(07-09-09) Justice - Isaiah 1.10-20
(1:18 niv) “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 as crimson, they shall be like wool.”
· This promise epitomises the hope we have in Jesus
o it’s the what, not the how
o God’s desire for His creation since Genesis 3:6
· “…reason together…” – reason?!
o if it were reason we would be destroyed
o this is God’s reasoning, not ours – his love, not ours
“Forgiveness is a special kind of gift. When we give, we seek the good of another, not our own good, or at least primarily we don’t seek our own good. The same is true of forgiveness. We forgive for another’s sake, although we too may benefit from the result. But there is also an important difference between giving and forgiving. We give when we delight in others or others are in need; by giving, we enhance their joy or make up for their lack. We forgive when others have wronged us; by forgiving, we release them from the burden of their wrongdoing. The difference lies in the violation suffered, in the burden of wrongdoing, offence, transgression, debt. And that’s what makes it more difficult to forgive than to give.”
Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a World Stripped of Grace, p. 130.
· The wonder of forgiveness
o scarlet red to whiter than snow or wool
· Tension in the Church between forgiveness and guilt
o “all things are permissible…” (1 Cor 10:23)
Spong: “I am convinced that you don’t become whole by simply suppressing your dark-side but by accepting it as part of your being and redeeming it and living through it.”
o ‘keeping the people in their place’
o staying aware of our sin
· Conviction, not guilt!
o both can motivate – one positively, one negatively
· Holding these in balance, we read:
You are no better than the leaders and people of Sodom and Gomorrah! So listen to the Lord God: 11“Your sacrifices mean nothing to me. I am sick of your offerings of rams and choice cattle; I don't like the blood of bulls or lambs or goats. 12"Who asked you to bring all this when you come to worship me? Stay out of my temple! 13Your sacrifices are worthless, and incense is disgusting. I can't stand the evil you do on your New Moon Festivals or on your Sabbaths and other times of worship. 14I hate your New Moon Festivals and all others as well. They are a heavy burden I am tired of carrying. 15"No matter how much you pray, I won't listen. You are too violent. 16Wash yourselves clean! I am disgusted with your filthy deeds. Stop doing wrong 17and learn to live right. See that justice is done. Defend widows and orphans and help those in need.
18“I, the Lord, invite you to come and talk it over. Your sins are scarlet red, but they will be whiter than snow or wool. 19If you willingly obey me, the best crops in the land will be yours. 20But if you turn against me, your enemies will kill you. I, the Lord, have spoken.”
· Reassuring trait for a trainee minister:
o I’d never noticed the context of 1:18 before
o compare with two passages being widely read at the moment
I, the Lord, hate and despise your religious celebrations and your times of worship. 22I won't accept your offerings or animal sacrifices – not even your very best. 23No more of your noisy songs! I won't listen when you play your harps. 24But let justice and fairness flow like a river that never runs dry.
What offering should I bring when I bow down to worship the Lord God Most High? Should I try to please him by sacrificing calves a year old? 7Will thousands of sheep or rivers of olive oil make God satisfied with me? Should I sacrifice to the Lord my first-born child as payment for my terrible sins? 8The Lord God has told us what is right and what he demands: “See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God.”
· God is calling us to rediscover the inextricable link between worship and justice
o you cannot separate the two
o to ignore one is to ignore the other (explain)
· Often left feeling ‘guilty’ after sermons on justice
o guilt-induced social action
o not exclusively, but frequently
· Just back from Africa!
o orphans, street children, poverty etc.
o no moralising!
o speaking to myself as much as anyone else
· Romans 8:1 – Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (niv)
o no doubt that by being complicit in western society we have done wrong and put ourselves first
o whatever we may have been or still be guilty of in terms of justice is now white as snow or wool
· What issues of injustice are there around the world?
· What issues of injustice are there in the UK?
· What issues of injustice are there in our communities?
· Isaiah, Amos and Micah (amongst others) present us with an opportunity to see worship in a new way
o to see issues of justice in a new context
o opportunities to worship through seeking justice without condemnation and guilt
· How are people receiving this? New idea? Sit with it.