Showing posts with label Isaiah 58. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Isaiah 58. Show all posts

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Isn’t This What I Chose for You?


These are the lyrics to a song I wrote many years ago, but it is appropriate to the season of Lent and the series I have been doing on Isaiah 58.

ISN'T THIS WHAT I CHOSE FOR YOU?

Here’s another Sunday morning
And you set aside the day.
But is there something you’ve forgotten on the way?
You offer me your worship
And you offer me your prayer
But the burden of my own heart do you bear?

Isn’t this what I chose for you?
Isn’t this the thing I planned?
Not some sentimental journey
Into the Promised Land.

Is there room for the wanderer
And provision for the poor?
Is there something for the hungry at your door?
For if you would be a blessing,
You would find that you’ve been blessed
And I would be your healing and your rest.

Isn’t this what I chose for you,
That you might learn to understand?
To remember they’re a part of you
And be my blessing in the land

Isn’t this what I chose for you?
Isn’t this the thing I planned?
Not some sentimental journey
Into the Promised Land.

© 1992 by Jeff Doles

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Fruit of the Fast God Desires

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. 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, 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. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. (Isaiah 58:8-12)
Israel was in a scrape (Isaiah 58 probably addresses them during their time of exile and captivity in Babylon) and they wanted the Lord to come and deliver them. They thought they could manipulate God by the emptiness of fasts and rituals when their hearts were far away from him — and from each other. (Is This What You Call a Fast?)

But God desired a fast that was altogether different, one in which yokes were broken, the oppressed were set free, the hungry were fed, the naked clothed, the stranger welcomed and the poor give shelter. This is faith expressing itself through love. It is a fast God honors because it expresses the heart of God, who is love, and it is the nature of love to give and to serve. (The Fast God Desires)

In this next section, verses 8 through 12, God speaks about the change such a fast brings — and it is really a “night and day” difference, beginning with the light of morning:
  • Your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear. It will bring forth a new day for you and your healing will begin.
  • Your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. This righteous fast of faith working through love will prepare the way before you, and God will back you up all the way. It will be a revelation of his glory.
  • Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. God always responds to those who call on him in faith and whose hearts are turned toward him.
  • Your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The new day God promises will continue and increase, regardless of the darkness in the world. It will shine in the night and make it like noonday.
  • The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. God is always ready to take care of us completely and in every way, even in a drought time. When we are turned toward him and our hearts are aligned with his, we are ready to receive his guidance, provision and strength.
  • You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. This is a picture of prosperity and blessing, like the man in Psalm 1, who follows the instruction of the Lord and becomes like a tree planted by streams of water, yielding its fruit in season, its leaves always fresh and green — and whatever he does prospers!
  • Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and raise up the age-old foundations. This is exactly what Israel was seeking by their empty ritual. God longed to do it for them, but only if they would keep his chosen fast of loving and caring for their neighbor as themselves. And then,
  • You will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. God is speaking not just to individuals but to a people and a generation. The more we live out the fast God desires, the more we will become repairers of the broken and restorers of the good and ancient paths that lead to righteousness and peace.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Fast God Desires

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? 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 them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (Isaiah 58:6-7)
God has no problem with fasting. He is not against rituals and symbolic expressions of faith. What he hates, though, are empty symbols and hollow rituals that are not joined to the life and faith they are intended to express. What he is after is the heart. Earlier in Isaiah, God complained against his people, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their heart are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught” (Isaiah 29:13).

In the New Testament, Paul shows the way of the gospel in regard to ritual. In this case the ritual of circumcision, but it is applicable in all things: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6). Whether or not one performs the ritual does not really matter. The only thing that counts with God is faith expressing itself through love. That is the kind of “fast” he desires from us.

In the false fast God denounced in Isaiah 58:1-5 (see Is This What You Call a Fast?), the people had the ritual down cold, with all the right moves. But it was empty because it was not connected to how they were actually living their lives. They continued exploiting and oppressing their workers. They continued quarreling and fighting and even coming to blows with each other. They were accusing and slandering each other (see vv. 9-10). They were abusing each other instead of taking care of one another.

What they were doing, God was looking for the exact opposite. The fast God desired from them was one in which they would act justly toward each other. Releasing each other instead of enslaving each other. Helping each other instead of exploiting each other.
  • The fast God desires is to treat people justly.
  • The fast God desires is to set people free from bondage
  • The fast God desires is to share our food with the hungry.
  • The fast God desires is to provide shelter for the wanderer.
  • The fast God desires is to clothe the naked.
  • The fast God desires does not turn away from those who are in need — for they are our flesh and blood.
In short, the fast God desires is nothing other than faith expressing itself through love. It is the fast God expects and the only one God honors. It is also the fast God enables — by Christ, who supremely revealed the love of God for us at the cross, and through the Holy Spirit, whose fruit in us is love. As we journey through this season of Lent, then, let us consider how the Lord Jesus desires to live out this fast through us.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Is This What You Call a Fast?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/fallingwater123/4763575667
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? (Isaiah 58:5)
Is this the kind of fast that God intends, the kind that pleases God? That’s an important question as we approach the season of Lent. You might be surprised to hear that the answer is No, this is not the fast God is looking for from his people. To find out why, let’s drop back a few verses, to the beginning of the chapter.
Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins. (v. 1)
God has a bone to pick with his people. They were rebellious. They had perfected the practice of sin. They were unrepentant. But they sure knew how to put on a good religious show.
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. (v. 2)
As if. They were acting as if they were eager to know God’s ways. As if they were a nation that did what was right. As if they were a people who had not forsaken the commands of God. As if they wanted just decisions from God. As if they really wanted God to come close to them. But it was all an act, a front, and not the reality of their hearts. God came near enough to see that.
“Why have we fasted,” they say, “and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?” (v. 3)
But now they were perplexed. They fasted. They “humbled” themselves, getting out the sackcloth, scattering themselves with ashes, putting on the mournful face and getting all hangdog. Yet, God had no regard for any of it. What’s up with that? Ah, but here’s the problem:
Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. 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. (v. 4)
For all their fasting, all their supposed humility, there was this huge disconnect. It did not reflect what was going on inside. How they actually treated others gave the lie to their religious show before God, and it is about this falseness that God challenges them:
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? (v. 5)
There is a fast God does desire, and we will look at that next time. But for Ash Wednesday, we must first reckon with the old dead ways so that we may embrace the new and living way God has for us in Jesus the Messiah.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Authentic Fasting

Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Matthew 6:16-18)
When the hypocrites were fasting, they really wanted to look like they were fasting. For them, that was the whole point. If they could have gotten away with looking like they were fasting without actually having to fast, for them that would have been ideal.

At the beginning of His sermon, Jesus spoke comfort to those who mourn, that is, those who are grieved by sin and injustice. Fasting is a natural counterpart to mourning. He also declared blessing on those who hunger and thirst for righteousness — they shall be filled. That is the kind of fast that God rewards:
Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, “Here I am.”
(Isaiah 58:6-9)
This is not a fast of sad countenances and facial contortions. It is not religious theater, a "Pious Playhouse" production. It is a fast that begins in the heart. When we fast to become more mindful of God’s priorities, so that we may better hear His voice, it honors God, and God honors it.

It is not hard to look like you are fasting, when you actually are. The real trick is to look like you are not, and that will help you keep your motives clear.

The kingdom of heaven on earth requires authentic fasting — the hunger and thirst for righteousness.



The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

Preview with Amazon’s “Look Inside.”

Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Happiness of Considering the Poor

Blessed is he who considers the poor;
The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.
The LORD will preserve him and keep him alive,
And he will be blessed on the earth;
You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies.
(Psalm 41:1-2)
It may seem odd to some people that one can discover happiness by considering the poor. But this points us to an important truth about happiness: You do not find it by seeking it directly; it is the by-product of other things. David, who was called “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) learned this truth himself, and sang about it in Psalm 41. “Happy is he that considers the poor” (Jewish Publication Society).

To consider the poor does not simply mean to remember how blessed we are because we are not poor ourselves. No, it is much more than that. Young’s Literal Translation puts it this way: “Oh the happiness of him who is acting wisely unto the poor.” It means to act very intentionally toward them and for their benefit. It is considering how we might help those who are unable to help themselves. It is not just good words and thoughts — it is action:
If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? (James 2:15-16)

But whoever has this world’s good, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him (1 John 3:17-19).
God has always had a heart for the poor, the fatherless, the widow, the stranger in the land (we were all in such situations at one time or another). It has to do with what I call the “algebra of love: God is love; love gives and serves (1 John 4:8; John 3:16; Mark 10:45).

God will always back us up when we give to the poor. “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He will pay back what he has given” (Proverbs 19:17). We do not need a special leading to remember the poor — he has already given us a standing direction. We will never come up short when we give to the poor; God will always repay us — with interest.

What does the happiness of considering the poor look like? What blessing does it bring? David answers from his own experience:
The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.
The LORD will preserve him and keep him alive.
And he will be blessed [happy] on the earth;
You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies.
The LORD will strengthen him on his bed of illness;
You will sustain him on his sickbed.
(Psalm 41:1-3)
The prophet Isaiah addressed the same issue with greater detail. This is an extended quote, but well worth the meditation:
Is this not the fast that I have chosen;
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To under the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
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 extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noonday
The LORD will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;

You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
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.
(Isaiah 58:6-12)
There is great happiness to be found in considering the poor to bless them. God is love; love gives and serves. When we give to the poor, we are being like God, and there are many benefits of that.