Friday, November 27, 2009

The Poor in Scripture

"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
Isaiah 61:1 NKJV

“The term ‘poor’ is explained by a whole series of parallel expressions. The following phrases alternate with it: ‘the broken-hearted’, ‘the captives (to guilt?)’, ‘those who are bound’ (v. 1), ‘those who mourn’ (v. 2), ‘those who are of a faint spirit’ (v. 3). This makes it certain that the ‘poor’ are those who are oppressed in quite a general sense: the oppressed who cannot defend themselves, the desperate, the hopeless.

[Hebrew term] is also used elsewhere in prophetic preaching in this comprehensive sense. Originally a designation for the desolate, in the prophets the word embraces the oppressed and the poor who know that they are thrown completely on God’s help. Jesus used ‘the poor’ in this wide sense that the term had acquired in the prophets. Certainly all those in need, the hungry and thirsty, the unclothed and the strangers, the sick and the captives, belong to the ‘least’: they are his brothers (Matt. 25.31-46).

But the circle of the ‘poor’ is wider. That becomes clear when we collect the designation and imagery with which Jesus characterizes them. He calls them the hungry, those who weep, the sick, those who labour, those who bear burdens, the last, the simple, the lost, the sinners.”

(Jeremias, Joachim. 1971. New Testament Theology. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons., pg 113)

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