“Then shall your light break forth like the morning, and your healing (your restoration and the power of a new life) shall spring forth speedily; your righteousness (your rightness, your justice, and your right relationship with God) shall go before you [conducting you to peace and prosperity], and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, Here I am. If you take away from your midst yokes of oppression [wherever you find them], the finger pointed in scorn [toward the oppressed or the godly], and every form of false, harsh, unjust, and wicked speaking,” Isaiah 58:8-9 ->me: As I promised yesterday, here are the blessings God gives when we get the fast right; when we do, here is what God gives us: 1) A fresh beginning. 2) Personal restoration – the healing of wounds and disabilities of the past. New flesh growing over a wound. 3) Security with righteousness as a protective advance guard and glory as a rear guard. The Lord provides righteousness and the believer wears it as armor. The glory of the Lord is the personal presence of the Lord in all His glory, His presence in every place. 4) He gives free mutuality of relationship with Himself; unfettered prayer -> prompt response. Answered prayers are not like the sending of food parcel; it is like a home visit by the doctor. This is all followed by ‘IF you take away from your midst…’ – which seems to indicate some special credit…’IF’ you do these things…not ‘when’ you do these things.
“[Rather] is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every [enslaving] yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house—when you see the naked, that you cover him, and that you hide not yourself from [the needs of] your own flesh and blood?” Isaiah 58:6-7 ->me: What an amazing revelation of God’s expectation of us when we fast!! Why have I never heard this preached on before?? SUMMARY: Fasting is most productive and glorifying to God when we use that time withholding from ourselves to not only focus our hearts on the Lord and Him alone, but to also share with the less fortunate the things the Lord has given to us -> Food, Clothing, and Shelter. It also means taking a personal interest in intervening in the mistreatment of other souls. What does operating this way do? 1) It shows the Lord that my focus is off my own flesh and I use the pangs of hunger (during my fast) to remind myself to pray. 2) When I take what I am not eating and share it with others, I see the blessing God has given me and I my eyes are opened to the good just sharing, what God has given me, with others can do. 3) I become focused on what I can do for others and that simple act exposes the selfishness of my own flesh when I am self-absorbed with my normal daily activities prompting long term change. (I read ahead a little 🙂 ) Tomorrow I will learn what God says will happen when I fast in the way He has designed.
“Why have we fasted, they say, and You do not see it? Why have we afflicted ourselves, and You take no knowledge [of it]? Behold [O Israel], on the day of your fast [when you should be grieving for your sins], you find profit in your business, and [instead of stopping all work, as the law implies you and your workmen should do] you extort from your hired servants a full amount of labor. [The facts are that] you fast only for strife and debate and to smite with the fist of wickedness. Fasting as you do today will not cause your voice to be heard on high.” Isaiah 58:3-4 ->me: Today was one of those days where sat in front of the Lord’s word and wondered what I was going to get out of it (I had read ahead earlier and was questioning what I was supposed to pull from it). Hear all of my language in that last sentence??? “what I was going to get out of it” and “what I was supposed to pull from it”. I bowed my head (as I always do before reading the Holy Word) and asked the Lord to forgive my unconfessed sin and to help me see what He wanted to show me today. Well, He answered. This passage (Isaiah 58:1-5) is all about God calling attention to the fact that the Israelites have an outward representation of seeking God and worshipping Him but in all reality they were going through the motions (the mechanics) of the Law without a heart focused on Him – they instead had a heart focused on themselves and what God would do for them when they played Simon Says with Him. When I read the passage just to see what ‘I was going to get out it’ nothing jumped out, but when I prayed and asked the Lord to reveal His truth so that I could get to know Him better, He opened my eyes to see the truth behind this passage and the application I should apply in my own life as a dedication to Him alone. HE is my focus…I am not my focus.
“But the wicked are like the troubled sea, for it cannot rest, and its waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked.” Isaiah 57:20-21 ->me: Today I poured over these 2 small verses. I did a study on ‘the wicked’. Here are the characteristics of the wicked – There is nothing steadfast or trustworthy in their talk. They flatten and make smooth their speech. They plot against the righteous, they love to cut people down with their words. They aim venomous words like arrows and they shoot them from ambush at the blameless man. They do this without self-reproach or fear. They love evil more than good; they would rather lie than speak righteousness and justice. They are at ease and prosper in their worldly dealings – they increase their riches. The wicked do not seek or hunger for the statutes of God. They are restless until they have caused trouble, made someone else angry, or caused someone else to fail. They love themselves and their lives are self-centered. They love money and are aroused by an inordinate desire for wealth. They are proud, arrogant, and contemptuous boasters. They are abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, and profane; without natural affection (callous and inhuman), slanderous, intemperate, and loose in morals and conduct; uncontrolled and fierce, haters of good. These people cannot rest, for their lives are tumultuous and cause a wake of fog, chaos, and destruction. The scary part is that these characteristics do not need to be complete in order to call someone wicked. Any one of these things on its own is damning- this is why we must heed Paul’s warning to the church at Corinth – “Examine and test and evaluate your own selves to see whether you are holding to your faith and showing the proper fruits of it. Test and prove yourselves [not Christ]. Do you not yourselves realize and know [thoroughly by an ever-increasing experience] that Jesus Christ is in you—unless you are [counterfeits] disapproved on trial and rejected?” 2 Corinthians 13:5
“If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I [or someone else] am speaking on my[their] own authority. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him[the Father] who sent him[Jesus] is true, and in him there is no falsehood.” John 7:17-18 ->me: When you chose to make your will the same as God’s will, you will know the truth [or lie] when you hear it. You will have the discernment of the Holy Spirit reinforcing the truth within you. When I use my own words formed through my own authority then I am only working to bring glory to myself. When my goal is to be in the will of God (my will and His will aligned) I will have the knowledge of the truth in me. It has to be in this order -> seeking God’s will to be my will unlocks the truth living within me and seeing the truth in His word. Just reading the truth [the word] does not automatically put me into God’s will. I know people who can recite passages and know the bible way better than I do but they are not walking in the will of the Lord -> they are not aligned and therefore seeking to be viewed as if they are in the will of God but not actually surrendering their lives to His work in their lives.
“Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry and struck him; I hid My face and was angry, and he went on turning away, in the way of his heart. “I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and to his mourners, Creating the praise of the lips. Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near, ”Says the Lord, “and I will heal him.” Isaiah 57:17-19 ->me: This is the Lord talking about His chosen people Israel but then in verse 19 He hits us with the inclusion of us into His healing. Through the bible in both the old and new testament – someone who is ‘a far’ is said to be non Jew and someone who is said to be near is God’s chosen nation. Acts 2:39 and Ephesians 2:17 use these distinctions as well. So, even way back here in the old testament God is talking about how we, as Gentiles, will be brought into His peace, praise, and inheritance. I don’t want to leave out the grace/mercy in the beginning of this passage. The ‘him’ is Israel – they went against God, and He would punish them by striking then down, but then when they got up they continued away from the Lord…what does the Lord do?? He says He will HEAL them, gives them peace, and brings praise to their lips. Throughout Isaiah I am continually blown away by God’s mercy and love.
“When you cry out, let your [rabble] collection of idols deliver you! But the wind shall take them all, a breath shall carry them away. But he who takes refuge in Me shall possess the land [Judea] and shall inherit My holy mountain [Zion, also the heavenly inheritance and the spiritual Zion].” Isaiah 57:13 ->me: In my mind I try to think of the absurdity of standing at the Day of Judgement (Revelation 20:12) and someone looking at their ragtag collection of things they put their trust in through their life (instead of the Lord) and hope they could save them. The ‘cry out’ here is likely the shriek that comes when everyone sees, first hand, the Judgement Seat of the almighty God and realize their wasted effort in earthly idols and pride. ‘He who takes refuge’ – does not say ‘He who works for refuge’. I just need to choose God as the shelter of protection over the earthly or self-sufficient options. The reward is in the ‘shall’. ‘He…SHALL possess the land AND inherit His Holy Mountain’ – TAKE and YOU SHALL.
“Of whom have you been so afraid and in dread that you lied and were treacherous and did not [seriously] remember Me, did not even give Me a thought? Have I not been silent, even for a long time, and so you do not fear Me?” Isaiah 57:11 ->me: This verse really struck me today while I was reading through each verse and taking notes. When we find ourselves tied up in the challenges and trials of worldly life, why do we not immediately cling to our God (which is what He wants)? Why do we cling so tightly to worldly solutions to our spiritual corruptness? 4 things shine through – 1) Unbelief is groundless: what is more to be feared than the Lord?? 2) It is sinful: To affirm that the Lord is our God but, in practice, to withhold the reverence due Him and give it to others or other solutions. 3) Inexcusable: to forget all the former mercies, the great acts of the Lord, and to use His name – the very thing He wished to be remembered by – and yet forget Him?? 4) Insulting: The practical ambivalence (really atheism to His rescuing power) of living without Him. Finally – can we seriously say that because we don’t see Him do any great wonders or miracles that we don’t fear Him??? We seriously meet the same criteria of the treacherous activity and audacious disregard of these rulers of Israel that Isaiah is lambasting…everyday. Yet, He loves us…everyday.
“Upon a lofty and high mountain you have openly and shamelessly set your [idolatrous and adulterous] bed; even there you went up to offer sacrifice [in spiritual unfaithfulness to your divine Husband]. Behind the door and the doorpost you have set up your [idol] symbol [as a substitute for the Scripture text God ordered]. Deserting Me, you have uncovered and ascended and enlarged your bed; and you have made a [fresh] bargain for yourself with [the adulterers], and you loved their bed, where you saw [a beckoning hand or a passion-inflaming image].” Isaiah 57:7-8 ->me: Isaiah goes into yucky detail about how the rulers of Israel have so badly strayed from the covenant of the Lord. The ‘lofty mountain’ piece speaks to their arrogance and openness of forsaking the God who has delivered their people from Egypt and exile. The rest of verse 7 and all of 8 have the tone of a defiled marriage bed. In Isaiah’s eyes they had deserted their spouse and not just left but paraded their mistresses in front, beckoning as many as wanted to come as a rubbing in the face. If that was not enough they turned all of their investment toward the empty love of unfaithful adultery; looking on their sexual subject with a sense of accomplishment and longing. This is such a judgement; and indictment of outright rebellion and childlike immaturity of an ‘I’ll show you!’ mentality. Unfortunately I believe this goes in hand with yesterday’s QTVOTD – these false churches and ‘those who do not belong to us’ run around frantic for security, running this way and that, paying any price for acceptance…all the time the acceptance and security is right there, without cost, with the rock-solid-unwavering-truth in the Lord.
“For the time is coming when [people] will not tolerate (endure) sound and wholesome instruction, but, having ears itching [for something pleasing and gratifying], they will gather to themselves one teacher after another to a considerable number, chosen to satisfy their own liking and to foster the errors they hold, and will turn aside from hearing the truth and wander off into myths and man-made fictions.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4 ->me: Today’s reading in Isaiah 57:3-4 was a stern rebuke by the Lord to those in Israel who had grown callused to the teachings of truth and had turned to idol worship of the gods of fertility…even to the point of sticking out their tongues at those who would still follow the Almighty God of Israel. God says “Are you not yourselves the children of transgression, the offspring of deceit?”[Isaiah 57:4] The margin references took me to today’s QTVOTD in the New Testament where the Lord was showing me that these are people in the church today who lower the standard of God’s truth to something they can stomach and that is acceptable to a fallen world. I not only know churches in our community today who deceive those who are genuinely searching but have also caught up those in our church who are so inwardly focused that they must find somewhere THEY ARE accepted for WHO THEY ARE rather than find their identity in the Holy Redeeming God who by grace alone came to save them from spiritual death for all eternity…I am so sorrowful for those who have fallen into satan’s ultimate trap. I have to ask myself – are these the ones 1 John 2:19 speaks of? “They went out from our number, but they did not [really] belong to us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us. But [they withdrew] that it might be plain that they all are not of us.”