God’s Heart Is: Freedom From Injustice

God's Heart Is. . .  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  32:54
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Freedom From Injustice:

The Freedom that Many Don’t Experience

Today is the end of the week where we have celebrated our American Independence.
It came as the end result of a hard-fought battle against the forces of a country far removed from the Colonies. What had been the natural administration of the British empire over the Colonies in North America became, for the founders of this country, a problem of being subject to foreign rule. The militias of several colonies banded together in the Colonial Army under the leadership of General George Washington against the forces of the occupying forces of Britain.
It was a revolution against the institution and government of a foreign sovereign, a revolution that was fought with guns and swords, blockades and piracy, cannons and bayonets. Many lost huge fortunes, many made fortunes. And in the end, our Declaration of Independence became the defining document of Freedom from the Oppression of Non-representative Government. Tyranny was the word used then, and it is a word we can use today for similar realities.

Warfare’s Injustice

And as we celebrated our independence, Ukraine remained under attack from Russia, trying to take over a country which had been free from Soviet control for more than 35 years. A population of an economically poor nation with no social safety net has had to hunker down and hope for their country’s armed forces to gain the upper hand.
Homes have been ruined, civilians have been killed, war’s atrocities have been committed. The elderly and infirm are forced to remain in their apartments while the shelling is going on all around them, and others have gathered in the bomb shelters.
Every death, of a soldier or a civilian, no matter what side they are on, leaves a family with out a father, or mother, husband or wife, son or daughter, parent or grandparent. Every death is a costly death, which is barely counted by the aggressors who want a good report to go home.
Millions have had to flee their country because of the destruction of homes and business, inflation and supply issues, while grain that should have been sold to help feed the world around them is languishing in storage silos, unsold and un-owned at the same time, depriving the world of an important food supply and Ukraine of it’s most important income supply.
Russia has conquered lands that were used by Ukraine for economic health, and denied them the lease rights to the lands over which Russian pipelines flow.

Economic Injustice

The Western nations have responded with boycotts of Russian oil. Mostly, anyway. Some have protected their own fuel tanks by continuing the purchase of Russian oil. Meanwhile, the price at the pump for us has doubled, not because our supply has changed, but because the world-wide price of a barrel of crude oil has nearly tripled. The change in the sources of grain to feed the world has created significant increases at the grocery store for each of us. Not because our food supply is short or threatened, but because companies make more money selling overseas than selling domestically.
This means very simply that the people who struggle most to make ends meet are the very ones who pay the highest percentage of their own income for food and transportation. It means they are hurt the most. It is economic injustice.

The Injustice of Violence

While we celebrated the 4th of July, someone took a position and began to shoot people at a city’s parade. Many cities chose to cancel their fireworks show, since it was impossible to guarantee safety for those who would gather.
When a home is torn by the violence of abuse, or the violence of murder, or the violence of divorce, those most vulnerable are the ones who suffer most. It can be from a loss of hope, or a loss of self-worth, or the loss of income, or of security, or of housing, or even credit.

The Injustice of Insulting Speech

In our world we suffer from the nature of our freedom, the nature of our oppression of certain groups, the nature of free speech and personal choice.
Yet what should be a mater of awareness of the needs of others around us, awareness of the oppression of some parts of our society, awareness of the needs of the poor, awareness of the injustices in our justice system, or some of our laws, or the enforcement practices so that we will have the opportunity to become part of the solution has been turned into a political football used to disrespect, disparage, and discourage our population from being more aware.
The term thrown around these days is being WOKE. WOKENESS. The WOKE Police.

So, What is WOKE About?

Because of the tossing around of the term by so many politicians and commentators on the right side of the political fence against any public figure who doesn’t stay locked within a narrow interpretation of the vast culture of our country. Mostly an attack on those who are more liberal in thought and action, politically on the left side of our imagined ideological fence. And it’s almost worse to be one of those compatriots that are on the right but not far enough into their camp, as they are constantly judged and insulted by the acronym RINO—meaning Republican In Name Only.
Without reporters or the politicians really saying what they mean or using a decent definition of what the term WOKE was about, I looked it up.
Woke is a term coined in the Black community at least as early as 1962 – in other words, 60 years ago. This is nothing new. As a verb, It comes from the simple past tense of the word “wake”. You know what that is. If I wake, then it means that I woke up. I am WOKEN from my sleep; so, as an adjective, I am WOKE compared to sleeping through life and being blissfully ignorant of what is going on around me.
In the Black Lives Matter movement of the past couple years, the term “WOKE” showed up again. It was pushed to the front of the conversation about social injustice, but oddly enough it wasn’t found in most of the conversation of the Black Lives Matter leaders that was reported in the media. Instead, it was taken captive by the opponents like it is a tool to discredit those voices that want to be heard once again.
The Oxford English Dictionary and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary in 2016 and 2017 included the word used as a term speaking of social, racial, economic and political awareness.
Do a definition search of WOKE and what you get is first, a verb: the past tense of WAKE, and as an adjective, “American slang meaning alert to injustice in society, especially racism.” The Black Lives Matter Movement has brought up the idea, once again, that those who are still oppressed by racism in our structures and policing and social systems, "we need to stay angry, and stay woke".
So, to be WOKE is to be aware of injustice, aware of racism and our own prejudices, aware of oppression and the systemic social and political abuse of others. It should be a term that we are unafraid of claiming, if we are among those who are doing our best to pay attention to the injustice and inequality and type-casting of any group of people.

Some Things Can’t Be Changed

I am a white European in my heritage. I can’t change that. My very DNA shows it. My eyes find those who are like me very easily, even discerning those who may be from certain parts of the United States, white like me but not from my roots.
As Bobbi and I visited Ireland, England and Norway last month, I saw faces that seemed familiar. Faces that could easily be family members, people who are visually just like me. Those are genetic realities of my roots. I can’t change that.

Some Things Must Be Changed

I have learned since my early college days that I have a responsibility to be aware of how our society and my own people group have continued to oppress, disparage, abuse and disrespect other races, other languages, other cultures, other colors, other levels of economic success, I am not ashamed of being part of those who are WOKE, or aware.
I have practiced that awareness enough that when I am in the fellowship of my Black sisters and brothers, I am not an outsider. I said a couple years ago to Pastor Geremy Dixon of Center of Hope church in Inglewood, when I was attending a leadership summit of the Interstate Association of the Church of God, that I was the piece of rock salt among the peppercorns, Pastor Dixon said, “No, Dave, you are just one of us. You are always here, always fitting in, always taking part. You are not separate from us but a part of us.” That was way more than I expected, and I certainly wasn’t fishing for the answer. But it reminded me that the important way of becoming aware of the social injustice that is endemic in our society is, first, just to just be there with them.
That is true of not just Black lives, but also Native Americans, the Latino communities, the Deaf community, the disabled and the disadvantaged. I don’t tell you that story about me as a point of pride, but as an example of behavior that makes a difference.

Being Aware of Injustice

Is, clearly and definitively, a standard that the Bible says we must pay attention to, because God pays attention to those who are oppressed and abused and used by the powerful in society.
God had laid this theme on my heart for today, and then as I prepared the worship plan for today, the Revised Common Lectionary that I use for the rotation of the Psalms that we read each Sunday was prepared ahead of time by God for this service.
So we read it in our Psalm some of the Bible verses I had selected for this preaching theme.
Psalm 82:1–2 ESV
1 God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
So why does being aware of injustice matter to the Christian or Jew?
Because it matters to God. God hears the cries of injustice loud and clear over the clamor of the self-righteous.
So as the Levite choir leader Asaph was in prayer considering the worship of the Israelites in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, God led him to write this worship poetry.
“How long will you judge unjustly?”
“How long will you show partiality to the wicked?”
The concerns of God about his people in Jerusalem 3000 years ago are still the concerns of God about his people today.
The instructions in the Psalm are clear:

Give Justice to the Weak

for it is the powerful who are most likely to use others for their own gain.
We call some terms and catch-phrases a “political football” because it gets kicked around, tossed around, gains progress and loses ground depending on what is happening with the team in control of the ball.
But God in in control of the whole stadium of our world, and God proclaims to us:
Psalm 82:3 ESV
3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
That does not come across like God doesn’t care about our actions toward others, does it?
And GOD IS AWARE OF THE FRAGILE RIGHTS OF THE AFFLICTED, that is those who are sick or oppressed, or physically or psychologically unbalanced, or the addicted and conflicted.
And GOD IS AWARE OF THE LOSS OF RIGHTS OF THE DESTITUTE, meaning of course the poor, the widow, the divorcee, the homeless, the traps of poverty.
We must be aware of Injustice because God is aware of the injustice suffered by people.
All of these terms of injustice, against weak, afflicted, fatherless, widows, addicted, abused, used and misused, poor and without what they need can apply to any people group. It can be racial. It can be political. It can be economic. It can be environmental. It can be part and parcel of a place that we live or of a way that we live.

God Sees. God Cares.

And so should we.
Even in the Psalm we are told what to do about it:
Psalm 82:4 ESV
4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

Serving the Oppressed IS Serving God

Which is a concept we don’t always pay good attention to. We are used to choosing our battles, and those battles are normally fought to keep our place in society, to keep our fortunes large and our homes secure. Our homes, that is.
To keep our churches well-appointed and cared for. Our churches, that is.
To keep our worship in our favored style. Our worship, that is.
We are so focused on our own preferences, protecting our own opportunities, protecting our own futures, that we forget about those who no longer have a sense of hope.
In the days of Isaiah the Prophet, when the country was relatively secure, prosperous, and sure of itself, before the threat of Nebuchadnezzar's army was knocking at the door, the religious were engaged in regular rites of prayer and fasting.
But God was not very impressed with what they were doing.
The Prophet, in Isaiah 58:1-4 , writes about God’s heart compared to our hearts. First he writes the command God has given him: Isaiah 58:1 “Cry out loudly, don’t hold back! Raise your voice like a ram’s horn. Tell my people their transgression and the house of Jacob their sins.”
Then he opens up with God’s reflection of their actions. Speaking of the actions of most he writes,
“2 They seek me day after day and delight to know my ways, like a nation that does what is right and does not abandon the justice of their God. They ask me for righteous judgments; they delight in the nearness of God.”
Isaiah writes the complaint against God of the privileged:
3 “Why have we fasted, but you have not seen? We have denied ourselves, but you haven’t noticed!”
But God has a lot to say about it:
“Look, you do as you please on the day of your fast, and oppress all your workers. 4 You fast with contention and strife to strike viciously with your fist. You cannot fast as you do today, hoping to make your voice heard on high.”

Selfish Fasting Only Serves Us

God complains about what they think is right:
Isaiah 58:5 ESV
5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?
So, God says, what is a fast to you? It seems like it is a self-serving maneuver to serve yourselves and get a response from God that fulfill your own wants.

God Has a Better Plan For Us

Isaiah 58:6–7 ESV
6 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
There’s a concept.

Serve the Needs of Others as a Fast to God

Isaiah 58:6–7 ESV
6 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
And God, being good, will celebrate our obedience:

God Celebrates His People Doing Right

Isaiah 58:8 ESV
8 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.

God Answers True Righteousness

Isaiah 58:9–10 ESV
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.

God’s Plan For Us Is Simple:

Micah 6:8 ESV
8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
This is

The Path of Service Jesus Chose

Luke 4:17–19 CSB
17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him, and unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written: 18 The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
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