A Fresh Look at Isaiah 58
*I used the Names of God Bible in quoting the scriptures here simply because it is interesting to see what names of the Lord are used and in what context.
I wanted to write about this chapter after reading it again today because somethings caught my attention as never before.
The chapter starts off with a command and a judgement.
Tell my people about their rebellion
and the descendants of Jacob about their sins.
2 They look for me every day and want to know my ways.
They act as if they were a nation that has done what is right
and as if they haven’t disregarded Elohim’s judgment on them.
They ask me for just decrees.
They want Elohim to be near them.
3 Why have we fasted if you are not aware of it?
Why have we inflicted pain on ourselves if you don’t pay attention?
I have read this portion of scripture many times and skipped by it onto the next few verses, thinking that verses 1-5 did not apply to me. Today, though, they convicted me. I do try to look to Him every day and live by His word. I seek to know Him more and yearn to sit at his feet and talk to Him. I ask Him to answer my prayers and to lead me according to His will for my life. I want to be near Him. It's not like I am just paying Him lip service, I genuinely want to know Him and be like Him. I genuinely want to glorify His name.
I have also asked him the very question that these people are asking. "Why have I fasted but then not seen an answer to my prayers? Why have I gone hungry and devoted myself to spending time with you only to still find myself undelivered? Why have I not received even though I ask? Why is the door closed even though I knock? Didn't you say that if I abide in you and you remain in me, I can ask you anything? That if I pray effectively and fervently, without ceasing, my prayers will be answered? That if I delight in you, you will give me the desires of my heart? All your promises are good and true and you are faithful to fulfill every word that you speak. So, when God, When? And How?"
"Don’t you see that on the days you fast,
you do what you want to do?
You mistreat all your workers.
4 Don’t you see that when you fast,
you quarrel and fight and beat your workers?
The way you fast today keeps you from being heard in heaven.
5 Is this the kind of fasting I have chosen?
Should people humble themselves for only a day?
Is fasting just bowing your head like a cattail
and making your bed from sackcloth and ashes?
Is this what you call fasting?
Is this an acceptable day to Yahweh?"
Wow. How many times, have I, on the days I set aside to fast, done what I wanted to do? Oh I fasted. I spent the time with God. I sat before him with my Bible and my journal, with my water bottle and prayed. But when I got up, did I show any fruit of time spent in prayer? Not always, unfortunately. I would sit in the morning for an hour or two (because I woke up late), half asleep, not really motivated. But hey, I didn't eat breakfast. I really did sit for prayer. Then I would go to work, come home and study, maybe read a book. Yell at my brother, argue with my parents. Watch Netflix. Pray a little more and go to bed. Hey, I fasted, right? Nope. I abstained from food. That's really all I did.
That way of fasting "keeps [me] from being heard in heaven." It's not the kind of fasting that is acceptable to my Holy God. It's offensive, really. Suppose a friend said "Hey, let’s hang out today, I have to go to work, but I'm free at this time". I would go to meet with them, expecting to have a great time for at least a few hours. But when I get there, suppose they are texting half the time, not making an effort really to talk or when they do talk, they don't let me get a word in edgewise. Then a couple hours later, they look at their watch, say they have to go to work and we should get together more often and walk out the door. How would I feel? How does God feel when I do the same to Him? And how does he feel when I come back a few hours or a few days later and say "Look, God. I fasted, I prayed, I spent time with you, why haven't you done this for me?" What if it's not just a one-time thing? What if I keep doing that? Looking back, I realize now that I have done that many times. At the time, it didn't feel like such a big deal, (“I was busy after all and God understands”) but now in the light of this, I have to confess that I really wasn't sincere or genuine. I just wanted God to work for me without my having to sacrifice to much of "me time"
It's OK, if all I can do is spend an hour or two with God. Or even just half an hour. But that time should be quality time. Not measured in quantity. When I truly spend quality time with God, there is a noticeable change. Nothing huge usually. It's more that I am joyful and content and satisfied, more so than normal. I am normally a very optimistic, glass-half-full kinda girl but on those days when I really am with God, there's just a little something more there. I don't really know how to explain it.
6 This is the kind of fasting I have chosen:
Loosen the chains of wickedness,
untie the straps of the yoke,
let the oppressed go free,
and break every yoke.
7 Share your food with the hungry,
take the poor and homeless into your house,
and cover them with clothes when you see them naked.
Don’t refuse to help your relatives.
Honestly speaking, I don't go out of my way to "loosen chains and untie straps". I do try to help people whenever I can, however I can. But I think this verse is speaking of more than just that. I think it's about giving of myself to show Jesus to the world every day. It's talking to that person at work everyone else looks down on. Its making an effort to be available to someone when I would much rather be by myself. It's making myself open to letting the Holy Spirit interrupt my day to do what He wants to do. It’s about seeking first His kingdom so all else can be added to me.
8 Then your light will break through like the dawn,
and you will heal quickly.
Your righteousness will go ahead of you,
and the glory of Yahweh will guard you from behind.
9 Then you will call, and Yahweh will answer.
You will cry for help, and he will say, “Here I am!”
If I make an effort to seek Him first. If I make the conscious choice to not just sit with God for a time but to LIVE Him out in my normal day to day life at work and school and home, in the car, at the mall or even waiting in line at the ATM, "Then [I] will call, and Yahweh will answer.
[I] will cry for help, and he will say, “Here I am!” The he will "make [my] righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of [my] cause like the noonday sun (Ps 37). He promises that:
10 [my] light will rise in the dark,
and [my] darkness will become as bright as the noonday sun.
11 Yahweh will continually guide [me]
and satisfy [me] even in sun-baked places.
He will strengthen [my] bones.
[I] will become like a watered garden
and like a spring whose water does not stop flowing.
12 [my] people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the foundations of past generations.
[I] will be called the Rebuilder of Broken Walls
and the Restorer of Streets Where People Live.
In other words, living Him out means not just that He will answer my prayers, but that His power will flow, enabling me to break generational curses, set free the captives being held in bondage by the Enemy, rebuild broken lives and lead people to the saving grace of God so that they too can live Him out.
13 If you stop trampling on the day of worship
and doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the day of worship a delight
and Yahweh’s holy day honorable,
if you honor it by not going your own way,
by not going out when you want, and by not talking idly,
But first, before I can be the "Rebuilder" and "Restorer" I need to look at spending time with God as more than just a "Christian duty" on the list of thou shalts and thou shalt nots. I need to stop looking to satisfy me on the days or hours I devote to God. I need to realize, it’s not about me and what I want. It’s about Him and what He wants. It’s about being satisfied in Him. To be content in Him. To really know that even if my house burns down tomorrow, even if I get into a terrible accident and become paralyzed, even if I lose everyone I love, I will be OK, because I have Him and He is more than enough. He holds my life in His hands, he is in control and he will never abandon me. It is so easy to say that. It’s so easy to say I believe that. But can I live that? Can I stop living for myself and start living for him? Can I stop focusing on me and start focusing on Him? Not just Can I, but Will I. If I will honor God in my every day, starting with my time of worship and prayer, if I will honor that time by not going m own way, by not going out when I want, by not spending my hours and days idly,14 then [I] will find joy in Yahweh.
[He] will make [me] ride on the heights of the earth.
[He] will feed [me] with the inheritance of [my] ancestor Jacob.
Yahweh has spoken.
Praising Him Who Saved Me