The LORD spoke through his prophet Isaiah: “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 him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” Isaiah 58:6-12 New International Version (NIV)
I found this passage during my quiet time this morning and it is so relevant to me. I’ve been thinking a lot about justice lately — how to live it, how to help make it happen for others (“the oppressed”), and how to teach it to my children. (Of course, that means learning how to treat each other better right here at home.) I try, but I come up short time and time again in applying these truths. So I seek insight and encouragement. A trusted friend at church commented recently about how a Christian book, Good News About Injustice by Gary Haugen, is totally rocking her world. I think a lot of us need to be challenged in this area. I know I do.
I read Isaiah 58:6-12 again to some of my children at the start of our home school day, stopping to define words like “oppression” and “yoke” along the way. Later, Ben found an old Bible alphabet puzzle in the closet and saw the Y piece with the yoke picture. Then he understand what I had meant, at least a little bit more. A yoke steals freedom. It is hard and unbending. It makes you do things that you would not otherwise do.
A simple picture like this is worth a thousand words. And pictures are sometimes what we need — visual ones, verbal ones, relational ones — to shake us out of our lethargy. The promises are profound: we shall live as well-watered gardens in the midst of a sun-scorched land, with light and healing, with guidance and protection. Isn’t this such a comfort even in such a time of financial turmoil and global conflict? Our blessings are not always tangible ones like money and the tantalizing things it can buy. They are the essential ones of inner peace and joy, of the paradoxical wholeness that comes from being broken for others, of the knowledge that we have made an impact in the lives of precious human beings.
I searched the web for something about Bolivia this morning, and by chance came across a site mentioning a movie about the crime of human trafficking — modern day slavery. I wept. What can I do? I don’t know yet. Thad and I are going to Sara Groves’ Art*Music*Justice concert two weeks from tonight in Tampa; it is a benefit for the International Justice Mission, which deals with this issues. I also rejoice to see folks from our church doing things like organizing a rummage sale to benefit a Haitian orphanage damaged by the hurricanes. This is Christian compassion in action. I want to be part of all of this, as busy as I am with my own large family. I hope I will breathe it until the day I die. I hope I will pass it to my children, not just in words but in my own example. That’s how my daughters got involved in the pro-life movement at first. Then they stayed in it because they believed in it for themselves, even though I haven’t been as directly involved for several years. Now it’s my girls who decide to order the “Love Lets Live” T-shirts from the pro-life web site http://www.abort73.com/. (Yeah, I ordered one, too — I didn’t want to be left out!)
I’ll write more on the topic of justice later, I am sure. More and more and more, even as I have written in months past. You can see some of it in the category Do Justice ~ Love Mercy.
What about my blog title today, “Justice by Heart”? It was partly inspired by the novel, Words by Heart by Ouida Sebestyen, in which a young black girl (a Bible memory whiz) must painfully learn to apply the Scriptures about forgiveness when violence erupts against her own family. Then this morning, Ann Voskamp’s Holy Experience blog mentioned Ann Kroeker’s Mega Memory Month project where a challenge has gone out to memorize something substantial, something MEGA. I am personally choosing Isaiah 58:6-12, along with my own related poem, “Corpus Christi.” It’s not really really MEGA but it’s enough for me right now. I have already written three of the Isaiah verses up on our white board in hopes that my family will join me in this challenge.
What will you memorize? And how will you then live?
“Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.” (See Micah 6:6-8)