On the heels of Isaiah comes a psalm of judgment. While we may prefer psalms of comfort, like Psalm 23, or psalms of praise and thanksgiving, like Psalm 8, psalms of lament and psalms of judgment give us language for our troubles. Sometimes we complain to God in colorful and angry laments and sometimes God complains about us, taking us to court for our misdeeds. Sometimes God takes our side to praise our deeds of compassion, but in Psalm 50, God testifies against us.

The lectionary’s selection of verses does not lay out the case against us, but Isaiah and other prophets list the errors of the leaders of God’s chosen ones, the sins of the people who forget they were once foreigners, and the iniquities of those who mistreat the widows and orphans. And in verses 18-20, a portion of the psalm omitted from the lectionary reading, the psalmist adds some new specific sins: befriending thieves, keeping company with adulterers, speaking evil, and slandering one’s kin.

God is both attorney testifying against us and judge deciding our case. In verse 22, God proclaims a harsh sentence. Some people experience God as this kind of judge as their pastors preach condemnation, though often for a list of personal sins rather than the societal sins of injustice named by the prophets and found in these judgment psalms. Yet, even within this psalm of judgment, we hear that God prefers prayer, thanksgiving, and going the right way. Our reading from Isaiah this week offers us an explanation of going the right way: “do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (1:17). In the early church, Christians were often known as people of the Way, and even today we strive to be followers of the compassionate and loving Jesus, staying true to his Way.

What would be God’s court case against your faith community? How is God inviting you to live with more gratitude and more prayer?

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Luke 12:32-40

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Lectionary Week
August 5–11, 2019
Scripture Overview

The prophet Isaiah brings a harsh message to the Southern Kingdom of Israel. Although they are performing sacrifices and observing feasts, they have lost their heart for God. God wants no more meaningless sacrifices but instead wants the people to repent. The psalmist proclaims a similar message from God. The people’s sacrifices have become pointless because they have forgotten God. The primary offerings that God desires are thanksgiving and ethical living. The author of Hebrews sounds a note of harmony, emphasizing that Abraham’s faith in action—not his performance of religious duties—brings him favor with God. Jesus teaches that we cannot rest on our laurels of having faith. Instead we should remain vigilant and continue to perform acts of charity, including caring for the poor, as a response to our faith.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Isaiah 1:1, 10-20. Consider the author’s difficult questions: Is there blood on your hands? Does your worship lead you to acts of mercy and justice?
Read Psalm 50:1-8, 22-23. How do you offer thanksgiving as sacrifice and go in the right way?
Read Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16. How do you demonstrate faith as a verb, not just a noun?
Read Luke 12:32-40. God promises us a bountiful kingdom, but we cannot take our worldly possessions there. How do you work toward living as if you are already in God’s bountiful kingdom? How do you help to create it?

Respond by posting a prayer.

I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.” 

View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.