Weekly Meditation: 5th February 2017

Isaiah 58:1-9a

Psalm 112:1-9

1 Corinthians 2:1-12

Matthew 5:13-20

Whenever I read what God says in Isaiah 58, I want to write it out and send a copy to every politician currently in power. Written centuries before the birth of Jesus, it is as relevant now as it was then. I believe that the words of 58:6-8, in particular, are an appeal to those in positions of authority to trust in God’s judgment and to put his laws into practice.  In fact it is a pity to cut off the words at 9a, as does the lectionary reading, and not allow them to reach their conclusion in verse 14. Dare one say that the solutions to financial crises and civil unrest are here, in black and white for all politicians to see? If only ...

If we did it God’s way, it would work. The Israelites were told exactly that, as they prepared to enter their promised land (Deuteronomy 28:1-68).  Instead, they turned to idolatry, to treaties with pagan nations, and to the accumulation of personal wealth. The poor and needy were neglected. And so God’s word came to condemn Israel through the prophet Isaiah, and to warn of coming calamity.

It in God is crucial. Humans always seem to think they know best. In the past the temptation was to try out other gods to see if the rewards were better than what the Lord had to offer. We are more sophisticated today, but most of us, if faced with a crisis, feel that practical, up-to-date advice will be of more use than God’s centuries-old word.  However, the Bible contains a catalogue of examples that show humans trying to do it their own way, and failing.  

Psalm 112 reiterates the value of trusting in God. Those who ‘find great delight in his commands’ (112:1), who are ‘righteous’ (112:3), ‘gracious and compassionate’ (112:4) can ‘never be shaken’ and will be ‘remembered for ever’ (112:6). Such people will be fearless, trusting and secure (112:7-8).  As in the promises of Isaiah 58:10, those who ‘scatter abroad their gifts to the poor will prosper, their righteousness honoured’. The lectionary ends one verse short; it is worth reading verse 10 to see the ‘reward’ of the wicked!

In a similar way, Jesus calls on his followers to let their ‘light shine before men’ (5:16). There is nothing to be gained by hiding a light; Christians must be visible in their communities, characterised by their honesty, compassion, open-handedness, by their involvement in helping the hungry,  the homeless and hopeless (Isaiah 58:6-10) and by their trust in God.

These dark days are not the time for us to trust in ourselves, or to ignore the call of God to be ‘the light of the world’ (Matthew 5:14).  Isaiah’s prophecy, Psalm 112 and the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5 are not intended to guarantee a life with no problems. They do ensure, however, courage in the face of danger, and security at times of upheaval. And ultimately we have the promise that we have never seen, or heard, or even dreamt of what God ‘has prepared for those who love him’ (1 Corinthians 2:9).