Today's Lectionary Text
Isaiah 58:1-12 (CEB)
58 Shout loudly; don’t hold back;
raise your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their crime,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
2 They seek me day after day,
desiring knowledge of my ways
like a nation that acted righteously,
that didn’t abandon their God.
They ask me for righteous judgments,
wanting to be close to God.
3 “Why do we fast and you don’t see;
why afflict ourselves and you don’t notice?”
Yet on your fast day you do whatever you want,
and oppress all your workers.
4 You quarrel and brawl, and then you fast;
you hit each other violently with your fists.
You shouldn’t fast as you are doing today
if you want to make your voice heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I choose,
a day of self-affliction,
of bending one’s head like a reed
and of lying down in mourning clothing and ashes?
Is this what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 Isn’t this the fast I choose:
releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke,
setting free the mistreated,
and breaking every yoke?
7 Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry
and bringing the homeless poor into your house,
covering the naked when you see them,
and not hiding from your own family?
8 Then your light will break out like the dawn,
and you will be healed quickly.
Your own righteousness will walk before you,
and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and God will say, “I’m here.”
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the finger-pointing, the wicked speech;
10 if you open your heart to the hungry,
and provide abundantly for those who are afflicted,
your light will shine in the darkness,
and your gloom will be like the noon.
11 The Lord will guide you continually
and provide for you, even in parched places.
He will rescue your bones.
You will be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water that won’t run dry.
12 They will rebuild ancient ruins on your account;
the foundations of generations past you will restore.
You will be called Mender of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Livable Streets.
Scripture has a way of touching our hearts. Today’s Scripture may touch us in a rough or assertive manner. I do not sense from the text. The chapters preceding set the stage and the ones following take the listeners/readers to the glorious finale of Isaiah’s book. This chapter may call to correct societal responses, I think it has an additional perspective … personal.
Imagine … God, the Lord Almighty, is sitting with you on the porch. You two have talked about many important topics and issues. It is starting to get late and the talk becomes more personal as the shadows increase. The poignancy and honesty take a more intense and personal turn.
Our Lord God says basically, “Look, this is what I want ...” And like a lover, God explains in terms you can understand what touches God’s heart, what God wants, and why. It may not be what you expected to hear. While there are actions to do and not do, it is the basis for the behavior that touches your heart. It is as if your heart and God’s heart are beating as one.
It seems God would have you SEE the people as God does. SEE their hurt and frustration. And as you see the reality, you and God weep for a spell … together. I can almost hear God sigh a deep sigh from the soul about these issues and how God wants you to feel them so much that action is as essential as breathing. And these actions all come from the same heart…yours woven with God’s.
And at the end of the chapter it seems God turns to the sunset and shares with you God’s promise; it brings such joy to your soul. And then you get up from the rocking chair, and with God’s smile and blessing, get to work while there is still some light.
-- Pastor Bianca Elliott, Linwood, Kansas, UMC
Prayer for Reflection
“This is what I (God) have told you is good and what I require of you. I want you to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with Me.” (Micah 6:8 personalized). Amen.