by Heather Tietz
“Isn’t this the fast that I have chosen: to release the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Isn’t it to distribute your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor who are cast out to your house? When you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light will break out as the morning, and your healing will appear quickly; then your righteousness shall go before you; and the LORD’s glory will be your rear guard.
John Newton was an oppressor, a yoke enforcer, and a poverty maker. At age thirty-three he was captain of a slave ship. He trapped, sold and shipped African people like cargo. But in March of 1748, his life began to change. After stumbling ashore, following a horrific journey across the Atlantic, he began a search for change. In reading
Thomas a Kempis’s book, Imitation of Christ, he realized what a wretched profession he was in! As his heart turned, he began to live out Isaiah 58, “to release the bonds of wickedness, let the oppressed go free, distribute bread to the hungry, and bring in the poor.” He wanted to follow Jesus. John became a minister, and eager to have his congregation worship in truth, he wrote worship songs for them in everyday language. The song “Amazing Grace” was born out of his new style of hymns.
You too are a rescuer, called to help the oppressed go free, called to feed the hungry, help the poor, and release the bonds of wickedness. Who is enslaved around you? Who in your neighborhood, in your circle of friends, in your path, is in need? Consider how you might live out Isaiah 58.