REPAIRERS OF THE BREACH
Now that we know our real enemy, our true purpose, the freedom and justice we should be fighting for, and how to worship God, we can be about the work of repairing the breach and restoring the streets!
Our calling as God’s worshippers (see Bible Study, My Black Life: My Fight for Justice, God’s True Worshipper) isn’t simply an act of passivity. We are also called to play an active role in winning souls for the kingdom. Yes, serving as an example of what it means to truly worship God in spirit and in truth is our calling, but we’re also called to proactively “repair the breach” that has caused a rift between us and God and us and our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and in the world.
To “repair the breach” is an old battle term from when cities were surrounded by walls as a source of protection. However, a tactic of the opposing army was to try to create a breach or a break in the wall so that they could enter the city with the intent of stealing and killing. The “repairers of the breach” task was to rebuild what the enemy had destroyed. And only after the breach had been repaired and safety secured could the people go about “restoring the streets.” So what does this look like for us today?
Isaiah 58:12 – Those from among you shall build the old waste places; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, the Restorer of Streets to dwell in.
When Isaiah penned this particular chapter and verse, things were a hot mess on that day. When Solomon’s son Rehoboam took over the kingdom, he was responsible for destroying most of what those before him had built. He favored the rich, taxed the poor; spoke with a vile tongue; ignored the advice of wise counsel; mistreated women, polarized his nation, and pursued his own self-interest (II Chronicles 10:1-19). The people eventually rebelled, which ultimately led to the division of the kingdom. Ten of the twelve tribes went north to form Israel, and the remaining two tribes that stayed behind formed Judah (I Kings 12, 2 Chronicles 10). Israel, the Northern kingdom, was taken by the Assyrians (II Kings 17:15-18), and Judah, the Southern kingdom, was conquered by the Babylonians (II Kings 24-25). The temple was destroyed, and most of the people were forced to live in exile (Psalm 137:1). Now, God’s chosen, who had once flourished in the land of milk and honey, were no better off than their enslaved ancestors in Egypt.
So Isaiah, in a sense, was called to serve as the “repairer of the breach,” not literally but figuratively. Isaiah used a metaphor that the battle-weary people would understand. He shared that they were called to repair that which had been infiltrated, broken and severed. Yes, the literal wall that had once protected them had been breached. But the greater, more significant breach was the breach between God and His chosen people and the breach that divided God’s people into two kingdoms.
Isaiah sought to encourage the people, assuring them that no matter how dark and gloomy things were at the moment, a brighter day was ahead if they would just return in faithfulness to the God, the One Who had called and loved them (Isaiah 58:8-9, Joel 2:13, Hosea 14:1, Zechariah 1:3). Isaiah knew that the only way the breach between God’s people could be repaired would be to repair the breach that had separated the people from their God (Matthew 12:25).
During my studies, I’m always amazed at the many parallels between the Children of Israel and African-Americans (more on that in another LIFE Lesson to come). Our walls of protection and security were breached when the first slave ship came ashore. And as a result of that breach, we, like the Children of Israel, suffered centuries of oppression. That’s the literal breach. But perhaps there’s been a figurative breach as well – a breach in our spirituality and a breach between our relationships with one another and between us and our White sisters and brethren.
Repairers of the Spiritual Breach
In the Bible Series, Discovering My Biblical African Roots Bible Series, I began tracing my ancestral roots through the Bible. Not only did Africans have a political, economic, and cultural presence throughout the Old Testament, but they also had a spiritual presence (Genesis 14:18, Exodus 4:24-26, Exodus 18:1-27, I Chronicles 9:20, Zephaniah 1:1). And that relationship with God was evidenced in the Gospels (Acts 8:26-40, Acts 13:1) and continued to play an integral role in the lives of Africans post the resurrection of Christ. According to Jacob Olupona, professor of indigenous African religions at Harvard Divinity School, “African spirituality…beliefs and practices touch on and inform every facet of human life. Therefore, African religion cannot be separated from the everyday or mundane. ”African spirituality was a way of life and informed everything, including political art, marriage, health, diet, dress, economics, and death (From <https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2015/10/the-spirituality-of-africa/>). Whether my African ancestors understood God in the way we understand Him today or not, God was ever-present in their lives, practices, and worship. And it was their connection to God that sustained them through slavery, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement (For more regarding the History of the Black Church see the documentary The Black Church: This is our story this is our song).
But I’m wondering if, somewhere along the way, our connection with God has suffered a breach? As I examine my own behaviors, I realize that there was a time when God was my first recourse – unexplained illness, childrearing blues, work drama, lost friendships – God first. But when it came to my struggle trying to understand the many incidents of police brutality against Black boys and men. And the racial unrest. And the unexpected focus on “my story of oppression.” And the protest and riots. And the debates as to whether my Black life matters. My first recourse wasn’t God. Instead, I joined with “like-minded” men and women, calling for our liberation, reparations, and validation. I read everything Black-conscious-raising-liberating-get-myself-woke-books that I could find. I was glued to the news, listened to talk radio shows, and posted away on social media, and while I should have been feeling better, I grew sadder and angrier by the minute. Why was I still angry and sad? Because my connection with God had been breached. And it wasn’t until I returned to Him that I experienced peace and was able to put my “problems” or the “problems” of my people in perspective.
As highlighted in The Black Church: This is our story, this is our song, the church played a critical role in the African American community’s survival. Throughout history, the Black church served not only as a place to worship but as a community support group, a bulletin board, a place of mediation, a gathering place, a hiding place, and a center of political activism. These churches also offered their members an opportunity to exercise roles that had traditionally been denied to them within society (From <https://blackthen.com/the-role-of-the-black-churches-during-the-civil-rights-movement/>). But over time, it seems as if these roles have begun to take precedence over the sharing God’s message of love, hope, and redemption. We’re placing our civil liberties over our spiritual liberties, reparations over reformation, protest over prayer, political statements over God’s standards, and legalities over love.
Perhaps as a people, our first step in repairing the breach is to reconnect with God. Herald His message of love, hope, and redemption. Be the trauma center for others who are hurting because we, too, have been hurt. Help people over the precipice of injustice, giving them a soft, safe, and sure place to land – in the arms of Jesus.
Repairers of the Racial Breach
The Bible speaks of a day when “the nations” will flow together into the Kingdom of God (Isaiah 2:2, Micah 4:2). As shared in the LIFE Lesson A Race Second to None, the Bible did not categorize people by race but by nations (ethos) or different ethnicities. I know that all God’s promises are true. Still, when I look at the state of relations between our varying ethnicities, particularly between African-Americans and White-Americans, I wonder how. The breach between the two ‘nations’ resembles the aftermath of an earthquake. But God is looking for someone who will build up the wall and stand in the gap (Ezekiel 22:30). And maybe we are the ones to do it.
As always, God gives us an example. Look at the early Jews and the first-century evangelists, particularly the life and actions of Paul. Paul was a Roman citizen by birth (Acts 16:37), a prime example of a “righteous” Jew (Acts 22:3, 23:6), and was known for persecuting Christians (Acts 8:1). Yet, Paul became the untiring champion of Christianity, starting a dozen or so churches and writing 13 books of the Bible. So how, with this past, could he “reconcile” his differences with Gentiles whom he had looked down upon, with Christians whom he had persecuted, and with Jews who had not yet accepted Christ? How did Paul navigate this terrain when historic grievances could have so easily torn the body of Christ apart long before it even started to grow (Williams, 2020)? When we look at the life of Paul, we find nuggets to guide our path to being “Repairers of the Breach.” Whether your experience has been that of the “oppressed” or that of the “oppressor,” Paul’s life speaks to us all.
Reconciliation According to the Life of Paul
(Again, I recognize that each of these could be its own study, and eventually, they will be. But for now, here are some considerations for you to study and ponder).
- Repent – Upon accepting God’s calling, Paul had to first repent of his former sins and wrongdoings, be baptized, and declare His allegiance to Christ (Acts 22:12-17). It’s easier to see the need for repentance for the “oppressor.” However, when one is cast in the role of “victim” or the “oppressed,” it’s difficult to see outside of our oppression and to recognize our need for repentance too. Why examine myself when I’m the one who has been wronged? But we, too, because we are humans born in iniquity, have some stuff with us. But before we can enter into our calling, we must do some internal examination. Ask some tough questions. Repent of those things contributing to the widening breach – anger, hatred, doubt, unforgiveness, chasing after the things of the world, lackluster praise and worship, forgetting our true purpose. Once we return to God, He can recalibrate us so that come what may, we walk worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1).
- Forgive yourself – Know that after you’ve repented, our sins are immediately forgiven because of Christ’s sacrifice (Psalm 51:2, Romans 4:8, Colossians 2:14). But for many of us, living as one who has been forgiven is difficult. God has forgiven us, but we find it difficult to forgive ourselves. But we must so that the guilt, shame, and weight of our past sins don’t continue to weigh us down today (Isaiah 38:17, 44:2).
- Forgive others – Forgiveness is not an emotion but is a choice and an act of will. “When Jesus commanded His listeners to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them, He talked to real people with real enemies and oppressors (Williams, 2020).” When we take matters into our own hands and focus on ensuring that justice is served to those who have wronged us, we display our distrust in God. When we hang on to unforgiveness, we suffer. Paul understood that it was only by God’s grace that He had been forgiven (I Corinthians 15:9-10). As a result, he had no other recourse but to forgive others so that he could be about his Father’s business (II Timothy 4:14-16). And this is the same for us today.
- We have to forgive no matter how much it hurts, how heavy things are, or how angry we are. And our forgiveness isn’t contingent on an apology or acknowledgment of “their” role in our pain (Luke 23:34, Matthew 18:21-22, Mark 11:25, Luke 6:37, Exodus 32:31-33). What does this look like? For inspiration, you can read some incredible stories of forgiveness here (Rachel Denhollander’s Story of Forgiveness and inspiring-forgiveness-stories). Personally, when I’ve had to forgive someone I can’t forgive face-to-face, I “write it out.” I’ve written letters of forgiveness to America, those who have hurt me, and my younger self. I’ve written the letters, and then I have watched those letters burn in the fireplace as an act of surrender to God. For those whom I can engage in conversation with, I do so. When appropriate, I ask for forgiveness, and I offer forgiveness. No matter how impossible it seems, God can give us a spirit of forgiveness (Luke 12:12). When we forgive, we can live in the fullness of joy (Psalm 32:1-5).
- Share truth – About the role, place and purpose of Africans and the descendants of Africa in the Bible, there have been so many misconceptions, distortions and lies about who we are and were designed to be. Perhaps this was not done on purpose, but it has been done with purpose. The lies and misconceptions of our people have stripped away our identity and have left us grasping for straws and attempting to define ourselves by someone else foreign to our “nature” and God’s original intent. And this has left us spinning into a ball of self-hate and confusion (From <http://www.herroyalroots.com/wordstudies>). According to Priscilla Shirer, Christian author, motivational speaker, and actress, “Without concrete allegiance to and affirmation with this truth—with absolute truth—you’re left weak and susceptible to things that may look right and sound right yet actually aren’t right. But with the standard of truth in place, you can adjust everything else in your life—your ambitions, choices, and feelings; your mind, will, and emotions—until all of it lines up correctly. The time has come for us to be women girded in truth (The Armor of God_Priscilla Shirer). In the LIFE Lesson My Black Life: My Fight for Justice, God’s True Worshipper, I described the prophetic revelation that we, the daughters beyond the rivers of Ethiopia, would humbly return to God as His worshippers. John 4:23 sheds further light on God’s True Worshipper – we worship the Father in spirit and truth! Our task is to first understand Biblical truth, worship through the knowledge and living of that truth, and then share Biblical truth. And we are to share this truth just as Paul did – humbly, in love, yet with zest and zeal.
- Point to Jesus – The answer to repairing the breaches is Jesus. While fighting to change legislation is important, we can’t outlaw hatred. Our primary response to the severed breach should be the sharing of Jesus so that He can change hearts, as He’s the only One who can. When we get caught up in all the ways and rhetoric of the world and lose sight of Jesus, we begin to look and sound like the world. We spread the same lies and distortions. We affirm that which is unbiblical. We begin to exchange the truth of God for the lie and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). And our communities remain in the same state of hurt and confusion. Jesus. That’s it. Give them Jesus.
Reconciliation may seem impossible and will most likely come about only by an act of God. But halleluiah, God is on our side. If God could reconcile the Jews and the Gentiles, He can surely reconcile us (Ephesians 2:11-13). Christ is our peace, the One Who has broken down the middle wall of separation (Ephesians 2:14) and has given us the power of reconciliation through the power of the Holy Spirit (II Corinthians 5:18-19). Let’s begin to repair the breach between Blacks and Whites within our churches so we can then be about our Father’s business, serving as a model of how to repair the breach for the world. And once we repair the breach, we will be positioned to “restore the streets.”
Restoring the streets is justice in action. And we have a straightforward recipe for how to go about the restoration of our most vulnerable and broken communities. The blueprint for restoring the streets can be found in Isaiah 58:6-11. And the Message Translation sums it up best:
“This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
“If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
Once we look outside of our hurts, the wrongs heaped upon us, and our desire for someone to pay, we can begin the work of repairing the breach and restoring the streets.
- How does Isaiah 58:12 speak to you?
- How would you describe the current “breaches” within your church, community, and nation?
- Besides Paul, what other Biblical analogies can you identify about reconciliation or repairment of the breach?
- What is the most difficult step in the reconciliation process as described above? Why?
- What one step can you take towards repairing a breach with another person or a group of persons? How might you personally apply the lessons learned from Paul about “repairing the breach?”
- Compare and contrast Isaiah 58:6-9 to Matthew 25:35-40.
- Think about your local community. What are the current needs? How can you begin making a difference or taking steps to restore the streets?
- What are your personal LIFE Lessons?
- Liberation: What new insights have you gained that have freed you from past thoughts and practices?
- Inspiration: In what ways have you been spiritually, emotionally and mentally motivated to live for Christ?
- Fortification: What additional scriptural texts, passages or stories can reinforce and strengthen you against the attacks of the enemy?
- Edification: How might you share your story to edify others and bring glory to God?
As you process, digest, and apply what’s been shared, here are a couple of songs from “My Black Life” Playlist. Listen and let the music infiltrate your soul. Read the lyrics and let the words encourage you. And I pray that you’ll be blessed as I was.
- Praise Is What I Do by William Murphy – Praise Is What I Do – William Murphy
- Here I Am to Worship by Hillsong – Here I Am To Worship / The Call – Hillsong Worship
- The Reason Why I Sing by Kirk Franklin – Kirk Franklin – Why We Sing