Isaiah 58 1-14
“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel[a] of their sins!
2 Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me.
They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf,
pretending they want to be near me.
3 ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves,
and you don’t even notice it!’
“I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers.
4 What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me.
5 You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind.
You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord?
6 “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people.
7 Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
8 “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
9 Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
10 Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11 The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.
12 Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes.
13 “Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath
and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day,
and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly.
14 Then the Lord will be your delight. I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob.
I, the Lord, have spoken!”
Isaiah was a prophet, a spokesman for God, with the duty of confronting people when they were doing wrong and comforting them as they were seeking God. The 1st 39 chapters of Isaiah involves the prophet confronting God’s people in Judah and Israel about their sins. The people of Judah were acting like they had a relationship with God, but their hearts were not focused on God, but on corrupt things. The last 27 chapters of Isaiah generally focus on bringing messages of comfort, forgiveness and hope for the future that will eventually come with Jesus Christ our Messiah.
In Isaiah 58, the prophet is talking to people about God’s response to true heartfelt worship verses worship that is false and meaningless. God is telling his people that true worship is so much more than casually performing the religious rituals of going to church, praying, fasting, and reading his word. Many people of that day were just going through the motions of their religious life and not excited about their relationship with God. They were praying to God, but not acting like they really wanted to be near him. God said their emotionless worship was evident, because their behavior did not change as a result of their worship. Their fasting did not bring them closer to God. Their prayers did not have a passionate pursuit for God. They read the word but did not seek to understand the meaning of the scripture. It was just going through the motions.
God is telling his people in Isaiah 58 and even us today, make your worship genuine, passionate, and full of curiosity about experiencing life with me, the God of the universe. Pray knowing you are getting close to the divine. Read the word, seeking to understand what God is saying to you through his word. Let your fasting bring you closer to God, and include acts of service, believing by faith as you serve, that God is right there with you. Your acts of service can include bringing food to the Food pantry at church, giving blankets and other resources to people experiencing homelessness or other acts of service to make life better for someone else.
God says when you do these things, that’s when I show up and show out. This is when salvation and healing comes, not just for us, but for all who are a part of this experience with God. This is when God’s light shines through us, bringing His light into a dark world. And when your give of yourself like this, it will be tough and exhausting at times, but know this, God will kick in every time, giving you strength, power, and resources to change this world. Those who pray, worship, fast and serve God like this, can change boarded up blight communities throughout Baltimore, because God is with them, and if God be for them who, can be against them.
Lastly, one of the most important things we must do to have this posture of true worship is by giving God his time exclusively. Sunday is time for God and nothing else. And while we are with God in church, engage yourself fully like you are at your favorite sports team’s game or your favorite music artist concert. Give your all to God, and watch God give his all to you.
Father, in the name of Jesus, please forgive me for not worshipping, praying, reading your word, and fasting with passion, purpose, and expectant curiosity. Please continue to remind me by the power of your Holy Spirit, when I’m not giving my all to you, because you always give your all for me. During this Lenten season, I am dedicating myself to praying so I can spend time in your glorious presence, and praying so I can worship you for who you are. I’m praying, praising and thanking you for all the blessings I have, while asking your help to bless others. God, I commit myself during these 40 days of Lent, to true worship and service in my community, bringing your light into dark places, knowing you are right there with me as I do your work in the world, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Call to Action
During the next 40 days, get with some people close to you, and commit to a time of prayer together consistently. Read a scripture together regularly and pray for each other. Serve in your community together, believing by faith God is with you, and watch what happens.