The prophets are some of the hardest books to understand. This includes what they “teach” about money. However, the more time I spend in the prophets, the less I think the main point (at least for us, 2500 years later) is intellectual understanding of them. They are written more like poetry. Maybe what’s needed is more imaginative, to picture the images they describe and allow those images to sink in.
They made kings, but not through me.
They set up princes, but I knew it not.
With their silver and gold they made idols
for their own destruction.
“With their dollars and stocks they made idols for their own destruction.” We don’t literally shape dollars or stock certificates into a doll and bow down to it. But do we put our hope in them? Do we hope they will solve all our problems? Do we spend extravagantly because its a dopamine rush, or for others to see it? Or do we worship money by scrimping and saving and fearing to spend it on worthwhile things?
Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit.
The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built;
as his country improved, he improved his pillars.
Every good and perfect gift comes from God. Do I take his good gifts and use them to build altars to myself? Or pillars for worship of a false god? Look at the skyscrapers in a modern city…are these really pillars for worship? Fruit, altars, and pillars are not words we use anymore in this sense. But it’s not hard to translate them into imagery that still makes sense today.
So you, by the help of your God, return,
hold fast to love and justice,
and wait continually for your God.
A merchant, in whose hands are false balances,
he loves to oppress.
Ephraim has said, “Ah, but I am rich;
I have found wealth for myself;
in all my labors they cannot find in me iniquity or sin.”
Except for a handful of uplifting passages, the prophets are some of the least fun books in the Bible. But they might inspire reflection and confession better than any other genre.
Scripture quotations from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV®. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles