Micah Challenge: Prayer and Study Series, Pentecost 2007

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Micah Challenge -
Blow the halftime whistle

Week Six – Bible Study - Spirit, Justice, worship and mission

Up until recently there were hardly any contemporary Christian worship songs that referred to God’s justice, at least in my country, India. And I may not be wrong to think it is no different in most parts of the world. It has been, refreshing, however, to hear of small groups of musicians who are now working on writing and promoting such songs.

How does Justice as character reflect in our encounter with God? It begins with our experience of worship. It cannot be denied that today much of our focus on the Spirit is limited primarily to our experience of worship. Often the quality of our Spiritual experience is in ‘the great worship time’ we have. But what is the kind of worship that is acceptable to God?

Again listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah (1: 10-17)

“ Hear the word of the LORD , you rulers of Sodom;
listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah!

The multitude of your sacrifices- what are they to me?" says the LORD .
I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.

“ When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations- I cannot bear your evil assemblies.
Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates.
They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.

“When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you;
even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen.
Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight!
Stop doing wrong, learn to do right!

Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. “

When we worship the one who is on the throne we are worshipping the God who judges the world with justice. The invitation to come to his throne is to witness the God who does justice. Worship is an activity of the community that is committed to justice. Worship becomes an expression of a community that hungers and thirsts for God’s righteousness. In Amos, God once again expresses his displeasure with worshippers whose life does not manifest the character of God. “I hate and despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies…. let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream!” (5:21-24)

God has strong ideas about music, which may mean that He doesn’t like our worship. What is His taste in music? He loves the sound of justice rolling on like a river, and righteousness like a never failing stream. God seeks worshippers, it is not worshippers who seek God. God seeks worshippers and He is looking for worshippers who do justice.

In our contemporary focus on worship we seem to dilute the concerns for justice that God expects of his worshippers. To a people who inquire of God: ‘Why have we fasted and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves and you have not noticed?’ God’s answer is very simple.

On the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers…..
…..Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
..Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and unite 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…” (Isaiah 58: 3-7)

To worship God in the Spirit is to worship him consistent with his character as the God of Justice. And such worship is born in the heart of those who are socially engaged in acts of justice. So we see a healthy relationship between worship and doing justice. It is here that the Spirit creates a community of justice. The Spirit was not given to make us feel good. The Spirit enables us to be a community with mission, and the community of mission is a community that is to bring justice. So justice is not just doing right, but working to establish an environment where right is done. It is not just your doing right in your private life, but working for a national and global environment where justice is done.

Questions for Reflection & Discussion

1. Can you think of a few songs of worship in your churches that relate to God as the God of justice? What does it say – is it a cry or a commitment or a praise?

2. How can we enhance the content of God’s Justice and Mission in our Worship?

CB Samuel, India