Daily Devotionals

Grinding the Face of the Poor

Pastor Steve Ellison

As I read the Bible, it seems that from time to time, God shows a sense of humor. Isaiah 3 is assuredly not one of those places.  Numerous times in both the Old and New Testaments, God calls attention to the mistreatment of the weak by the strong.  He is always most serious about that.  Wealthy individuals and policymakers would do well to pay very close attention to God’s emphasis on the consequences of exploiting the weak. Isaiah chapter three begins with a strong word of warning from God.  He aims His rebukes squarely against the leaders of the country.  He promises that their failures have caused Him to declare that He is going to devastate the land. Isaiah 3:13-15 contains strong words of condemnation and a terribly incriminating question, The Lord arises to contend, And stands to judge the people.  The Lord enters into judgment with the elders and princes of His people, “It is you who have devoured the vineyard; The plunder of the poor is in your houses.  “What do you mean by crushing My people And grinding the face of the poor?” Declares the Lord God of hosts. (NASU)

Clearly, a divine court has been convened.  Because God has all wisdom, knowledge, complete impartiality, and judges righteously, He serves as accuser, prosecutor, judge, and executor of justice. In vivid and poetic language, Isaiah tells us that God stands to accuse and judge those He had sovereignly placed in authority over His chosen people.  Comfort, wealth, and ease may come with authority. However, authority also certainly brings responsibility, accountability, and stricter judgment. God is clear about that. 

In Isaiah and elsewhere in the Bible, God refers to His chosen nation as the vineyard. He loves them.  They are the apple of His eye. Mistreating or oppressing any one of them will bring down His wrath on the oppressor, especially if the oppressor is one He has entrusted with caring for and protecting His people.  This is exactly the situation in Isaiah 3. God’s declaration is that the elders and princes of His people who have brought about the current misery in the nation. They have been specifically tasked with being the husbandman (caretaker) for God’s vineyard, but they ruin the vineyard. 

Second, these leaders were tasked with protecting the poor from the population at large. This principle of protecting the poor is sprinkled liberally throughout both Testaments. Instead, these leaders devoured the livelihoods of the people.  They had plundered the poor and the irrefutable evidence is even then in the very homes of the oppressors. They had crushed God’s people.  They have ground the face of the poor.  The question God puts to them demands an answer when there is no possible satisfactory answer.  With absolute conviction and clarity, we must see that avoiding the behavior that necessitates the question is the best path for them and us to follow.  You or I cannot possibly ever have a good answer to God asking, “What do you mean crushing My people and grinding the face of the poor?”

I suggest that you and I must exercise great caution not to mistreat or oppress those weaker than us. I also suggest that if you or I have any influence or authority, we must take care to protect the weak among us. God appears to be gravely serious about this idea every place it comes up in Scripture. Exodus 22:22-24 couldn’t be clearer, You shall not afflict any widow or orphan.  If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry;  and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless. (NASU)

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