The prophet Isaiah depicts God calling upon his people to leave behind their rebellious ways and observe their covenant with him as he desires. What God chooses for them to do in observance is not simply holy ritual action but righteous moral action. God asks them: “to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin.” When God’s people do these things, he says, “Then your light shall shine forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly […].” The closing words of this passage are worthy of continual rereading and reflection: “If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. […] 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.”
This is the same light that Jesus describes to his disciple in our continued reading of his Sermon on the Mount, the blueprint for his mission and ministry. If his followers seek God’s righteousness and wisdom, they will be “the light of the world.” And as such, they have a responsibility: “A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under a bushel basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Jesus’ followers must let themselves be seen and known as such, and when they do, others will be drawn to God.