Gracefully Truthful

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Discover the original intent of Scripture. Make good application to our everyday lives.
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Read His Words Before Ours!

Isaiah 58

“Cry out loudly, don’t hold back! Raise your voice like a ram’s horn. Tell my people their transgression and the house of Jacob their sins. 2 They seek me day after day and delight to know my ways, like a nation that does what is right and does not abandon the justice of their God. They ask me for righteous judgments; they delight in the nearness of God.”

3 “Why have we fasted, but you have not seen? We have denied ourselves, but you haven’t noticed!”

“Look, you do as you please on the day of your fast, and oppress all your workers. 4 You fast with contention and strife to strike viciously with your fist. You cannot fast as you do today, hoping to make your voice heard on high. 5

Will the fast I choose be like this: A day for a person to deny himself, to bow his head like a reed, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast and a day acceptable to the Lord? 6

Isn’t this the fast I choose: To break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to tear off every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe the naked when you see him, and not to ignore your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will appear like the dawn, and your recovery will come quickly. Your righteousness will go before you, and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard. 9 At that time, when you call, the Lord will answer; when you cry out, he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you get rid of the yoke among you, the finger-pointing and malicious speaking, 10 and if you offer yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted one, then your light will shine in the darkness, and your night will be like noonday.11

The Lord will always lead you, satisfy you in a parched land, and strengthen your bones. You will be like a watered garden and like a spring whose water never runs dry. 12 Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins; you will restore the foundations laid long ago; you will be called the repairer of broken walls, the restorer of streets where people live.

13 “If you keep from desecrating the Sabbath, from doing whatever you want on my holy day; if you call the Sabbath a delight, and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, seeking your own pleasure, or talking business; 14 then you will delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride over the heights of the land, and let you enjoy the heritage of your father Jacob.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

The Original Intent

1) Why was God displeased with the people? (verse 4)

Isaiah 58 begins with God rebuking His people through the prophet Isaiah regarding their worship. (verse 1) While that seems odd on the surface, God had a valid reason. The people appeared to love the Lord and keep His laws and expect “righteous judgments” as a result of their relationship with Him (verse 2), but they acted surprised when God actually rebuked them (verse 3).

The Lord, however, had His facts straight. Though Israel was worshiping the Lord with their mouths, other times they used their mouths and hands for evil. (verse 4)

Previously, in Isaiah 29:13, the Lord noted how the people gave lip service to Him but their hearts were far from Him. According to Bible Study Courses, “The LORD makes clear that He does not consider the mere offering of the formalities of religious observance—no matter how sincerely they may be offered—as acceptable worship, if they are not accompanied by obedience in all areas of life.”

God wanted acceptable worship, where their hearts and actions lined up daily with His commands. What He got instead was legalism and posturing.

The Everyday Application

1) Why was God displeased with the people? (verse 4)

Just like the Israelites went through the motions of worship while living in a way contrary to true adoration, so too do we today.

We judge, we argue our point to the detriment of friendships and family relationships, we’re unkind to others, and we spend more time doing other things than deepening our relationship with the Lord. A quick survey of our social media timelines confirms many of these sins.

In The ESV Study Bible, under the Global Message of Isaiah, it states, “The glory and goodness of God is reflected in and through His people, by their words and by their actions.” How are our words and actions living up to this? If our daily lives are not reflecting Christ, then God is as disappointed in our heart position as He was with the Israelites’.

We should take inventory and make changes in our heart attitudes, so we please God and avoid His harsh rebuke. Let’s respond to the Spirit’s conviction and live out Psalm 19:14“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.”

The Original Intent

2) How does God define “true religion”? (verse 7)

After admonishing the people for their inauthentic worship, God provided His definition of “true religion” or truly faithful living.

Flee wickedness and free the oppressed. (verse 6) Feed the hungry and provide for the poor and homeless. (verse 7)

This definition is echoed in James 1:27“Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” This stands in stark contrast to the Israelites’ behavior. 

Enduring Word Commentary explains God’s directions this way, “Getting right with God begins by stopping the evil we do towards others. Getting right with God continues by doing loving things for other people.”

This was how the Israelites could show God they were living an authentic life of faith, by fasting from evil deeds and living in a loving community such as we see in Acts 2:42-47.

The Everyday Application

2) How does God define “true religion”? (verse 7)

Micah 6:8 is a favorite verse of mine, “Mankind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.” 

Though it frequently convicts me, it is a good summary of what God communicated to the Israelites, and ultimately to us, in Isaiah 58:7. If we want concrete examples of what it looks like, Jesus modeled the definition of true religion for us throughout the Gospel accounts.

John Piper lays out some beautiful examples in a 2019 commencement address, “Over and over in the Gospels it says, Jesus cared, He felt compassion on the harassed crowds (Matthew 9:36), and on the sick (Matthew 14:14), and on the hungry (Matthew 15:32), and on the blind (Matthew 20:34), and on the leper (Mark 1:41), and on the demon-possessed (Mark 9:22), and on the bereaved (Luke 7:13).”

Living truly devoted lives to God is evidenced by loving Him and loving others. Jesus never looked for a reward. He just acted, loved, and walked humbly with Father God.

The definition in Isaiah, echoes in Micah, and is lived out in the Gospel accounts. It’s the same one God expects us to adhere to in our everyday lives. It’s the one we should embrace and fully integrate into our lives because we love God that much.

The Original Intent

3) What does verse 11 say are the benefits of doing things God’s way?

All of the benefits God offered His people were contingent on their obedience. If the people adhered to practicing true, authentic, acceptable worship in word and deed, God would reward them.

According to The Global Study Bible, “The right kind of worship brings God’s presence and blessing.” (verse 9) Not only that, but the Lord would also hear them, unlike false gods

If the people fed the hungry and helped the afflicted, the adversity and darkness they faced would be replaced by prosperity and light. (Bible Study Tools) God was willing to bless them if they walked in faithful obedience, pouring out His blessings like a gardener waters his precious garden. (verse 11)

Instead of feeling down and dejected, they would be refreshed and sustained by the Lord.

The Everyday Application

3) What does verse 11 say are the benefits of doing things God’s way?

We don’t love God because of His benefits. Neither does He love us based on our works. We love God because He first chose to set His love on us, even when we were sinners. (1 John 4:19Romans 5:8)

When we evidence our true love for God by our works (James 2:18), it deepens our relationship with Him and opens the door for Him to shower us with His benefits. Throughout Scripture He reminds us of how living life the way He prescribes will result in blessings beyond measure.

The thing we need to hang onto is that He doesn’t expect us to do this on our own. He says in Isaiah 58:11 that He will lead, satisfy, and strengthen us to follow and obey Him. Today He does that through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, who helps remake us into people God can and does bless.

Why would we pass up God’s help to receive His blessings? I know I don’t intend to, and I’m guessing you don’t either since you’re here studying with us. 

God pours out His love on us first, and we become more like Him by His Spirit who teaches us to be loving and humble in our ways as we reflect His generous love to the world around us.

The Original Intent

4) How can we experience God’s joy? (verse 14)

In the final verses of chapter 58, Isaiah related to the people the pathway to experiencing God’s joy in their lives. They hadn’t received this benefit in quite some time because they were disobedient and disingenuous. Perhaps they even forgot how good it felt to delight in the Lord’s intimate joy over them.

Isaiah’s reminder from the Lord was clear, if they observed the Sabbath with true intentions and reverence, they would be rewarded. (verse 13) Observing the Sabbath wasn’t a checklist item God wanted them to perform, rather, the Sabbath was created as a space for them to enjoy God and His presence without distraction.

This last reminder from Isaiah reveals God’s heart desire for a rich relationship with His people. It’s this heart posture of humble enjoyment of God that He loves to cultivate by providing us with His good gifts! (Matthew 7:11 says, “… if we framed our life in obedience to God, we should be His delight, and, on the other hand, He would be our delight.” Faithful obedience and right intentions were what God was looking for so He could reward the Israelites with His joy.

The Everyday Application

4) How can we experience God’s joy? (verse 14)

Today God is still looking for our faithful obedience and right intentions. Charles Spurgeon said, “The ways of worldly conformity and unholiness cannot bring good to us or ours. It will go well with us when we go well before God. If integrity does not make us prosper, knavery will not. That which gives pleasure to God will bring pleasure to us.”

When we cultivate our relationship with God through prayer, reading and meditating on His Word, and following His commands, we experience His pleasure and His joy; these are the richest of all gifts He could give! 

Psalm 37:4 instructs us to “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.”. If your heart’s desire is to experience God’s joy then revel in Psalm 16:11“In Your presence is abundant joy; at Your right hand are eternal pleasures.”

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Mandy Farmer
Mandy Farmer
5 months ago

Beautiful! Thank you for this reminder to look at our heart position. Joy indeed does come from being in His presence.

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