Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27
When I was in High School I liked geometry because it came easily to me. That’s because we did mostly proofs and the logic of “if this… then that” is the way my mind works. I have read Isaiah 58 any number of times, as well as having heard teachings on it, and the focus has always been basically… “If you want to know what God likes, what God wants, what pleases God… it’s this… feed the hungry, etc.” And because I work a lot in ministries having to do with serving the poor, homeless, human trafficking victims, at risk teens, etc., this is one of the passages that I read frequently. One day, however, I read it and unexpectedly noticed the “if” and the “then” of it…the cause and effect.
How would you like this to be the description of your church or your ministry?
“Your light breaks forth like the dawn,
and your healing quickly appears;
your righteousness goes before you,
and the glory of the Lord is your rear guard.
When you call, the Lord answers;
when you cry for help, He says: Here am I.
Your light rises in the darkness,
and your night becomes like the noonday.
The Lord guides you always;
he satisfies your needs in a sun-scorched land
and strengthens your frame.
You are like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people are rebuilding the ancient ruins
and raising up the age-old foundations;
you are called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”
Backing up in this passage, what does it say are the things we should be doing to find these amazing blessings?
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter —
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,”
To loose the chains of injustice… to set the oppressed free… Does that mean just spiritual oppression? Or emotional? Maybe salvation and healing and deliverance and discipleship?
What about physically loosing the chains of injustice and breaking the yokes? Setting people free that are physically enslaved, as well as emotionally and spiritually? I take this literally, because I work in the area of human trafficking, yet there are so many people out there who are not victims of “trafficking” in the legal sense, but are still enslaved by their circumstances, by their poverty, their lack of good options, their abusive relationships, their sick environments, and their unhealthy cultures. Who is supposed to set them free? Apparently, we are.
The passage goes on to talk about not only caring for the poor, but tells us to “Spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry.” It’s not just saying to feed the hungry. To “spend yourselves” is obviously meant to be more than just a token effort. A parent’s minimum responsibility is to feed and clothe and protect their kids, but hopefully most parents don’t just do the minimum. They “spend” themselves for their kids. What about student leaders and youth leaders in our churches? They spend themselves on behalf of the kids too. That means time, energy, money, emotional support, mentoring, educating, preparing them for great things!
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Proverbs 31:8
Redpoint features quarterly articles about human trafficking from VAST (Vineyard Anti-Slavery Task Force). Check back next week for Part 2 of this article.
- How Do We Break the Yoke of Oppression (Part 2) - October 23, 2012
- The Promises of Spending Ourselves for Others (Part 1) - October 10, 2012