Summary: How can we find a full life in the emptiest of places? Isaiah lets us in on the secret to God’s provision in today’s economy.
Valley Grove Assembly of God
July 6, 2008
Living Under God’s Umbrella of Provision
Introduction: Today I want to read you a verse out of the book of Isaiah from four different translations:
“And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones; and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not [deceive not]” KJV Isaiah 58:11
The NIV puts in this way, “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” NIV Isaiah 58:11
The New Living Translation says, “The Lord will guide you continually, watering your life when you are dry and keeping you healthy, too. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.” Isaiah 58:11
I especially like this verse in the Message Bible. “I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life [in the emptiest of places], firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry.” Message Bible Isaiah 58:11
God always shows us where to go.
God gives us a full life in the emptiest of places.
Throughout the book Isaiah uses many word pictures to describe how God wants to care for His people. “I will make you like a watered garden” is an oriental picture of happiness.
The term “ spring of water whose waters fail not” refers to caravans that sometimes were expecting streams in the desert only to find they had dried up. They were deceived by streams not being there. Isaiah says, “I will make you like a spring of water which waters won’t fail you or “deceive you.”
The 21st century has brought many people into the “emptiest of places.” The economy has worsened over the past few months. Gas prices are higher than they have ever been, groceries rise from one shopping trip to the next, billions of dollars are still going into the war in Iraq, storms and floods are destroying peoples homes in the Midwest and good jobs are no longer a certainty. Health care costs continually rise with no end in sight. It is true we are living in perilous times--the emptiest of places. Isaiah, the prophet, hundreds of years before Christ spoke to people who had dire needs just as we do in the 21st century. This chapter speaks to us as well as to them.
Does God care about our needs when our gas tanks are on empty, when the paycheck fails to cover the rising costs of just about everything? Why does it seem that so many people--even Christians--are not seeing themselves as a “well-watered garden” or a person living “a full life in the emptiest of places?” Why have things dried up so that they are no longer like a “gurgling spring that never runs dry?” Maybe this is a question you are asking as well.
There is much more to this chapter than the one verse I read which speaks of God’s abundant provision. God told Isaiah to speak some things to the people in order that they might find the promise of this verse. I think it speaks to us as well.
The people had somewhat of a desire to serve God, and they approached Him with rituals such as fasting but these rituals had become empty and meaningless. They went through the motions of it and put on sackcloth and ashes which was expected of them, but they did not have a spirit of true repentance. Even though the number of fast days had increased, they were not really denying themselves anything. On one hand they tended to seek God out, but on the other hand they treated people badly. Employers treated their employees unfairly and masters would release their slaves only to recapture them again. They were not quick to help those in need by sharing food, clothing and shelter. There was much social injustice and they said, “we might as well not even fast because God doesn’t even notice what we are doing. Why bother?” Have you ever wondered if it really mattered to serve God in today’s times? Isaiah answered that and said, “You can’t fast as you are doing today and expect God to hear you and to answer your prayers.” He asked them a question, “is that what you call a fast that is acceptable to the Lord?” He told them they couldn’t just hurry up and go through the ritual of fasting and put on the outward appearance of sackcloth and ashes and then have quarreling and strife with one another as they were doing. The purpose of the fast was to loose the chains of injustice and to untie the cords of the yoke to set the oppressed free. That was not happening. The lives they lived on a daily basis were not in agreement with what they expressed in their fasting and prayer.