Pastor John has prepared brief devotions for the newsletter during each week of his sabbatical (July 1-September 30). Each passage is a favorite of Pastor John.
August 23 Isaiah 58:1-12
Isaiah 58:1-12 is a long passage that would take up most of the space available. Please take a moment to read before continuing.
In this prophecy, God is speaking through the prophet, and he is lamenting one critical point: For all their devotion to religious laws, routines, and worship, it has changed their lives very little, if at all. This is reflected clearly in verse 4,
“Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.”
Can you imagine engaging in spiritual disciplines and worship practices that end up with fighting and brawling?
A few verses later God clearly explains what he wants from those who seek him and worship him:
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 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 him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
This prophecy is a reminder that God changes lives. If we called to follow Jesus, if our faith is in him, then his grace ought to bring a transformation to our lives that in turn, brings hope and light to the world. Such a change also has the effect of pointing people to God.
Why do we help the sinner? Because Christ has redeemed us from sin. Why seek to relieve the oppressed? Because we were once oppressed by sin. Why share our bread and our homes? Because every good gift we have is from God, and if we are to be like God, we are to invite others to share in his blessings (cf. James 1:17).
I find this passage to be challenging. It is aspirational, to be sure. It sets a high bar that I never seem to quite reach. But that doesn’t mean I stop trying. If the grace of Christ has indeed changed me, then I need to share that grace with others. The great thing about this passage is that reminds us of the promises for those who share God’s grace with others:
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.