Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Beauty of Isaiah: A Day Acceptable to the Lord
I've been able to share my love of the book of Isaiah before in a previous Carnival of Beauty, so it is wonderful to join with my sisters all over the world, hosted by Ashley and Beth of Onward and Upward, in sharing this. Please take time today to go there to read all the other submissions celebrating the Beauty of Isaiah.

My young ladies bible study group has been studying Zechariah over the last few months. Last week, we looked at Zechariah 7, reading of the Israelites taking part in rituals and fasting but doing so without truly seeking God or godliness. The study guide 'sent' us to Isaiah 58.

It begins with God rebuking the Israelites for their hypocrisy. They had been overcome by pride and had forgotten the Lord. Even on their days of fasting and outward piety, they were fighting with one another and oppressing their workers. We discussed how we can fall into the same trap, trying to use the rituals of worship as bargaining tools with God, serving others out of self-interest, confining God's influence on our lives to very carefully carved out "spiritual" time without it affecting the rest of our lives, or becoming proud and self-righteous that we are fulfilling these obligations.

However Proverbs 21:3-4 says:
To do righteousness and justice
is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
Haughty eyes and a proud heart,
the lamp of the wicked, are sin.
We are then reminded of what true religion is. It comes from a heart focused on God and his righteousness. Isaiah calls us to focus our hearts on God, demonstrate this love for God by our compassion for others, listen to his word and worship him in spirit and truth.

This brings God's blessing and restoration to his people. As he guided and protected the Israelites in the wilderness, he promised to be our 'rear-guard' today. The Lord will hear and answer the prayers of his people, blessing them with every good thing. His church will be built up and restored, both physically, as promised to the Israelites just returning from exile, but also spiritually as we see his church as the body of believers today and for eternity.

Isaiah also reminds us to the blessing of the Sabbath day and how, rather than it being a burden, it should be a day for delighting in God. It was given for man as a day of rest and restoration, a day to be focussed on the worship of God and the fellowship of his people. It is not however just the physically keeping of this day that God wants, but humility and compassion in our hearts. (I heard a wonderful lecture on this last week and will have to share it with you all soon.)

We must keep in mind that nothing we do, whether fasting, praying or Sabbath keeping, can contribute to our salvation. The only thing we contribute is our sin from which we have to be saved. Remembering this and remembering the grace that has been shown to us should keep us from developing too high an opinion of ourselves and keep our focus and heart upon God.

Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?

Isaiah 58:5

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  posted at 21:36  

At 21 February, 2007 11:49, Anonymous Barbara said...

Thanks for this post. This passage has been a real watermark for our family. We always try to keep in as the filter for what other decisions we make together. I really appreciated your comments and insights on it.


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