It wasn’t planned. I hadn’t started out looking for a message like this. But there it was. When I grabbed my Bible, it opened up to where I had randomly shoved in an index card. The first verse of Isaiah 58 caught my attention. As I read further, the words jumped off the page and into my heart. They reached into the dark recesses of my soul. The words drug my sins to the surface where I cringed at their ungliness
These 14 verses
are the message God told Isaiah to give to the Israelites. They were paying the consequences for their disobedience of God’s laws. Strangely enough, they were full of the outward appearances of religious fasting and praying. But they couldn’t figure out why God wasn’t listening to them. He wasn’t impressed by their false shows of piety and religion. He laid it out quite clearly…
“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins! 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. ‘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.” –Isaiah 58:1-3 NLT
Israel was only pretending to seek God through their fasting and prayers. Their religion was nothing more than comforting rituals and “magical” formulas. They wanted God to help them, but they refused to turn from the evil hidden beneath the surface. So God gave them an ultimatum: Change you ways or I won’t listen to you.
Even today, we go through our religious habits without REALLY seeking God with a whole heart. The Israelites’ sins are rampant in American culture…and in the church. You and I must take ownership for where we have failed in these areas. We cannot assume that America’s destiny depends on the “other guy” repenting. If we, who have the Holy Spirit living inside us, cannot identify and repent of OUR OWN sins, how dare we expect others to do the same??
Please, please, please, dear Christ-followers…let usask God to open our eyes to our ownsins. Let us beg Him to give us the courage to face the darkness within our own hearts. It’s scary. It’s embarassing. Yet it is absolutely necessary if we want God to hear our pleas.
And here are their sins. Let’s consider them carefully to see where they appear in our own lives.
“You oppress your workers.” (verse 3)
You might be thinking, “But we don’t employ anyone!” Well, yes, we do. We employ the server at the restaurant. We ask our kids to do chores. We hire a plumber to fix our toilets. We select schools to educate our children. We pay someone to fix our cars. How well do we compensate those we employ? Do we ever stop to think about their financial needs?
Beyond financial oppression, are we emotionally oppressing them? Do we treat the restaurant server with as much kindness as our best friends? Do we show respect the trash collector? Does love radiate from us when we walk in public? Do we treat our family members with love and compassion? How do we handle a job done poorly? Do we give grace?
“You fight and quarrel.” (verse 4)
Wow. We are guilty here. Our Facebook feeds show Christians maligning other believers who disagree on politics. Christians argue over music preference, denominations, and Bible translations. We argue over non-essentials. Yes, we are guilty. And our guilt has driven many away from Jesus!
At home, we allow our children to fight and bicker. Then we argue with our spouses over trivial nonsense. We fight to boost our self-esteem at the cost of hurting innocent hearts. We are guilty as charged. We fight and quarrel just like the Israelites did.
“You show only the outward signs of repentance.” (verse 5)
Remember what Jesus said to the Pharisees? He called them white-washed tombs. They were like beautifully carved marble and granite. Only inside, they were full of putrid, rotting flesh. When we go through the motions of only LOOKING religious and humble, God still sees where we harbor sins of anger, jealousy, selfishness, pride, and greed.
God is not fooled by our faithful church attendance or perfect giving records. He knows when we are being fake. He knows that if we are TRULY repentant, our actions will prove it. Repentance is more than skipping a meal to pray. It is more than praying during church. Repentance involves change.
Will you join me in asking God to search our hearts? We can’t afford to go through empty motions. It’s time to get serious. Lives depend on it!! Our nation depends on it!!
Dear God, please forgive us! Give us the courage to face the ugliness that hides within. Show us where we need to change. Help us overcome our pride so that we can truly address our personal sins.