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Designed to do right: A reflection on Isaiah 58

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Behind the pulpit, Joel Edwards is a powerful and eloquent speaker. On the streets, he has journeyed with the marginalised and the privileged, and calls all to conform to God’s design. Here, he reflects on Isaiah 58.

Isaiah 58: 6-9

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?
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?
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.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

38

In this text, God is saying to us: “If you do what I tell you to do, you’re going to feel better.” It shows an amazing journey of the ego. For it is egotism that displaces God and instead puts self at the centre.

Here, God invites us to a life which serves the other. And what it suggests to me, is that we are ‘wired up’ for good, we are designed to do the ‘right’ things.

This happens in the same way that the human body is designed to feel better and function better after exercise, when it comes alive and healthy.

If you put yourself at the centre of worship, you’ve got it wrong. And if you put yourself at the centre of doing good, you’ve still got it wrong.

What you need to do is put the ‘other’ (the poor, the marginalised, the broken) at the centre of your function. And when you do that, you will find the capacity to be the restorer. You will find God.

Embedded in this chapter is a call to a correction of the ego. Put yourself first and you’re going to get it wrong. Put others first and you get to enjoy being a human being because you respect the humanity of other human beings. And this should go to the heart of our political system.

This is why we say: ‘Aid is important’.

This is why we say: ‘Look after the refugee and the asylum seeker’.

Because if you pour out your soul, then your own life will change. You will get a crown of righteousness. Because we are designed to do right.

If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

— Isaiah 58:10

Rev Joel Edwards is a British writer, speaker and commentator on issues of leadership, poverty, justice and theology. Formerly the General Director of the Evangelical Alliance, and the International Director for the Micah Challenge, he is now pursuing a doctorate with St John’s College, Durham.

He has been also been a key speaker at The Justice Conference, hosted by TEAR Australia, several times.

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