…he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked.
In the Old Testament there are three distinct voices and traditions held in tension – the priestly, kingly and prophetic. Each has its own perspective and concerns, all of which are important: worship of God has great importance, as does the right ordering of society and proper functioning of the law. But the priestly and kingly tradition have their origins in the prophetic tradition and rely upon the prophet for their full meaning and mission.
Jesus highlights this fact by stating that judgment is based solely on our care and concern for the poor and marginalized (Matt 25). He further emphasizes this fact in parables where care for the poor is intrinsically tied to judgment – the Rich Man and Lazarus, the Good Samaritan – and his real life exaltation of the poor widow in the Temple is proof of this primacy. Law and worship exist for us to live our mission to care for the poor and marginalized.
God chose Israel because of its lowliness, poverty, and marginalization. God rescued this vulnerable people from rich and powerful empires. Our faith is in imitation of the God who cares for the poor, which obliges us to be the prophet in our own times: to have our worship and laws reflect this priority and to lead us all to the reign of God.