How was it possible that this prophet could oppose and even pass judgment on his own people while they were apparently so religious? They sought God daily to learn about Him, they followed all God’s laws (v 2), fasted strictly (v 5) and prayed for God’s intervention (v 3).
The apparent answer, according to verse 1, is that God commanded him to do it.
However, I imagine that the prophet’s conviction to confront these pious people grew from a vision of a community where God’s people fulfil their call to act justly.
When we read this chapter we can also dream of an alternative community. Fighting and quarrelling will stop (v 4) and workers will no longer be exploited (v 3). Those wrongly imprisoned will be freed, burdens lifted, the oppressed freed and chains removed (v 6). People will share their food with the hungry, give homeless people a place to stay and clothes to the needy (v 7). No longer will fingers be pointed to spread vicious rumours (v 9). The troubled will be helped (v 10).
In short – it will be a caring community.
Note how many promises go together with the prophet’s instructions to act justly. Their salvation will break through, their wounds will heal and the Lord will protect them (v 8 – NLT). God will answer their prayers (v 9). Darkness will disappear (v 10). God will guide them, give them water and restore their strength (v 11). They “will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring” (v 11 – NLT)!
In short – those cared for as well as the carers will receive God’s blessings. The whole community will be healed and rebuilt (v 12). For God will be in their midst: “You will call out to me for help. And I will answer you. You will cry out. And I will say, ‘Here I am.’” (v 9 – NIRV).
It is in this caring community where the prophet sees true worship of God. Here they worship God, not according to their own interest or their own desires (cf v 3), but with joy (v 13). God is their delight and God will provide their deepest needs (v 14).
To think about or discuss: What is your dream for a caring community in this time of HIV and AIDS?