Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 58

Chapter 58 of Isaiah resonates with me today. It is essentially a warning against going through the motions in the hope that God will recognize these motions and bless them when our hearts are not truly in it. This resonates with me today because I recognize that I am once again at the end of my own personal reserves of strength. I am physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted because of the events over the past few days. Still, I turn to the Lord and His Word. I turn to His word honestly searching for strength and not simply because I am supposed to turn to the Word in times like this. While this chapter deals with fasting and what the Israelites thought they could make God do with it, the same can be applied to whenever we pray, study the Word, or seek the Lord without our hearts being fully into it. It is my prayer this morning that I come here honestly seeking, and not just because I have to.

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 will go before you,
       and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. – Isaiah 58:3-8

We are guilty of this when we fast and do so merely to expect results from God. It is like doing something merely to do it instead of doing so as an honest act of worship. The Israelites were warned against this because they merely thought the act of fasting would bring about blessings. The same is true when I write here. The mere act of here does not change things in my life. It does not instantly mean I no longer have worries or I am lifted out of the exhausted, depressive state I am currently in. There is a difference between mere works and spiritual disciplines, as disciplines come when we focus our hearts on God.

13 "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
       and from doing as you please on my holy day,
       if you call the Sabbath a delight
       and the LORD's holy day honorable,
       and if you honor it by not going your own way
       and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,

 14 then you will find your joy in the LORD,
       and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land
       and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob."
       The mouth of the LORD has spoken. – Isaiah 58:13-14

It is not what we do, but how we do it. That is where the true joy of the Lord resides. These last verses illustrate how God can help us rise above our troubles if we are truly seeking Him. He asks only for our hearts. I know that is a repeat of what I have said above, but it is a point that is worth repeating. Even when I have nothing left I am trying to point my heart towards Him and rely on Him to get me through this difficult period.


  1. What does it mean to align your heart with your disciplines?
  2. What do you see as the difference between disciplines and works?
  3. Is this a promise that everything will be perfect?

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