What do you think God wants from you? Loyalty? Obedience? Worship? Adoration? Action?
The early Israelites struggled with this question. That struggle continued into New Testament times as Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots, and others tried to form sects structured around their notion of what God wanted from them. They were hung up on things like fasting, class distinctions, sabbath regulations, piety, and a plethora of laws. Jesus brought absolute clarity to the question, but well before his arrival on the scene the prophet Isaiah beautifully articulated what God wants from his people.
The people had chosen to fast from inconsequential things. (You know, like when you give up donuts for Lent but you don’t really like donuts.) God had something entirely different in mind:
Isaiah 58 (New International Version)
“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?
For example, the modern church puts a lot of effort, resources, energy, and activity toward worship. But notice that worship doesn’t make the top of the list. Worship is always a life-giving necessity, but breaking the chains of injustice and setting the oppressed free seem to rank higher, according to Isaiah.
Maybe worship comes next on the list…
7 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 them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Nope, not yet. Sharing food with the hungry and providing shelter are listed. Clothing the naked is important, too. It seems that God is more interested in social justice issues than whether the altar candles should have wax, wicks, or oil…which is actually a dilemma that altar guilds have lost sleep over.
8 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.
We would do well to listen to Isaiah. Serving the needs around us is akin to light breaking through upon the people of God when they engage in acts of righteousness. People who serve God in this manner find wholeness and healing, and God himself comes alongside to assist.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
When we are following God’s call, there is never a time that he is not with us. Not. Ever. So if your only interaction with God is once a week for an hour on Sundays, think that through again. God is more interested in your treatment of his people throughout the week than your attention for an hour.
In other words, you are not called to just hear the word. You are called to go out and BE the word.
So go be the word today.