God’s Word of Justice
Isaiah 59:1-21: In today’s passage, Isaiah condemns social injustice, confessing sins on behalf of the people of Israel. He says that injustice is everywhere and truth has no place with them. Yet despite the brokenness of their society, God promises to rescue them, rebuilding the city and reentering the hearts of the people.
[The LORD says:] “I make a covenant with you: I have given you my power and my teachings to be yours forever.”
The Prophet Condemns the People's Sins
1Don't think that the Lord is too weak to save you or too deaf to hear your call for help! 2It is because of your sins that he doesn't hear you. It is your sins that separate you from God when you try to worship him. 3You are guilty of lying, violence, and murder.
4You go to court, but you do not have justice on your side. You depend on lies to win your case. You carry out your plans to hurt others. 5-6The evil plots you make are as deadly as the eggs of a poisonous snake. Crush an egg, out comes a snake! But your plots will do you no good—they are as useless as clothing made of cobwebs! 7 You are always planning something evil, and you can hardly wait to do it. You never hesitate to murder innocent people. You leave ruin and destruction wherever you go, 8and no one is safe when you are around. Everything you do is unjust. You follow a crooked path, and no one who walks that path will ever be safe.
The People Confess Their Sin
9The people say, “Now we know why God does not save us from those who oppress us. We hope for light to walk by, but there is only darkness, 10and we grope about like blind people. We stumble at noon, as if it were night, as if we were in the dark world of the dead. 11We are frightened and distressed. We long for God to save us from oppression and wrong, but nothing happens.
12“Lord, our crimes against you are many. Our sins accuse us. We are well aware of them all. 13We have rebelled against you, rejected you, and refused to follow you. We have oppressed others and turned away from you. Our thoughts are false; our words are lies. 14Justice is driven away, and right cannot come near. Truth stumbles in the public square, and honesty finds no place there. 15There is so little honesty that those who stop doing evil find themselves the victims of crime.”
The Lord Prepares to Rescue His People
The Lord has seen this, and he is displeased that there is no justice. 16 He is astonished to see that there is no one to help the oppressed. So he will use his own power to rescue them and to win the victory. 17 He will wear justice like a coat of armor and saving power like a helmet. He will clothe himself with the strong desire to set things right and to punish and avenge the wrongs that people suffer. 18He will punish his enemies according to what they have done, even those who live in distant lands. 19From east to west everyone will fear him and his great power. He will come like a rushing river, like a strong wind.
20 The Lord says to his people, “I will come to Jerusalem to defend you and to save all of you that turn from your sins. 21And I make a covenant with you: I have given you my power and my teachings to be yours forever, and from now on you are to obey me and teach your children and your descendants to obey me for all time to come.”
Notice the trajectory of God’s activity in this passage: injustice is condemned, the people confess their sins, and God promises to rescue them. Underlying God’s action is a sustaining, unconditional love that rejects improper actions while still caring for the people. How do you experience God’s unconditional love in your life? In what ways has God’s love prompted you to engage in acts of justice and mercy?
God of love, you care for me even when I fail to abide by your way. Forgive me for the times I have failed to be a witness to your justice, and empower me to shine your light of righteousness through my encounters with others. Amen.
Amos 1:1-15: The prophet Amos proclaims God’s judgment on Israel’s neighbors.