Worship and Justice Go Together

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December 6, 2019

Isaiah 1:11-12, 15-18 (NLT)

“What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?”
    says the Lord.
“I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams
    and the fat of fattened cattle.
I get no pleasure from the blood
    of bulls and lambs and goats.
    When you come to worship me,
    who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony?
When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look.
    Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen,
    for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims.
    Wash yourselves and be clean!
    Get your sins out of my sight.
    Give up your evil ways.
    Learn to do good.
    Seek justice.
Help the oppressed.
    Defend the cause of orphans.
    Fight for the rights of widows.
    “Come now, let’s settle this,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    I will make them as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson,
    I will make them as white as wool.

CONSIDER THIS

In the book of Isaiah, God calls out his own people who have been worshiping him with their lips without backing up their worship with deeds. They don’t seem to mind that others are oppressed, and they play at worship while living in whatever way that pleases them. They are blinded by their own way of thinking, and in their blindness, they miss the very heart of God.

We are people who have received the good grace of God. We have been baptized in the Spirit by our savior Jesus. The Father speaks the words beloved child over each of us with the promise that his liberating kingdom is already here and will also one day fully come.

However, despite all of these blessings, we will still have missed the heart of God if we ignore the plight of the poor and oppressed among us.

God cares about the pain of every person on this planet and he cares about whether or not we care about it. We cannot worship him and be fine with not caring about it.

Worship and justice go together.

Justice isn’t something we just do out in the world, separate from our personal devotion to Jesus. No, it is precisely in our devotion to the God-Man who gave himself up for the world that we intercede and find inspiration to work for the good of this world that he died to save.

Sometimes, when the heaviness of the world’s suffering is weighing on me, I’ll bring that groaning in my heart for justice into my worship. As I sing a worship song of praise to God, I’ll be carrying the sorrow of certain people’s stories in my heart, holding them in worship before the one who loves them more than I can know.

In that moment, my worship becomes a personal call for justice to my God.

As I surrender myself in worship to God, I also begin to recognize attitudes and actions in my life that don’t line up with the way of Jesus.

This is a work of justice, too. In worship we become open to the critique of the Spirit. We become willing to see if we are in opposition to God’s justice, if we are indifferent to it, or if we are being called to take action ourselves as co-laborers in God’s kingdom work.

As I sing the words, “I will build my life upon your love,” my preferences to keep myself separate from certain groups of people become apparent to me.

As I boldly “raise a hallelujah” to God, my indifference towards racism in America is exposed.

As I gratefully proclaim the chorus, “I’m a child of God, yes I am,” the Spirit reminds me of the roughly 440,000 foster children in America who desperately need to know that they too are beloved children of God.

True worship will always naturally lead to justice under the Lordship of Christ.

During Advent we anticipate Christ’s second coming and look for the day when in his name all oppression shall cease.

It is an act of worship for us to rend our garments as we wait in solidarity with our suffering world, and to cry out at the top of our lungs the prayer of the early Church:

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus, come!!
Come, O Lord! 
May your kingdom of justice reign in fullness on the earth!
Oh come, Lord Jesus, come!

The worship that seeks justice is the worship that seeks the coming of the Lord.

Worship and justice truly do go together.

God is here.

THE PRAYER

God of justice, lead me in tenderness towards the pain of all you love.
May your kingdom of justice reign in fullness on the earth!
Maranatha! O Lord, Come!
Spirit of God, breathe upon me

THE QUESTION

  • When in your life have you felt poor, needy, or oppressed?
  • Did you experience God’s care for you in that season? If so, how did God care for you?
  • What injustices in the world, your community, or your life weigh upon you?
  • How might you pray for those who you tend to separate yourself from?
  • How could you be part of bringing justice in your community? In your church? In the world?

Casey Culbreth

Song for Meditation:
The Earth Shall Know by The Porter’s Gate, Urban Doxology, Casey J
Spotify Playlist for Advent Daily Text

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Casey Page Culbreth is a worship pastor at Grace Church in Cape Coral, Florida. She loves exploring different countries, gardening, hanging out at bookstores and movie theaters, and enjoying coffee with friends. You can follow Casey on Instagram @caseypageculbreth, visit her blog at ByCloudandFire.com, or learn about her worship ministry at caseypage.com.

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