Inclusivity, Wickedness, Comfort and True Fasting

Isaiah 56-58 and Psalm 105

We’re all over the charts this morning, covering several topics in these chapters. Psalm 105 does a good job of preparing us for the reading this morning:

Remember the wonders he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,
his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
He is the Lord our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
Psalm 105:5-7

Every once in awhile I need to remind myself that God has always been the God of miracles. From long ago he has shown us his mighty power, but not for the sake of showing His strength–he did these things for our benefit, to draw us back to him. Yes, we are to be amazed at what he can do, but I think we should be more amazed at why he does these things. Think back on the miracles that come to mind and examine they why more than the what and be amazed. Our God loves us more than we can imagine.

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Psalm 105:1

Isaiah 56:1-8 – Salvation for Others & Keeping the Sabbath:

It seems the idea of being more inclusive is not something new:

And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord
to minister to him,
to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
and who hold fast to my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Isaiah 56:6-7

Yes, the Lord is the Lord of all, the Israelite and the foreigner; those raised in the church and those far from Christ. Let us learn this completely.

Twice this section includes the call to keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and then again in chapter 58.

“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,
then you will find your joy in the Lord,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Isaiah 58:13-14

Once again, I’m convicted of not being good about keeping the Sabbath as commanded, something I need to reexamine all the time. It seems so simple, but since I’ve worked from my home for more than 20 years, it’s hard to find that place where I can rest. Lord, help me to be obedient in finding and keeping the Sabbath.

Isaiah 56:9-57:13 – God’s Accusation Against the Wicked:

This section is completely different thought, one where see Israel’s watchmen as blind, ignorant and lazy; those who would rather get drunk without any concern for the day.

Israel’s watchmen are blind,
they all lack knowledge;
they are all mute dogs,
they cannot bark;
they lie around and dream,
they love to sleep.
Isaiah 56:10

Lord, there are those among us that fit this description, and perhaps we look like this from time to time. In both cases, Lord, help us to see those who need to be called out for their own good and show us how to love them back to you. For some, that is is a tough love; for others, incredible kindness is required. Give us a discerning heart to know what to do. All for your glory and your kingdom.

Not surprising, we find contemporary problems discussed in ancient writings:

Behind your doors and your doorposts
you have put your pagan symbols.
Forsaking me, you uncovered your bed,
you climbed into it and opened it wide;
you made a pact with those whose beds you love,
and you looked with lust on their naked bodies.
Isaiah 57:10

The only difference is the accessibility of pornography to our current society, at least here in this “modern” affluent context. This verse is an eye-opener for those who think our current brokenness is new. Lord, keep working on me to improve, to recognize the pagan symbols that I hide. Keep me far from porn of all kinds. Remind me to take refuge in you (Isaiah 57:13), to look to you for safety. I have remembered, Lord, I do take this to heart.

Isaiah 57:14-21 – Comfort for the Contrite:

For this is what the high and exalted One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
Isaiah 57:15

If God is so concerned for the contrite, for those overwhelmed with guilt, feeling truly sorry for their sin, so should we. It’s not my place to make someone feel guilty for their sin, but for loving them in spite of themselves, not as judge, but as one who takes on this character of God to care for the lost. This is our God.

Isaiah 58 – True Fasting:

Our ancestors were swept away into exile and tried to prove themselves as the religious right by fasting more and more, yet their fasts were broken with quarreling, fighting (literally with fists), demanding to be noticed for their righteousness. This is not why we fast.

“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

I’m no expert on fasting, but I do understand that fasting centers on God. There are lots of ideas on fasting in this modern world, something I should probably study more, but it’s clear in this text that if fasting is all about drawing attention to myself, it is no fast at all! What if we fasted and shared our food with the hungry? Or provided for the lost? That’s something worth considering far above any pious activity.

Lots of thoughts this morning. I pray God will speak to each of us where we most need it this morning.

Thoughts about serving others

This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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