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The Light of Righteousness - Psalm 112:4

Blow the trumpet, Isaiah. Sound the alarm. Wake the worshipers up! Tell the congregation that there is something terribly wrong with them if they come here and worship and sing and pray and fast and act like they are doing righteousness while people around them go hungry, homeless, naked, and oppressed. Blow the trumpet, Isaiah.

The reveille of Isaiah 58 says that worship without good works of mercy is worthless. It doesn’t matter how many warm fuzzies you feel toward Jesus if you ignore the hungry. It makes no difference to God how passionately you sing the psalms if you leave the homeless exposed out on the streets. God doesn’t care how special your quiet time was if you are not ministering in His name to the oppressed. Real worship results in a difference being made in the lives of the hungry, the homeless, the naked, and the oppressed.

If you are too busy sinning to love your neighbor, then this trumpet blast is for you. If you are too busy living your life to love your neighbor, this trumpet blast is for you. If you are too busy worshiping God to love your neighbor, then this trumpet blast is for you. If anything in your life keeps you from works of mercy, then you are in sin and your worship is unacceptable to God.

If God asks you why the hungry in your city were not fed, the widows and orphans not cared for, you can’t say “That’s not my problem.” If you say that to God about the needs of your city, then when you stand before God, you should expect Jesus to say, “That’s not my problem.” But the good news of the gospel is that Jesus chose to treat your sin as His problem, and poured Himself out for you. Now He calls you to take up your cross and follow Him.

Hunger, homelessness, and oppression are all forms of darkness. Psalm 112:4 says: “Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.” Righteousness begins with worship, but it cannot end there. It must express itself in good works that bring healing and help to the suffering. In Isaiah’s trumpet blast, God explains that He wants worship worked out by setting the oppressed free, feeding the hungry, and sheltering the homeless. When that happens, Isaiah 58:8 says: “Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.”

Isn’t this what we want for our city? Don’t we want the darkness of Annapolis rolled back by the light of the gospel? “Annapolis had a homelessness problem, until Jesus showed up. People in Annapolis went hungry until the followers of Jesus fed them. Heroin was a huge problem in Anne Arundel county until Jesus drove it out. People used to be enslaved and oppressed and taken advantage of in Annapolis until Jesus brought His justice through the righteous and merciful deeds of His people.”

Jesus said: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

The whole reason why we worship is to give glory to God, but Jesus says that there is a kind of “worship” that dishonors God by putting the light of Jesus under a basket. That’s what happens when we are so caught up in our own piety and prayers that we neglect justice and mercy. Instead of that, Jesus exhorts us towards practical good deeds that make the glory of God visible. That’s how the light of righteousness shines: when Christians feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, visit orphans and widows, fight for justice, and break every yoke of oppression in Jesus’ name.

These past few weeks, we’ve seen the message of Epiphany unfold: Jesus is revealed as the light of the world; Jesus overcomes the darkness on the cross so that light dawns like the sunrise; Jesus joins you to Himself and commissions you to be the light of the world. Now God tells you how to be the light of the world: Be gracious to the needy. Be merciful to the oppressed. Walk in righteousness, and let the light of Jesus shine through you not just in your own private worship, but in worship that leads to works of righteousness that bring help to the hurting and glory to God.

Posted on Wednesday, February 08, 2017 by CJ Bowen