Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Lent Words ~ Isaiah 58


This past week we had a four day stretch where the daily word for Lent were all taken from chapter 58 of the book of Isaiah.

Wednesday 3/13 Fast
Thursday 3/14 Righteousness
Friday 3/15 Light
Saturday 3/16 Joy

“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.
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.
‘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.
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.
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?
“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?
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.
“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."  
God desires that His people will follow Him, worship Him and love Him with genuine commitment, devotion, and with action. But all too easily we can allow true acts of devotion and worship to become meaningless rituals, going through the motions without engaging the heart. This is exactly the state of things in Isaiah 58. God speaks to His people through the prophet Isaiah about their hypocrisy in "acting religious", but not truly having hearts that are devoted to His will and His ways. He uses fasting as example of religious ritual without true righteousness.

God says, through Isaiah, in verse 1, "Declare to my people their rebellion and their sins." What were their sins? Just look at the words used to point out their sins: "They seem eager to know my ways as if they were a nation that does what is right...they seem eager for God to come near them...Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please..." Verses 2-3. They acted as if they were people who worshiped God, but their actions in daily living did not follow God's ways. They wanted God to bless them and answer their prayers because they fasted. But God looks at the heart, and the heart is reflected in actions.


So, rather than going through the motions of religious rituals, like fasting, and then treating others unjustly and without compassion, God calls His people to true acts of worship that reflect who He is. A true fast denies self in order to serve others. In verse 6-8, God points out His kind of fasting: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke, to share your food with the hungry, to provide the homeless with shelter, to clothe the naked, and to care for God's family.

"A true fast denies self in order to serve others."

When we live in this manner, in ways that reveal hearts of true righteousness, then we will see the results of God's life in our own lives. Verses 8-9a show the results: Your light will break forth like the dawn, your healing will come quickly, your righteousness will go before you, the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard, you will call and He will answer, and when you cry for help He will say Here am I. Living a life that flows from the heart of God reveals His light in our lives.



God calls us into a covenantal relationship with Him ~ I will be your God and you will be my people. This is seen in the remaining verses of Isaiah 58 in the "if/then" language.
If you: do away with oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry, satisfy the needs of the oppressed, keep the Sabbath and call it a delight, and do not go your own ways.
Then God will: Cause your light to rise in darkness, He will guide you always and satisfy your needs; you will be like a well-watered garden, called Repairer of Broken Walls and Restorer of Streets with Dwellings, and you will find your joy in the Lord.



God desires a true relationship with His people. He doesn't want us to just go through the motions of righteous activities - He wants our hearts. Reading this passage in Isaiah 58 every once in a while is always a good way for me to do a heart check.
Is there any place in my life where I am not being true? Not being real? Any area where I have shifted to simply acting religious and not engaging my heart? Am I serving with right motives? Am I looking for ways to love and serve others, especially those in need, those living on the margins?



The season of Lent provides us time to reflect, to examine, to repent, and to turn back to God in any area of our life where we have allowed our hearts to stray or disengage. The call of Lent is return.

"Even now," declares the Lord, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity."  Joel 2:12-13






2 comments:

  1. Mary, such a thought provoking passage and post. I love your artwork and the thoughts that you share. Thank you!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Ivy. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. It is such a deep and thought provoking passage.

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