Thursday, February 21, 2008

Isaiah 58: The Cure for "Common Christianity" Part 1

OK, now I am into Chapter 58. It reads like a prescription for "common Christianity."

The patients hear about their disease

"Declare to my people their rebellion, and to the house of Jacob their sins."

God considers hypocrisy and divided allegiance to him to be sinful rebellion. Those addressed are people who are called by the name of the God of Jacob (Israel). They should know better.

"For day after day they seek me out. They seem eager to know my ways as is they were a nation that does what is right, and has not forsaken the commands of its God."

Unlike the idolaters and prostitutes in Chapter 57, these people are overtly religious.

"They ask me for just decisions, and seem eager for God to come near them."

They are God-conscious and probably mean well

"'Why have we fasted' they say 'and you have not seen it?' 'Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?'"

But they are in a quandary. Is God forgetting something? Since that doesn't jibe with their theology, they just can't figure out why God doesn't acknowledge their efforts.

But here is the culprit.

"Yet on the day of your fasting you do as you please"

Indifference to God. It showed up in the agenda.

"And exploit all your workers."

Injustice rears its ugly head

"Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife and in striking each other with wicked fists"

Even uglier. Maybe in their extreme hunger they got crabby and the slightest little thing ticked them off, and their emotional reactions were exaggerated.

"You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high"

Given their efforts they probably were shocked by this statement.

"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."

Ok, what else is there?

Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

I guessed so.

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen. To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke?
To se 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 him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?"

It must be a miracle. Usually when people are starving, they don't care about anything else but their stomach.

"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."

It is certainly a miracle. Its how the fast ends. Not eating, and learning to depend on God. Finding him there, and understanding his Word and power more clearly. Seeing his glory. Proceeding to righteous attitudes and actions of love and benevolence. Being full of joy through the Holy Spirit.

May God do this for all of us.

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