Living Justice

We are happy to welcome ministry-focused college and seminary students from around the country and overseas to write in June of 2020 for The Park Forum. Each of them is pursuing a career in ministry and received free coaching on their writing as a part of the program. For more information about the program and a profile of each of our student writers, visit our Student Writers Month page.

Today’s student writer is Meghan Hendrickson, a student at Truett Seminary.

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 58:2
“For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them.”

Reflection: Living Justice
By Meghan Hendrickson

The most chilling word of Isaiah 58 is seem

“They seem eager to know my ways… and seem eager for God to come near them,” (Isaiah 58:2). To say Israel seems eager to know God’s ways and for God to come near them implies they are not.

Could the same be said of us?

Israel is caught up in rituals rather than their Redeemer. God says, “day after day they seek me out,” yet God calls Isaiah to shout like a trumpet against Israel’s sinful rebellion (Isaiah 58:1-2). Who, or what, are they seeking?

Are we eager to know God’s ways?

We know God’s ways by examining the way of Jesus. The way of Jesus is the way of the cross (Luke 9:23). The way of Jesus is one of self-sacrifice for the sake of our neighbor and to the glory of God.

Are we eager for God to come near us?

When God comes near us, he humbles us and shows us the oppressed we are freed to free, the hungry we are filled to feed, and the naked we are clothed to clothe (Isaiah 58:6-7).

What if God clothes us with his Holy Spirit that we may clothe the naked of our own day with dignity and grace? What if everything God has done for us he intends to do through us?

Israel asks why they have fasted and humbled themselves before God without applause (Isaiah 58:3). Israel was not worshiping God as much as themselves.

God declares the fasting he desires from his people is justice (Isaiah 58:5-7).

When we seek to know God’s ways and are eager for God to come near us, God calls us to a life of justice. In God’s kingdom, justice is not a distant ideal. Justice is an ongoing activity spurred on by a confident hope in a future reality.

The entire life of Jesus, culminating at the cross, is a demonstration of God’s justice.

How are we, as followers of Jesus, demonstrating God’s justice?

God’s command is clear and constant: love God and love our neighbor, just as God first loved us (Mark 12:30-31, 1 John 4:19). If we humble ourselves and walk in God’s way of justice, Isaiah tells us both our help and our joy will be found solely and wholly in the Lord, and our light will rise in the darkness (Isaiah 58:9-10, 14).

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the King’s son…
For he shall deliver the poor who cries out in distress, and the oppressed who has no helper.
He shall have pity on the lowly and the poor; he shall preserve the lives of the needy.
He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence, and dear shall their blood be in his sight. — from Psalm 72

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 58 (Listen – 3:09) 
Matthew 6 (Listen – 4:35)

This Weekend’s Readings
Isaiah 59 (Listen – 3:54) Matthew 7 (Listen – 3:31)
Isaiah 60 (Listen – 3:55) Matthew 8 (Listen – 4:09)

Readers’ Choice Begins!
As we wrap up Student Writers Month, it is also time for us to start accepting your selections for Readers’ Choice posts that will begin in August.

This is a time of year when you, our community members, can encourage one another by sharing about the posts that blessed your spiritual walk this past year.

What devotional this year did you share with a friend? What devotional this year did you tell your small group about? What devotional this year did you email us about to thank us for it? Tell our community about how these devotionals helped you in your walk.

Submit your selections via this link.

Read more about Praise God for the Justice of the Gospel
Seeking justice for the oppressed, demanding changes when our justice system fails, and working to rehabilitate and redeem those convicted in our justice system are a part of our calling to serve as God’s representatives on earth.

Read more about A Worn Out Welcome
“Defend the oppressed.” (Isaiah 1.15)
“Defend the oppressed” can also be translated as “correct the oppressor.” Will you confront the powerful?

Seeking Righteousness

We are happy to welcome ministry-focused college and seminary students from around the country and overseas to write in June of 2020 for The Park Forum. Each of them is pursuing a career in ministry and received free coaching on their writing as a part of the program. For more information about the program and a profile of each of our student writers, visit our Student Writers Month page.

Today’s student writer is Vienna Scott, a student at Yale University.

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 57:1-2
1 The righteous man perishes, 
   and no one lays it to heart;
devout men are taken away,
    while no one understands.
For the righteous man is taken away from calamity;
2 he enters into peace;
they rest in their beds
    who walk in their uprightness.

Reflection: Seeking Righteousness
By Vienna Scott

Like many places today, Isaiah’s Israel was a nation rife with unrest. The prophet writes to a people living under unjust and oppressive rulers. Her leaders failed to care for their people. Isaiah 57 outlines the cost of such tragedy. What happens to good people when they don’t live under good leaders? 

Isaiah warns that wicked leaders ignore and persecute the righteous. But God is still with them. The righteous man is taken away from calamity. He enters into peace. But it doesn’t guarantee that the world does. 

We don’t live in biblical-era Israel. But the question is pertinent nonetheless. In our own time, the lack of harmony between people and their rulers is causing strife. Christians should wonder what righteousness looks like when it isn’t clearly modeled by our leaders.  

Unlike in the time of Isaiah, freedom for the righteous is not tied to a physical place, Jerusalem. The gospel message brings the Holy Spirit into the hearts of his people. The fruits of the spirit are virtues we carry with us like peace, patience, and gentleness. Peace that was once found away from calamity can now be carried through it. 

These principles can help us navigate a time where anger and vengeance drive the hearts of many people. There should be a clear and recognizable difference in the way that Christians interact with social and political unrest because we are not a people of unrest.  However, our inner peace does not make us people at rest. We walk, or march, in uprightness. The fruits of the spirit are still relevant in such a time as this. We should allow His Holy Spirit to carry us forward, in the pursuit of justice, as sons and daughters of righteousness, as people of peace. 

“For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:16-18

Prayer:
Give us your peace
Grant us your wisdom
Enlighten our leaders
Deliver us from disorder

Make us peacemakers
Carrying our communities through calamity 
Sharing the fruits of the spirit
Sowing peace
And harvesting righteousness

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Love the Lord, all you who worship him; the Lord protects the faithful, but repays to the full those who act haughtily. — Psalm 31.23

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 57 (Listen – 3:37) 
Matthew 5 (Listen – 6:03)

Read more about Peacemaking Versus Peacekeeping
We should not waste our time or energy with peacekeeping. Instead, we should strive with all that we are to be peacemakers.

Read more about Righteousness Sets Things Right
Righteousness, as Job describes it is marked by formidable, positive actions on behalf of justice…When Job walked in, the powerful trembled. Who gets nervous when you approach?

To Maintain Justice

We are happy to welcome ministry-focused college and seminary students from around the country and overseas to write in June of 2020 for The Park Forum. Each of them is pursuing a career in ministry and received free coaching on their writing as a part of the program. For more information about the program and a profile of each of our student writers, visit our Student Writers Month page.

Today’s student writer is Tori Sherman, a student at Logsdon Seminary.

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 56.1
This is what the Lord says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.”

Reflection: To Maintain Justice
By Tori Sherman

Our God is a God of justice. He asks his people to maintain the justice he originated. The world we live in is an unjust place, and amongst all the brokenness, our Lord desires for us to do what is right. God knows our sinful state of being warped towards evil, yet he still calls us to seek justice. 

We should advocate for the oppressed, yet it does not come easy to stand up for the marginalized and facilitate justice. Our natural tendency is to go with the flow of the world around us. Despite this, God has shown time and time again that his response to injustice is to protect the suffering and punish the tyrants. Our God saves. (Psalm 10.17-18

The dictionary defines salvation as “preservation or deliverance from harm, ruin, or loss.” Salvation is an inheritance that never spoils. (1 Peter 1.4) The darkness of sin and wrongdoing is all around us. Yet, regardless if we are the ones causing the injustices and darkness or if we are the ones victimized, our Lord has come to deliver us from the harm and ruin of sin. This deliverance is a gift, an inheritance, that will never cease. 

If the Lord knew humanity would be so corrupt, causing affliction to the oppressed, why did God save us? His salvation is close at hand, but do we deserve to be rescued? God saves because of his nature, not ours. This is the beauty of the gospel—the salvation the Lord gives to his people is one we have not earned, one we do not merit. 

The offer of eternal life will never expire, so we can use the words of Isaiah to be encouraged to seek justice and plead for the oppressed—knowing our gift of salvation is close at hand. God’s desire is for us to choose righteousness. This demands his power rather than our own striving. That power can work through us if we choose this path to follow. 

May we reach out, stand up, and rescue. May we fight injustice to bring light in the darkness and to do what is right unto the Lord.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Morning Psalm
But let the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; let them be merry and joyful.
Sing to God, sing praises to his name; exalt him who rides upon the heavens; Yahweh is his name, rejoice before him!
Father of orphans, defender of widows, God in his holy habitation! — Psalm 68.35

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 56 (Listen – 2:11) 
Matthew 4 (Listen – 3:09)

Read more about God’s Sufficient Justice
Some have abused the notion that human justice is incomplete as an excuse to cease pursuing justice on Earth. Some even call seeking justice anti-gospel.

Read more about In Denial about Injustice
The sins that brought God’s judgment and caused the exile of Israel were multi-faceted. But there is a common thread—injustice.

Canned Good Casseroles and Christ

We are happy to welcome ministry-focused college and seminary students from around the country and overseas to write in June of 2020 for The Park Forum. Each of them is pursuing a career in ministry and received free coaching on their writing as a part of the program. For more information about the program and a profile of each of our student writers, visit our Student Writers Month page.

Today’s student writer is Vienna Scott, a student at Yale University.

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 55:1-2
1 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.

Reflection: Canned Good Casseroles and Christ
By Vienna Scott

Coronavirus and the novelties of socially-isolated life have rocked the rhythms of our everyday. Even simple habits like eating three meals a day are remade by COVID-19. People who once went out to crowded Happy Hours are now home canning jams; the lackadaisical have embraced home workouts; all the Joneses are making sourdough. Who knew a lack of Major League Baseball would breed yeast? 

Life is recentering around it’s stripped, bare-bones necessities. For those quarantined and blessed enough to be food-secure, eating has been elevated to be a highlight of the day; each meal is a feast to be prepared with attention, creativity, and love. For those working overtime or encountering food shortages, meals are brief moments of respite. 

We are unconsciously learning the lessons of Isaiah 55. Isaiah calls us to the wine, milk, and bread. He exhorts us to feast. What does it mean to be called to feast in a time of social famine? 
Feasts combine food, relationships, and celebration. Our loaves and dishes are insufficient conditions to DIY a functional feast. We need the proper cause and company. How do we feast without fellowship? How do we buy without money? If we have no money but are commanded to spend, why spend that fictional coin on anything but bread to sustain us? 

Isaiah’s prophetic words prefigure Christ. We cannot buy without money but someone has already paid. We cannot feast on our own but someone is omnipresent. We cannot afford to nourish ourselves but someone else paid the price to sustain us. Calling us to feast is calling us to the celebration of our relationship with Christ. 

Isaiah’s exhortation speaks to us, a bloated people who have gorged on physical feasts and neglected the spiritual. With the old structures of life falling apart, there is an opportunity to rebuild a new structure with an eye towards the things that really matter. Listening, eating, and delighting in what is good is the spiritual feast. To feast in stark circumstances is to celebrate the life to come with Christ. Christ-Life is feasting. When you sit with the Holy Spirit, even casseroles from canned goods or cereal three times a day can be a celebration. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not stray from your commandments. — Psalm 119.10

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 55 (Listen – 2:11) 
Matthew 3 (Listen – 2:17)

Read more about Fasting from the Feast
God invites us to the feast of the kingdom. But many are fasting from God’s feast in order to binge on the benefits we can wring from the world.

Read more about Fasting as a Feast
Christians have a conflicted relationship with feasting, though we seem fine with most other extravagances.

Restoring Relationship

We are happy to welcome ministry-focused college and seminary students from around the country and overseas to write in June of 2020 for The Park Forum. Each of them is pursuing a career in ministry and received free coaching on their writing as a part of the program. For more information about the program and a profile of each of our student writers, visit our Student Writers Month page.

Today’s student writer is Allison Tinsley, a student at Truett Seminary.

Scripture Focus: Isaiah 54.7-8
“For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says The Lord your Redeemer.

Reflection: Restoring Relationship
By Allison Tinsley

We have all seen relationships fail, and many of us have even experienced failed relationships. Some of us even know how it feels for a marriage to fall apart. The heartbreak of losing romantic intimacy causes grief unlike anything else.

God understands this heartbreak and offers hope to those suffering. The prophet Isaiah provides a similar picture of God’s relationship with the nation of Israel. Like the adulterous, promiscuous spouse we see in Hosea’s life (Hosea 1.2), Israel has shown a sinful desire to place their own idols before God. The Israelites have strayed from God and disobeyed him, damaging the relationship. Isaiah repeatedly points to God’s compassion, however (Isaiah 54.7-10), and expresses God’s desire that he be reunited with his beloved people.

Isaiah compares Israel to “a wife who married young” and feels the distress of rejection (Isaiah 54.6). Life for women was difficult in biblical times without a husband. Therefore, God’s redemption here is even more significant. Regardless of how the Israelites have sinned or been unfaithful, God is strong enough to overcome their sin and restore their relationship. God’s wrath will not destroy the nation, but in kindness will turn his people back to himself (Isaiah 54.8).

God proclaims a light at the end of the tunnel for the Israelites. Like in the times of Noah, God’s anger is only temporary (Isaiah 54.9). He promises a time of rebuilding when suffering will be no more (Isaiah 54.11-13). He alludes to a time of freedom without tyranny or terror (Isaiah 54.14). God will be with the people displaying unfailing, unshakable love (Isaiah 54.10).

God’s promises to his people carry implications for us. Suffering persists in this life and often feels overwhelming. Feelings are hurt and relationships are broken beyond repair. Even so, we know that God’s love never fails. His love is consistent despite our consistent failures. We are promised a time without fear, sadness, or illness where we will be reunited with our truest love: Christ.

Gracious God, let us never lose sight of this promise. Remind us of Your love for us, especially throughout times of suffering and pain. Heal us when we are broken and use us in providing healing for those around us. Help us to be led by Your unfailing love in all we do. Amen.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Deliverance belongs to the Lord. Your blessing be upon your people! — Psalm 3.8

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Isaiah 54 (Listen – 3:14) 
Matthew 2 (Listen – 3:18)

Read more about New And Improved
God had once turned away from his people because they were unfaithful, God now promises that he will be their God and they will be his people once again.

Read more about Hitting the Mark of Reconciliation
The gospel has the power to resurrect dead relationships just as it has the power to resurrect our souls and our physical bodies.

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