Isaiah 58

October 19, 2012

Today, I want to share one of my favorite passages in scripture.  Even if you’re not observant of any faith, it’s a beautiful passage.  If you’re a Christian, it’s a core tenet of the gospel.  If we’re off the mark with this, we’re missing why Jesus came.  Jesus came not just to redeem us personally, but to redeem all of creation.  He stood up for those in the margins.  He was “for” the down and out.  The leper.  People shunned for moral reasons.  Orphans.  Widows.  Children.  Immigrants.  Today, I think the list would include those still in the margins.  People who have AIDS.  People who are being trafficked.  People who are sick.  The poor.  The homeless. People who are trapped in sweatshop jobs.  God is much more concerned with how we treat those in the margins than He is with pious demonstrations or public “shows of humility”.  Here’s what it says:

1 “Shout! A full-throated shout! Hold nothing back – a trumpet-blast shout! Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives, face my family Jacob with their sins! 2 They’re busy, busy, busy at worship, and love studying all about me. To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people – law-abiding, God-honoring. They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ and love having me on their side.

3 But they also complain, ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way? Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’ “Well, here’s why: “The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit. You drive your employees much too hard. 4 You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight. You fast, but you swing a mean fist. The kind of fasting you do won’t get your prayers off the ground. 5 Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after: a day to show off humility? To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black? Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, God, would like?

6 “This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. 7 What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. 8 Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage.

9 Then when you pray, God will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’ A Full Life in the Emptiest of Places “If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins, 10 If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. 11 I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places – firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. 12 You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.

13 “If you watch your step on the Sabbath and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage, If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy, God’s holy day as a celebration, If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’ making money, running here and there – 14 Then you’ll be free to enjoy God! Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all. I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.” Yes! God says so!

Thanks for reading.

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2 Responses to “Isaiah 58”

  1. Lisa Says:

    Hey Robin,
    I love this passage too. It is the Scripture reading for the first day of Lent for Orthodox Christians. It is so helpful to remember what fasting is truly about- changing the your heart not some pious thing to check off the list. A fast is supposed to align yourself with the poor so you understand how they feel.
    Wish we lived closer!
    Lisa


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