“Among my people are wicked men
who lie in wait like men who snare birds
and like those who set traps to catch men.
Like cages full of birds,
their houses are full of deceit;
they have become rich and powerful
and have grown fat and sleek.
Their evil deeds have no limit;
they do not plead the case of the fatherless to win it,
they do not defend the rights of the poor.
Should I not punish them for this?”
declares the LORD.
“Should I not avenge myself
on such a nation as this?
“A horrible and shocking thing
has happened in the land:
The prophets prophesy lies,
the priests rule by their own authority,
and my people love it this way.
But what will you do in the end? (Jeremiah 5:26-31)
Despite a professed hunger for liberty, many people seem to prefer being told what to do. Why? Perhaps because they don’t like having the responsibility—and perhaps because they know they can always say, “I was just following orders.”
Catching a bird in a snare takes effort and subterfuge. Snaring men is the same. The world works according to rules and according to those who interpret those rules. For those who knew all the rules, they found it easy to manipulate them to their advantage. So, they defended the cause of the poor, making themselves look good and upright, even as they lined their own pockets, and left only scraps for the poor. They cared only for the money and the acclaim that came from standing up for what was right, without actually having to do what was right.
God loves people and wants people to love each other. All societies, from the earliest Sumerians on, record how their rulers protected the orphans and widows. The reality was always something quite different. Those in power know what they are supposed to do. They always give lip service to it. But in Israel’s case, God held them to it: God expected their deeds to match their words. Otherwise, God promised that those who betrayed the weak would soon find themselves weak.