Isaiah chapter 58:6-8. God says to his people, “Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house? When you see the naked to cover him and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like dawn and your healing shall spring up speedily. Your righteousness shall go before you. The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.”
God calls us not merely to go through religious routines, but to show justice and mercy to those in need.
These verses are words from God to his people when they were going through all kinds of religious routine. Fasting, participating in religious rituals, but they were ignoring the poor around them. They were oppressing people around them. Or ignoring the oppressed around them. And God says to them that’s not what I’ve called you to do. This is not what devotion to me looks like, like empty religious ritual disconnected from care for the poor and the oppressed in the world.
No, I’ve called you to love and care for those in need in the world. That’s when your light breaks forth like the dawn. And you experience all that I’ve designed for you. Not when you’re participating in religious ritual but when you are showing my mercy, my love, my justice in the world around you. So bring these words into our lives today. Think about my own heart, I can get so consumed with doing religious activity. Which I’m not … obviously that’s not bad. Just like Isaiah 58 verse six fasting is not bad, but if we do that religious activity and yet we are not showing mercy and justice in the world, then we’re missing the point. That I’m missing the point if I’m not caring for the hungry and working on behalf of the oppressed.
And so I need to be thinking in my life continually, to what does that look like to care for people with urgent, physical needs and urgent spiritual needs? And so I want to encourage you to think in the same way. Let’s not get in the routine of going through religious motions on a week by week basis and then we step back and God’s saying, “where is your care for the hungry? What’re you doing on behalf of the oppressed? To help the enslaved become free?”
So these are realities in the world around us. In the city where I live, in the city where you live, there are hungry. In the country where we live, there are people enslaved and oppressed. And then in the world around us, there’s massive hunger, massive slavery, oppression. So what are we doing as God’s people about that? God help us, God help us, we pray. Forgive us for our tendency. Just like the people in Isaiah’s day. God forgive us for our tendency to go through religious motions and to ignore massive, urgent physical, social, spiritual needs around us.
God, we pray that you would use us as your people to provide food for the hungry, freedom for the oppressed. I pray that you would help us to demonstrate your justice and your mercy and as we demonstrate your character in these ways, to proclaim your gospel and your grace and your goodness to people around us. God, we pray that you would help us to be light like this in the world around us. We pray that righteousness like this would mark our lives, our families and our churches. Help us to realize what that means for us practically today. To care for the hungry and to works of the oppressed go free. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.