Monday, May 26, 2014

To Hell With Religion. We Need Justice. (Isaiah 1)

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If we continue in the outward practice of religion without seeking to right injustice in our own communities, we do not have a religion problem. We have a heart problem. True worship is a lifestyle, not something we just do on Sunday morning or in their car as we listen to Christian radio. God’s people are a called-out people. We are called to be holy, separate, other, a light in the world of the nature and character of God. Salvation is not an individual affair. We are called into a community of salvation by the power of God. The evidence of our salvation is in the salvation we minister to the world, our participation in the continuing story of salvation in which we now have a part. We are actively seeking justice always, for our neighbours, and for the world, even in resistance to the authorities, should they be rebels against the justice of the True King.

Isaiah 1:23 (ESV)
"Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves.
Everyone loves a bribe
and runs after gifts.
They do not bring justice to the fatherless,
and the widow’s cause does not come to them."

The marks of success praised by the world, riches, titles, and glory, have nothing to do with those things that God desires. All such worldly glory is vanity, and means nothing in eternity. On the contrary, the power and authority perverts true justice, robbing the dignity and basic necessities of life from the poor and weak for the sake of the comfort of the arrogant rich. Many are oppressed so that a few may become royalty. All such riches are kindling for the flames that shall consume the unjust rebel kings.

True righteousness is judged by our treatment of the most vulnerable among us. The Way of the Master is for the privileged to willingly become less for the sake of the powerless.

None of us have really done all we can to turn back the wheels of corruption that grind the poor in our nation and in the world. In truth, we may hardly live a few minutes in the privileged West before participating in some way in the violent machine of injustice that allows us the privileged life we have. Though we may cry out daily for the sake of the oppressed innocent, and fight tirelessly for change, none of us may claim to be free of the systems that take the lives of those for whom we struggle. We will not stop raising our voice. But Isaiah also includes a welcome relief, lest we burn out in our zeal.

Isaiah 1:16-18 (ESVUK)
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
    learn to do good;
seek justice,
    correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
    plead the widow's cause.
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.

God called Israel his “firstborn son”. The first five chapters of Isaiah show us how bad things have gotten for the people of God, how deep their rebellion and how sinister their corruption. The Kings and the Chronicles become God’s evidence before the court that Israel is guilty. The Law by which they made their covenant with God clearly states their just punishment. In Isaiah, God argues that the firstborn son of God deserves humiliation and destruction.

However, even in the very beginning of the book, God offers his people a way out. The book will go on to promise a Messiah-King, who will not only rescue Israel from their bondage to violence and corruption, but will actually change them from the inside out. No more will their covenant be made according to their keeping of a law and sacrifice of innocent animals. Instead, God promised to come and be among them as one of them. He would become their righteousness. The law would be written on their hearts, and they would be changed from the inside out.

Every one of us guilty with the same sins as the corrupt nations judged by God in scripture. We have all participated in violence, or injustice, or allowed others to experience pain for the sake of our own comfort. Isaiah calls our sin “scarlet”, an indelible dye that could not be removed from a fabric though it were scrubbed to threadbare. God promises to remove from us that which we cannot remove ourselves. God promises to take our blood soaked hands and wash them.

Jesus Christ was the only human being who could call themselves innocent of the accusations of Isaiah. Jesus Christ, God’s own son, experienced all of the humiliation and destruction owed by God to the people of God in his being on the cross. He has taken our scarlet-soaked clothes, and traded them for his own. In the rest of knowing that we may live as though we are perfectly righteous in the eyes of God, we may now receive the power of Jesus’ resurrection in our being, so that by his power we may live this life of justice and resistance to injustice to which we are called.

The change in us will happen from the inside out. We live in hope for the day when we can see the change manifest in all of humanity, in all of Creation, God’s justice fulfilled in the world.

Isaiah 1:24-27
“Therefore the Lord declares,
    the Lord of hosts,
    the Mighty One of Israel:
“Ah, I will get relief from my enemies
    and avenge myself on my foes.
 I will turn my hand against you
    and will smelt away your dross as with lye
    and remove all your alloy.
 And I will restore your judges as at the first,
    and your counsellors as at the beginning.
Afterwards you shall be called the city of righteousness,
    the faithful city.”
 Zion shall be redeemed by justice,
    and those in her who repent, by righteousness.”

Like the people of Israel, who looked around and saw nothing but destruction and death on all sides, yet were promised that they would see the justice of God come to pass and the glory of God returned to them, we may now struggle in a world bent by corruption, violence, and selfishness, but with the freedom to have a sure hope that things will not always thus be. As sure as Jesus’ resurrection, we will see Justice come. We will live to see the day that the garden of God is restored in the earth, that all rebel kings are destroyed, and that the One True King, the only king that would inaugurate his kingship by first being chained up with the criminals, will reign in true justice and freedom for all eternity.

A new world is coming. A new world is here.

End Page 2 of 2

Tomorrow: Isaiah 2 - Swords to Plowshares
Thursday: 1 Peter 1 - Salvation and the End of Suffering

Click the image for the entire series from Isaiah.
Click the image for the entire series from Isaiah

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