Today Pastor Choi talks about seeking justice. Religion without a humble walk with God is nothing. Worship rituals without repentant hearts are futile. Prayers without justice go unanswered. At the end of the sermon, he exhorts the congregation to start living out justice every day including prayers of justice for our nation.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Isaiah 1:10-20 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
God Has Had Enough
10 Hear the word of the Lord,
You rulers of Sodom;
Give ear to the instruction of our God,
You people of Gomorrah.
11 “What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?”
Says the Lord.
“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
And the fat of fed cattle;
And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.
12 “When you come to appear before Me,
Who requires of you this trampling of My courts?
13 “Bring your worthless offerings no longer,
Incense is an abomination to Me.
New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.
14 “I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts,
They have become a burden to Me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 “So when you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide My eyes from you;
Yes, even though you multiply prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are covered with blood.
16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight.
Cease to do evil,
17 Learn to do good;
Reprove the ruthless,
Defend the orphan,
Plead for the widow.
“Let Us Reason”
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.
19 “If you consent and obey,
You will eat the best of the land;
20 “But if you refuse and rebel,
You will be devoured by the sword.”
Truly, the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
- Let’s time travel back to the land of Palestine 2800 years ago—around the 8th Century B.C. Israel back then struggled for its survival like a smoldering wick, sandwiched between two power houses: Assyria in the north and Egypt in the south. For years, it was subject to Assyria and would pay heavy tributes year after year. It was often harassed by neighboring kingdoms as well.
- Enter Isaiah the prophet: he was active in his ministry of prophecy during this tumultuous time (740-700 B.C.). His service stretched over the reign of four kings in the Judean Kingdom: King Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.
- Over these years, Isaiah painfully witnessed the desolation of his home land from two major invasions by neighboring kingdoms (Syro-Ephramite War, 735-732 B.C./Hezekiah’s Revolt against Assyria 705-701 B.C.). God describes the scene as this: “Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are stripped by foreigners, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers” (Isaiah 1:7). God’s Message to the Rulers: Morality over Security
- Today’s text was written in that geo-political setting. It begins with God’s utmost concern for Israel: moral decay. God calls Israel sinful nation (v. 4) and His people wicked—as wicked as Sodom and Gomorrah: “Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah” (v. 10). Why? Because “Your hands are covered with blood” (v. 15)—which means that they are accountable for murder and violent oppression in their land. Therefore, God says, “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean” (v. 16)—in other words, repent.
- Two words stand out: Seek justice (v. 17). Please notice here: God’s urgent message to the rulers and people of this fragile kingdom is justice. Why not national security? Why not more protection? One may wonder.
- Now, let’s pretend that you are national security adviser to the king back in the 8th century in Jerusalem. The king trusts you. All he wants is independence and lasting peace and security from neighboring kingdoms. What advice would you give him?
- You might want to say: Let’s strengthen our diplomatic ties. We need to build up our military power. Let’s build a mighty army with more chariots and horses. We need more fortresses and so forth.
- God’s advice for the same challenge was quite different: repent and seek justice. Why justice? Because, justice is the foundation of prosperity and security of any nation. Nation is built upon justice. Without justice no nation stands.Without Justice No Nation Stands
- Definition of justice: just behavior or treatment. The quality of being right and fair. The administration of the law or authority in maintaining this (Oxford Dictionary)
- Let me repeat what I said: without justice no nation stands.
- What is the ruler’s number one job in the land? Economy? No. National security? No. Both of them are important. But, neither of them is the number one job of the ruler. According to God’s Word, the ruler’s number one job is to administer justice and righteousness (1 Kings 10:9). Do what is just and right, not just in human standards, but also in God’s sight. Throughout the Scriptures, God commands the rulers to do justice and walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8). Then, what they look for such as ‘economic prosperity and national security’ will be added to the nation (Matthew 6:33).
- Let’s check out what the Scriptures say about God in the business of justice. The LORD is a God of justice (Isaiah 30:18). Justice is the foundation of God’s throne (Psalm 89:14). God loves justice (Psalm 99:4). Justice is the core of God’s being. So is it of our being (created by God with attributes of creativity, love, and justice).
- God says to every ruler: Do you want prosperity? Administer justice first. Do you want security? Make sure justice is done. Do you want stability? Do justice. The king gives stability to the land by justice (Proverbs 29:4). “How do I do justice?” the ruler may ask. “Have fear of Me, be accountable to Me, walk with Me, and honor Me,” God answers. In fact, this is excellent advice to the rulers of any nation in the world. We must pray for our national leaders that they walk in the reverence of God (healthy fear of the Lord). Why? Because justice cannot be done without the fear of God. E.g. One thing in common among corrupt leaders: lack of fear of God. Stalin. Hitler. Saddam Hussein. Kim Jong-Un.God Wants You to Seek Justice
- Let’s turn our attention to ourselves. Terribly mistaken would we be if we think justice is only for the rulers. God wants everyone, especially His own children, to do justice in everyday life (v. 10).Worship and Prayers
- In today’s text God makes three references in the context of justice: sacrifices (v. 11) (offerings), assemblies (v. 13) (worship services), and prayers (v. 15). These acts of piety are important, God says, but they are not good when His people do evil. Without justice practiced in our lives, they are considered nothing (actually, worse, an abomination) in God’s eyes (v. 13). Justice completes your personal piety.
- Listen. Religion without a humble walk with God is nothing. Worship rituals without repentant hearts are futile. Prayers without justice go unanswered.
- Do you remember faith without works is dead (James 2:26)? Faith and works go hand in hand. So do personal devotion and justice. They are inseparable.
- E.g. John Wesley promoted the abolition of slavery in the late 18th century in England. Following is his letter to William Wilberforce Member of Parliament who spearheaded the complete abolition in the British Empire:
- To William Wilberforce [*Athanasius: bishop of Alexandria in the 4 Century, A.D., five times exiled fighting for orthodoxy. He spearheaded Nicene Creed. Church adopted his opinion on the number of books in New Testament Canon (27 books)].
- BALAM, February 24, 1791. DEAR SIR, — Unless the divine power has raised you up to be as *Athanasius contra mundum, [‘Athanasius against the world.’] I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy, which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing. Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.
- Reading this morning a tract wrote by a poor African, I was particularly struck by that circumstance, that a man who has a black skin, being wronged or outraged by a white man, can have no redress; it being a law in all our Colonies that the oath of a black against a white goes for nothing. What villainy is this!
- That He who has guided you from youth up may continue to strengthen you in this and all things is the prayer of, dear sir,
- Your affectionate servant. John Wesley (http://wesley.nnu.edu/john_wesley/letters/1791.htm)
- John Wesley died on 2 March, 1791. This was the last letter Wesley wrote—Wiki.
- 42 years after this letter, in 1833, Wilberforce heard that “the passage of the Act [Slavery Abolition Act: 1833] through Parliament was assured.” He died three days later (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Wilberforce).Remember justice begins with you and me. Here are the Action points for this week:Stop
- Doing what is wrong (Isaiah 1:16).
- Oppressing the powerless (Zechariah 7:10).
- Thinking evil of each other (Zechariah 7:10).Start
- Showing mercy and compassion to one another (Zechariah 7:9).
- Learning to do what is good (Isaiah 1:17).
- Encouraging the oppressed (Isaiah 1:18). E.g. Letters to the persecuted sponsored by the Voice of the Martyrs
- Defending the cause of the orphans (Isaiah 1:18).
- Pleading the case of the widows (Isaiah 1:18).Conclusion
Our congregation, starting today for a week, hosts homeless families in our area. I am very thankful for and excited with this great opportunity to defend the cause of the poor. It is a good start. Please pray for the success. May God help us continue doing what is right and just in His sight for the people in our communities. Let’s pray together “Prayers of Justice.” Amen.Prayers of Justice (* all found in Scripture below)L: Almighty God, righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne.
C: You love justice. You bless those who conduct their affairs with justice.
L: You discipline us only with justice and mercy.
C: You will judge the world with justice.
A: Many seek the favor of a ruler, but it is from You, O Lord, that we get justice.
L: Let justice be a light to all nations.
C: Let justice roll like a river in America.
L: Endow our leaders with justice, O God.
C: Help them not to pervert justice by showing partiality or receiving bribes.
A: Help them not to be partial to the guilty or deprive the innocent of justice.
L: Help our Congress never to write oppressive laws.
C: Let our judges maintain justice in the courts.
L: Make our judges aware that they are watched by a higher Judge of all.
C: Grant our President discernment in administering justice. Let his mouth not betray justice.
L: You speak to us, “Make sure justice is done.”
C: We will “Help the down-and-out; Stand up for the homeless;
Go to bat for the defenseless” (The Message Bible).
A: Help us not to deny justice to the poor. In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.