Many of us look at our society and see tremendous disparity between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots.’ Some who do works of Gospel proclamation get an unfortunate reminder of how good we have it when we see those who are oppressed or poor and walk away feeling much better about our own lives, and yet actually feel confused about ourselves.
The Israelites of Isaiah's time had a similar problem. They were practicing all of the right practices and couldn't understand why God didn't seem to hear them. They were fasting and offering sacrifices but not practicing righteousness, not practicing justice. They put on a show hoping God would give them stuff. This is not the kind of worship which God seeks.
God says, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 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 them…?” God wants the people to fast from injustice—not merely to humble themselves for a day. God wants them to fast from oppression not to roll around in ashes.
God shows them what could be theirs if they would worship the Lord in righteousness. God says, “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and He will say, Here I am.”
God will answer our prayers if we live a righteous life. God will heal: physically, emotionally, and spiritually, if we live in holiness and righteousness. God will grant us whatever we want if we live holy lives—but not in the easy way we want. When we are living righteous lives, God will give us what we want not because we've earned a reward, but because as we live into God's holiness our desires are shaped by God's desires. Our hopes and dreams are changed from selfish and petty concerns to the hopes and vision of the Kingdom of God here on Earth.
Our whole lives will be changed if we truly submit ourselves to God's righteousness and continue to strive for God's justice. We will see God in our lives in new ways, not because God makes Godself available to all righteous followers in different or better ways than the unrighteous and unjust. We will see God anew because our eyes will be shaped and formed and changed so that we can see the God who has always been there for us. We will see the God we ignored for our own selfish vision of God. We will cry out and finally be able to hear God say “Here I am!”