Isaiah 58: 1 - 12
Worship in the Kingdom
There is much that is written about worship these days. So many worship CDs, so many high profile worship leaders and new songs and songwriters appearing all the time. Some people choose their churches on the basis of how ‘good’ the worship is. We have become consumers of worship - it is now an industry worth thousands if not million of pounds (or dollars) every year. While not wishing to decry the intent behind most of this (which is, I believe all ultimately aimed at God’s glory), when I come to verses like this one (and I would add Isaiah 1: 11 - 17 & Jeremiah 7: 3 - 6), I wonder if we are missing the point sometimes?
God, speaking through Isaiah shows how fed up He was with empty worship that ignored justice. For while they fasted, sacrificed, held festivals and so forth, these worshippers exploited their workers, let people go hungry and denied the poor and the vulnerable justice. How much are we in the West guilty of the same things today?
In our world we can often be blind to the inequalities that exist. One of the hardest things about working in the developing world is that you come up against the cold, heartless reality of the injustice and inequality that surrounds you. It can be a brutal awakening for us, and may make us feel guilty that so much of what we have at home has been bought off the suffering backs of the poor. And in truth, much of it has.
But God, being merciful, does not leave things with condemnation. He would rather see one person saved than cast into Hell, and He shows us the response He is looking for. It is a sacrificial response - to care for the weak, feed the hungry and give shelter and clothing to the homeless and naked (even at the cost of giving up our own food and clothing and opening up our own homes). It is the costly way, but the fruits outweigh the costs - ‘Then your light will rise in the darkness and your gloom will become like midday’ (v10b). Justice is a part of true worship, true joy and the fruit of the Kingdom of Heaven. In the topsy-turvy economy of the Kingdom of God, the more we give away, the more receive (Mark 8: 35 - 36).
This is the challenge of healthcare mission - to care for the poor and oppressed. Those alongside whom you are now working have responded to that need and the cry from God’s heart to act justly. Ask any of them and they’ll tell you the cost they’ve paid. But I’d bet my bottom dollar that they will, in the same breath tell you of the wonderful things He has done since they responded to that call. That is the true power and joy of worship in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Prayer and Action
Meditate on these verses and pray that God would open your eyes day by day to how you can act justly and worship Him in truth in your work, your home, and your church.