I am struggling with my Bible and in particular Isaiah 58!
Verse 1 has the challenge to be a voice exposing the sins of others – well I would rather say positive words, but the call of this command is like John the baptiser and Jesus the Christ – the call to ' repent'. They both spelled out what sin was in the eyes of God. But who am I to tell others about their wrong doing?
Verse 2 & 3 identifies the religious observances of the people as being insufficient to please the LORD. They daily prayed and tried to know the right and wrong way to live. They seemed to be happy to spend time fellowshipping in God's presence. They had self discipline to do fasting, but underneath all this religious fervour was a mistaken motive and purpose.
First, they wanted the LORD to take notice of how good they were.
Secondly, they did 'religion' while continuing with self-centred behaviour.- "seek your own pleasure"
Verses 4 & 5 expose the hypocrisy of their self discipline – during these fastings the quarrelled. Their public posture of sackcloth and ashes was a sham like the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 6:5 "they love to stand and pray.......... to be seen of others."
Well that is enough to humble me, but there is more
Verses 6 to 10 explains what the Lord Jesus meant when He answered the leaders of His day "I will have mercy and not sacrifice, for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Matthew 9:13 . There was nothing wrong with sacrifice or fasting but the people were acting from the wrong motive and living the wrong way.
Let Isaiah explain:
"to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke
to let the oppressed go free
and break every yoke
to share your bread with the hungry
to bring the homeless poor into your house
to cover them
to pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted.
This makes me feel very small. I have failed to follow the mission statement of the Lord Jesus:
"To proclaim good news to the poor, He has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. To set at liberty those who are oppressed and to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." Luke 4:18
And that is just what Jesus did. Peter taught that we should 'follow in His steps' !
Back to the end of Isaiah 58.
For those who are true to God, following the steps of Him who 'showed us the Father', the promises in this chapter are brilliant. For example:
"Your light shall break forth like the dawn,
The glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard
The Lord will respond "Here am I"
Your light will rise in the darkness
Like a spring of water
Then you shall take delight in the LORD....."
Does all this mean we need to fix up our behaviour – well yes it does, but not as a matter of religious observance. Rather as a matter of returning unto the LORD with all our heart and letting Him change us from the inside out. To love Him with all our being, because He first loved us. This somewhat like the words of the Lord to the Christians at Ephesus who had so much commendable behaviour:
" But I have this against you, that you have abandoned your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen. Repent and do the works you did at the first." Revelation 2.5
My hope is restored because in the Lord does not only rebuke, but in Him is restoration, recovery, redemption and transformation.
I bow my heart and head with gratitude, that we know such a wonderful, loving Gad. He is our Father and we can trust Him.