Isaiah 58

As I keep reading my Bible, I’ve been increasingly struck by God’s call for justice for victims of oppression. The Prophets devote a ton of time denouncing the leaders of Israel for getting fat off the backs of widows and orphans. Sometimes they connect it to idolatry; just as often, though, they denounce the spiritual leaders for following the letter of the Law regarding sacrifices and purification rituals and completely ignoring the spirit of it, which is aptly summed up in Micah 6:8: Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

A few years ago I was particularly struck by Isaiah 58:6-8, which is God eyerolling at the spiritual leaders’ ritual fasting. It says:

Isn’t this the fast I choose: To break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to tear off every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe the naked when you see him, and not to ignore your own flesh and blood? Then your light will appear like the dawn, and your recovery will come quickly. Your righteousness will go before you, and the Lord ’s glory will be your rear guard. — Isaiah 58:6-8 (CSB)

I was so struck by it that I started memorizing it (in a different translation), and it directly fed into my decision to let a single mom and her daughter stay with me for a few months (which was a stressful time, and I regret many things about how I handled it, but I don’t regret that I did it).

I keep coming back to that concept in general over the last few years, as America has become increasingly divided. Each side has their own sins, mind. I’m not here to argue Conservative vs. Liberal. But as someone who did come from a more conservative tradition, I look at the rush of Supreme Court decisions just before Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in, and in my inexpert opinion some of them are pure evil (the gerrymandering ruling), and even the ones I feel like I should agree with, like Roe vs, Wade, feel premature. We simply don’t have the social systems set up to support women (I’m looking at you, minimum wage laws, overpriced childcare, and poor parental leave policies). Never mind issues like rapists impregnating women and getting off scott free. Oh, or risks like doctors being unwilling to remove entopic pregnancies, which are in no way viable and may kill or severely harm the mother. Did the political maneuvering resulting in the overturning of Roe vs. Wade really come from a desire to see babies thrive into healthy adults, or was it literally just a move to ride the wave of conservative rage? (I don’t question individual voters’ motives. I do question the kings of the land and the false prophets whispering in their ears.)

I’m starting to diatribe. Anyway. All this to say that today’s poem is a golden shovel using the NASB translation of the first lines of Isaiah 58:6 and 8. I wouldn’t exactly call today’s poem good, but it’s about America and it’s almost Independence Day, so here we are. Happy birthday, ‘murica.

Isaiah 58

Originally written November 20, 2020

America is
Covered in a fog today—this
Fog of unclear morals that obscures not
Our physical eyes, but the
Eyes of judgment. Injustice is fast
Within the swirling mists, scurrying every which
Way, striking at the poor, and I
Long to fight, but cannot choose

Where to start—but should I then
Remain silent and indifferent, waiting for your
Return with justice, and your light
To sweep away the mists? Will
You forgive indifference, or break
My wickedness too? I fear finding out,
So I will step out, and will speak, like
A small child, whispering—but let the
Small words of justice and love help herald the dawn.