry, the strangers, the needy, the weak and the oppressed

At the end of Isaiah chapter 1 God then gives us three categories of people – to seek justice for

  • The oppressed
  • The defenceless
  • The Provisionless

Here are some many scriptures on us as Christians acting justly – the challenge is the same for us today as the people in Isaiah Chapter 1.

  • Lk. 14:12-14 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
  • Acts. 10:3-4 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.
  • Le. 23:22 “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.’”
  • Pr. 31:9 Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
  • Pr. 13:23 A poor man’s field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away.
  • Ps. 35:10 My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like you, O LORD? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.”
  • Ps. 140:12 I know that the LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy.
  • Pr. 14:21 He who despises his neighbour sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.
  • Pr. 14:31 He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honours God.
  • Pr. 19:17 He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.
  • Pr. 21:13 If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.
  • Pr. 22:9 A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.
  • Pr. 28:27 He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.
  • Pr. 29:7 The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.
  • Pr. 31:20 [a wife of noble character – rwk] opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
  • Is. 58:6-7 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
  • Zec. 7:10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’
  • Ps. 72:4 He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor.

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Categories: Sermon Notes, Theology

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4 replies

  1. This whole blog took me back about 15-20 years. It wasn’t a fun time really, but there is one section that I remember reading back then (Ps 72:4) and didn’t really think much of it as I thought the only way up is to do it myself.

    Now seeing it here, remembering the past and seeing how things are today, I have to admit, it did come to pass. My boy suffered from oppressors and although he never really had a lot he always gave it away without a second thought.

    Today, he shines so bright. He is my Sonshine.

    Thanks God for sticking to your word.

  2. Hello there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my facebook group?
    There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your content.
    Please let me know. Thank you


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