ODJ: Like a Tree

August 10, 2018 

READ: Isaiah 57:15-21, 58:1-10 

Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon (58:10).

I love the powerful song “We Shall Not Be Moved”. The song captures a unique vision of true peace. Like a firmly planted tree, being deeply rooted in God gives us the courage to stand firm for His justice—even when we’re surrounded by powerful forces of corruption.

Isaiah 57 and 58 capture a similar dynamic, in which God promised that if His people humbly turned to Him, they would find new courage and “abundant peace” (57:15,18-19). But first they needed to be shaken out of their complacent, superficial faith. Although they acted “so pious”, seemed “delighted to learn all about” God and fully expected Him to be impressed by their zeal and “take action on their behalf” (58:2), God saw that their worship was really only about themselves (v.3).

Because even as they went “through the motions” of fasting and penance (v.5), they were exploiting others (v.3). If they really wanted to please God, they would be pouring out their lives for the “wrongly imprisoned”, “the oppressed”, “the hungry”, “the homeless” and others who desperately needed their help (vv.6-7).

It’s a challenging and convicting message, especially for people like me who’ve grown up in churches with relative privilege and power. Are we really growing deep roots in God and His ways—which leads to sharing our lives with the hurting—or are we just going “through the motions”? (v.5).

When we draw closer to God’s just and beautiful ways by joining His restoring work (v.12), we’ll also experience our own wounds gradually healing (v.8). We’ll experience the wonder of Him nourishing and strengthening us—guiding us to deeper, more refreshing waters (vv.11-12).

—Monica Brands

365-day plan: John 10:1-18

Compare Psalm 1:1-6 to Isaiah 58:10-11 and reflect on the relationship between being rooted in God and bringing His ways into the world. 
When are we tempted to settle for a superficial ‘peace’? How does being rooted in God help give us the peace to work for justice, even when it causes conflict?