There is an area that has affected me perhaps the most in recent times. We’re all different. But what I find it very, very hard to deal with is man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. We are not caring about or thinking about the effect our behavior is having on other people, whether individually or nationally. For many people on this earth today, human life has very little value.
Solomon had something to say about the state of oppression on the earth: “Then I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun: And look! The tears of the oppressed, but they have no comforter — on the side of their oppressors there is power, but they have no comforter. Therefore I praised the dead who were already dead more than the living who are still alive. Yet, better than both is he who has never existed, who has not seen the evil work that is done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3).
“All the oppression that is done under the sun” has become a way of life around the world today. Oppression is prolonged cruel or unjust treatment. It is the state of being subject to unjust treatment, or it is mental pressure or stress produced.
Perhaps as God’s people we need to recognize that the ancient nation of Israel had its own oppressive tactics. “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help” (Isaiah 5:7).
“No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; They conceive evil and bring forth iniquity. They hatch vipers’ eggs and weave the spider’s web; He who eats of their eggs dies, and from that which is crushed a viper breaks out. . . . In transgressing and lying against the Lord, and departing from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; For truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. So truth fails, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey…” (Isaiah 59:4-5, 13-15). Whomever departs from evil makes himself a target for cruel and unjust treatment!
What Isaiah wrote was accurate for ancient Israel, and it is unfortunately a fact in too many cases around this world where that level of oppression, injustice, hurt, and misery is inflicted upon people from other people.
However, there is one form of oppression that stands out above the others. And that is corruption, which is a form of oppression in high levels of government, and it is rife today. Corruption, as defined by the World Bank, “is a form of dishonesty or a criminal offense which is undertaken by a person or an organization which is entrusted with a position of authority. Dishonest or illegal behavior especially by powerful people.”
A biblical characterization of corruption states: Her heads (leaders) judge for a bribe, her priests teach for pay, and her prophets divine for money. Yet they lean on the Lord, and say, “Is not the Lord among us? No harm can come upon us” (Micah 3:11). Corruption at that level of leadership means oppression for the people under them.
A clear example of someone in a powerful position being corrupt is one of the sons of a king of Judah, Shallum the son of Josiah, king of Judah: “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness and his chambers by injustice, who uses his neighbor’s service without wages and gives him nothing for his work, who says, ‘I will build myself a wide house with spacious chambers, and cut out windows for it, paneling it with cedar and painting it with vermilion’ “ (Jeremiah 22:13-14). It’s corruption; it’s gain for self at the expense of some other person.
However, God is not corrupt or an oppressor, so the question arises, where does it come from?
“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, And your fingers with iniquity; Your lips have spoken lies, Your tongue has muttered perversity. No one calls for justice, Nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; They conceive evil and bring forth iniquity” (Isaiah 59:1–4).
That is a formula for misery, suffering and hurt. It involves sin and it involves man’s inhumanity to man because of the sinful state of mind. The definition of corruptions says, “positions of authority”, or “powerful people” are the source for that corruption.
God, of course, did not create evil. Rather, He created Lucifer, a spirit being without perfect character and gave him and all the rest of the angels the opportunity to develop godly character through the choices they make. (Ezekiel 28:13-17).
Lucifer made a cascade of destructive choices. He became the source of corruption even though he was created the seal of perfection. Over time he turned away from the One who created him. He began to see his own perfection from a personal point of view and started to make corrupt choices. He went in the direction of his own vanity, his own pride, his own greatness so that he rebelled against his Creator and tried with one-third of the angels to overthrow the throne of God.
Under Satan’s sway unrestrained human nature will always produce hurt and suffering because it always serves self ahead of others. Human nature hates God, is hostile against Him. It can’t embrace the law of God, which is the source of love in terms of interaction between peoples.
At this point I would like to inject God’s people into the discussion. In Revelation 12 we see the members of the Church (brethren) and the rest of the world identified.
“And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
“Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. (Here the Church, the body of Christ is identified.) And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.’ “ (Revelation 12:7-12).
There are two categories of people here: the brethren and the rest of the people on earth. These people share a common environment of Satan the devil. The “brethren” have some help. They overcame Satan by the blood of the Lamb, by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and the Holy Spirit. The rest experience Satan’s wrath. It is interesting that these two groups arrived at the same place, the day of judgment, but they get there by different routes. The brethren go the route of “the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 12:10-11).
1 John 3:8 refers to the other group: “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. The devil sinned and the prince of the power of the air is producing in the sons of disobedience much suffering, misery, oppression, and corruption on this earth (Ephesians 2.2).
Those who have the Spirit of God do not have the desire, or the drive to sin that human nature has in its hostility against God and its rejection of God’s law. There’s a vastly different relationship created for those who are “born of God” through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The blood of the Lamb, when applied to a repentant person, allows the Holy Spirit to be a factor in his or her life.
This creates a different category of person, but that is not a superior position. Those who are “born of God” are at-one with Him through this process of repentance. It is a position; they are in a relationship with God. It’s simply the way that God is working out His plan of salvation on a timeline basis. For others that relationship will come at another point in time. Those born of God have the power to restrain their human nature. Their minds are open to the law of God. The hostility is taken away and they have access to God (1 John 5:4-5).
Nevertheless, all the inhabitants of the earth are suffering because the original government over the earth rejected God and became thoroughly evil. All the indications are that Lucifer was placed in a position of authority and power to rule over this earth. In the process of time his pride and his vanity got to him. He came to the point of challenging God’s throne. There was a war in heaven and the rebellious hosts were cast back to this earth as a place of restraint (Jude 6). And into this environment man was created.
But Satan’s influence has a finite limit of time: “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while” (Revelation 20:1-3).
When Satan is cast into the bottomless pit, he is not destroyed, but he is restrained completely away from mankind. He is removed from contact with the woman of Revelation 12 (the Church) so that he cannot hurt her or deceive the nations any longer. Jesus Christ will return, and mankind can become at-one with God. All mankind can be free of that influence of oppression and corruption. That level of hurt and suffering will end with Satan being removed from humanity.
For now, Satan is very angry because he knows he will be removed from power. He targets his anger toward the followers of Christ because he does not want any group of people to be at-one with God. Thus, we are admonished to not neglect so great a salvation that has been offered to us:
“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,” (Hebrews 2:1-2).
But why would someone neglect their salvation? Christ didn’t give the parable of the ten virgins for no reason (Matthew 25:1-13). He warned them to “make sure you’re awake and not asleep.” Just getting bothered and upset and emotional about world events and what nations are doing, doesn’t necessarily translate into spiritual strength of mind. And we need strong spiritual minds as societies become more and more corrupt and oppressive.
Paul gives a very graphic description of the character of humanity who have developed a debased mind by rejecting God: “being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful;” (Romans 1:29-31).
We will need to respond to an ungodly human environment with choices befitting people of God. God gives His people a way to care for others and to break our bondage of sin. Isaiah discusses our need for fasting for those who are oppressed as well as to free ourselves from that we may still be enslaved to.
“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ ” (Isaiah 58:6-9).
We can look forward to when Satan is out of the way and all people that have lived wretched suffering lives can then begin to be shown something completely different, a relationship with God and the kind of life He intended for all. The oppression that Solomon observed being done under the sun will end.
“The oppressed will go free.”