REPAIRERS OF THE BREACH
Dr. George Annadorai
People of faith are led to fix things that are broken. That is the message from Isaiah:
“Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in” (Isaiah 58:12).
Things were really broken in Isaiah’s day! When Solomon’s son Rehoboam took over the united kingdom, he messed up everything he touched. He favored the rich; taxed the poor; ignored his advisors’ plea to speak to people in a civil tongue; mistreated women; had a stunningly low approval rating but didn’t care because he played only to his inner base of supporters; polarized his nation; enjoyed conflict; did not welcome strangers and foreigners; and sought not what was best for the whole but for his own self-interest. He was the worst leader in the nation’s history.
The people said, “We’re out of here.” Ten of the 12 tribes took their marbles and headed north to form Israel. The two tribes that stayed behind formed Judah. Israel, the Northern kingdom, was taken by the Assyrians, who took the people into captivity. Judah, the Southern kingdom, was conquered by the Babylonians. The temple was destroyed and most of the people were forced to live in exile, where they sang the hauntingly sad song :
“By the rivers of Babylon — there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1).
We’re talking generations here. No light at the end of the tunnel. The people who once flourished in unity in the land of milk and honey were now no better off than they were when their ancestors were held in bondage in Egypt. And they wanted to know: What did we do wrong? Where is Yahweh? It does not make sense to us! It feels like evil is winning.
Isaiah’s job description was to help people to make sense out of bad things that were happening and to call them to faithfulness to God. That must come first. The genius of Isaiah was that he knew that if a person was faithful to Yahweh, then they would respond with care for the poor, for the oppressed and for all those whom society rejects and avoids. If a person were faithful to God, then she or he would feel led to fix that which is broken.
When things are not going well, people tend to do more of the same thing. In Isaiah’s case, the people engaged in more religious practices, such as fasting. The same could be said for other religious practices, then and now. Isaiah told them:
“Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high” (Isaiah 58:4).
Something different was needed. So what was needed? Isaiah put it in the form of a question:
“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?” (Isaiah 58:7).
That has a familiar ring to it, from Matthew:
“For I was hungry and you gave me food…I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing… As you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:35–40).