As we all start the year 2015, may we hold on to the words of Isaiah 58:6-9 (NLT), “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. ‘Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. “Yes, I am here,” he will quickly reply. ‘Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!’

There’s a lot of instructions stuffed in those four verses. Lets pick them out one by one:

1. Free those who are wrongly imprisoned and let the oppressed go free (v. 6). This means we have to pursue justice for those who are oppressed and wrongly accused. Social media is making this increasingly possible for everyday people, but we also need to be vigilant and be responsible lest we shame ourselves us Christians. Let us not make assumptions without having enough facts. Let us be heard not by riding on the wave of a social media onslaught but by balanced views and fact-checking.

2. Lighten the burden of those who work for you and remove the chains that bind people (v. 6). If you employ people, do you give fair wages? Do you remit their social service payments? Do you pay their taxes correctly? Do you give health benefits? There are so many way for employers to lighten the burden of their workers and it is in our best interest that we heed the word of God because these are the kinds of things that God wants and it is d=very dear to His heart.

3. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them (v. 7). As I write this, Typhoon Seining passed through Mindanao and is now over Palawan and exiting. Thousands have been displaced and without food and water. Residents are living in cramped evacuation shelters where disease could easily infect them. We need to be generous especially at this hour of need of our countrymen. If we cannot go to them, we can donate to organisations that goes all-out to help. With today’s technology and our credit card, it is only a hard heart that can hinder us form being generous.

4. Do not hide from relatives who need your help (v. 7). The news at a popular Philippine network spent three nights showcasing how ninongs (godfather) and ninangs (godmother) were hiding form their inaanaks (godchildren). If people can hide from people who are not even related to them, i hope we as Christians will not hide from our own flesh who are in dire and genuine need. I emphasise “genuine” because it is also true that there are relatives who come to us out of habit even if their need is not great.

This Scripture promises a reward to those who will follow its words:

1. Then your salvation will come like the dawn (v. 8).

2. Your wounds will quickly heal (v. 8).

3. Your godliness will lead you forward. (v. 8)

4. And the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. (v. 8)

And best of all,

5. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. “Yes, I am here,” He will quickly reply. (v. 9)