“Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”
Yesterday we learnt that religion should not focus on external practices as a show of pride but should reflect the inward change by the work of salvation in our hearts. Religious works are sets of rules that say you must to do this or that to become holy or get closer to God, but according to Isaiah’s prophetic word from God, this simply is not the case. The only way we can become right before God is through confessing our sins and being made clean (verse 16). It is from that standpoint that outward expressions are true and noble.
So what do these pure and true outward expressions look like? Isaiah’s words in verse 17 help us to understand what true religion looks like. Simply put when God works in our heart for His glory, His glory pours out of our heart. In turn the things that burden Him, become our burden. The hurt and injustice He sees in this world becomes our hurt. The love and compassion He has for the marginalised of society (widows and orphans), is the same love and compassion we receive also. The difference is now we don’t look to help the poor, oppressed, orphaned and widowed to make ourselves look good but rather to bring glory to our Father in Heaven. This becomes selfless acts of true religion rather than works to make us look good and try to grab both man and Gods attention.
This message is so strong that even James echoes this in his letter to the early churches. “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you!” (James 1:27). This follows on from James’ strong words that we simply can’t just listen to God’s words (selfish) we must act upon it (selfless). So what are you waiting for… Go get right with God, then do good, feed the hungry, help the homeless, orphans and widows.