Isaiah 58:1 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD ?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness [a] will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
Isaiah opens up with a sort of hell fire and brimstone shout at the people for their sins. “Shout out to all my sinners out there!” As a parent I would like to use this as a proof text that it’s ok to yell at my kids.
Isaiah is about to let them have it. I expect he would rant about their adultery or their fornication or some other big ticket sin like idolatry or murdering or stealing. As I read on into the chapter I see that the “sin” wasn’t so much about what they were doing as much as it was about what they weren’t doing. Follow me on this.
Fasting was a huge part of Jewish nations worship. It was part of their rituals for the atonement of sin (Lev 23) and it was done as an act that would avert disaster (Esther 4). The Pharisees would continue this tradition as a proof of piety and used it as a litmus test for legit ministry when questioning Jesus about why His disciples did not fast.
(It’s interesting to note that they asked Jesus this while He was having dinner with the “tax collectors and sinners” luke 5:30)
In VS 5 of Isaiah 58 God asks a sort of half rhetorical / half mocking question; “what do think fasting is really about?” A I read verse 5 it kind of jumped out at me that is exactly what I thought fasting was about: humbling yourself, bowing your head, and the kind of demureness that comes when you’re especially hungry. Man do I hate being hungry.
It reminds me of James 1 where we are told that true religion is looking after orphans and widows and keeping yourself polluted from the world. James makes this statement in the larger context of doing the word and not just listening. Not just talking about it. He makes it in the context of taming the tongue. It’s so easy to take the Word and misuse it, to use my tongue to deliver the Word in a hurtful stinging manner. James says we should tame our tongue and use it wisely letting our good works speak loudly.
I have spent most of my life really focused and concerned about the pollution of the world part but skipping over the orphans and widows. There is no question that James emphasizes purity in our lives, but he gives equal time to caring for those in need.
I spent a lot of energy making sure I was in church every time the doors were open and tithing and raising my hands at the right moment in the song (we stand and lift up our hands…) I was part of the 10% that did 90% of the work. My wife and I were faithful and consistent.
I can also tell you that for a large portion of my life I didn’t even know an orphan and could name a handful of widows, but I certainly didn’t spend as much energy on that as I did on not listening to “secular” music or whether or not I should watch the smurfs since they were demons. Or, if in a show of solidarity I should go to Disney during the boycott even though I wasn’t a Baptist.
Conduit was born out of an “aha” moment in my life. It was born when the Spirit started moving in me. I couldn’t articulate it at the time it was born out of a realization that Isaiah was talking directly to me.
As a believer it is absolutely my job to be involved in loosing the chains of injustice, to break bondage, to set the oppressed free and to share my food with the hungry, to provide shelter for the homeless, and to clothe the naked. If I was looking for a job description, I just found one.
1 Peter 2:9 refers to Christians as a “Holy Nation”. I wonder if when we are praying for our government and culture and we don’t see the results that maybe it’s because we’re missing the point. Israel wondered why they were doing all the “right things” in their religious services and God didn’t seem to hear them.
I speak in broad terms obviously. I know that there are many in the Body of Christ who are very much a part of “true religion”. There are many in our community that are living this out every day. I personally fellowship with a group of believers who are proactively involved in these things.
It’s just that somehow as Christians we’ve been relegated to a voting block or a target market instead of a force for change in this world. If everyone of the quite literally hundreds of thousands of churches would focus equal attention onto the cause of justice, freedom and provision for those in need just think what would happen.
Actually we don’t have to think about it, God told us in VS 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness [a] will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
So what can you or I do? Where do we start in allowing the Lord to move through us? In Exodus chapter 4, God asks Moses a very simple question. He asked “what’s in your hand”. That’s the key. We’ll talk about it tonight.
7:30pm at Journey Church in Building 8 at The Factory.
http://www.conduitmission.org (for ever $15 we can feed a child for a month in Haiti. Click on the donate now button.)
http://www.darrentyler.podomatic.com for the podcast of the teachings from Monday nights