Doing Justice

Isaiah 58

The Message (MSG)

Your Prayers Won’t Get Off the Ground

58 1-3 “Shout! A full-throated shout!  Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout! Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives, face my family Jacob with their sins! They’re busy, busy, busy at worship, and love studying all about me. To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people— law-abiding, God-honoring. They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ and love having me on their side. But they also complain, ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way? Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

3-5 “Well, here’s why:

“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit. You drive your employees much too hard. You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight. You fast, but you swing a mean fist. The kind of fasting you do won’t get your prayers off the ground. Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after: a day to show off humility? To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black? Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, God, would like?

6-9 “This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace,  free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, God will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’

A Full Life in the Emptiest of Places

9-12 “If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places— firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,     restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.

13-14 “If you watch your step on the Sabbath and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage, If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy, God’s holy day as a celebration, If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’ making money, running here and there— Then you’ll be free to enjoy God! Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all. I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.” Yes! God says so!

Micah 6:8

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
take God seriously.

Yesterday the US Supreme Court dealt a blow to a basic tenet of our democracy, the right to vote. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965 during the Civil Rights Movement, was a provision that required voting districts who had a history of racist policies to clear any changes to elections or election rules with the DOJ. In a 5-4 ruling, the court struck down Section 5 as unconstitutional. Ruth Bader Ginsburg delivered a scathing dissent to this decision, which included these more recent examples of racism at the polls:

“In 1993, the City of Millen, Georgia, proposed to delay the election in a majority-black district by two years, leaving that district without representation on the city council while the neighboring majority white district would have three representatives…DOJ blocked the proposal. The county then sought to move a polling place from a predominantly black neighborhood in the city to an inaccessible location in a predominantly white neighborhood outside city limits.”

“In 2006, the court found that Texas’ attempt to redraw a congressional district to reduce the strength of Latino voters bore ‘the mark of intentional discrimination that could give rise to an equal protection violation,’ and ordered the district redrawn in compliance with the VRA…In response, Texas sought to undermine this Court’s order by curtailing early voting in the district, but was blocked by an action to enforce the §5 pre-clearance requirement.”

“In 2001, the mayor and all-white five-member Board of Aldermen of Kilmichael, Mississippi, abruptly canceled the town’s election after ‘an unprecedented number’ of AfricanAmerican candidates announced they were running for office. DOJ required an election, and the town elected its first black mayor and three black aldermen.”

There’s the opportunity for Congress to step up and do something about this, but more importantly, we the people should do something about it. God values justice, fairness, support for the less fortunate and the oppressed.

Things are about to get real in Egypt. After their uprising in 2011 that ousted a dictator they held their first free election. Unfortunately, the election was stolen by radical Islamists by heading out into the villages 2 weeks before the election and giving out all kinds of free food and other stuff. Their candidate, now president, Muhamed Morsi lost the election in the urban areas. This “democratically elected” regime has not dealt with any of the country’s many issues, including an economy spiraling downward, a dramatic decrease in tourism, or the chaos that become reality after Mubarak was ousted. Now, the one year anniversary of Morsi’s inauguration is approaching and it will be a day of (hopefully peaceful) protests. The people are rising up and asking for democracy and justice.

People on the bottom of the hierarchy of needs are easily manipulated because, let’s face it, if I didn’t know where my next meal was coming from and someone said, vote for my guy and I’ll give you all kinds of food, I’d jump on that train. Doing justice refuses to take advantage of the desperation of those who have little and gives them the respect owed a fellow human being created in the image of God.

Doing justice is about doing what is just. But it also means going beyond justice into grace and generosity. The Bible calls us to care for the poor and oppressed more than 2,000 times. It’s so important to God that our neglect of those who have less, more than that, our need to profit from them, prevents our worship from getting past the ceiling. Failing to do justice causes a schism in our relationship with God.

God has given us the job to end oppression. As Micah said, how to please God isn’t a big mystery. Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with your God.

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