Summary: Exposition of Isa 58:1-14 about spiritually forsaking the care of the less fortunate by fasting, prayer, and worship and God’s response to that behavior
Text: Isaiah 58:1-14, Title: Spiritually Forsaken, Date/Place: NRBC, 6/29/08, AM
A. Opening illustration: some local illustration of trying to help someone, or maybe a generic example of how things usually go with trying to help those who are struggling.
B. Background to passage: As we continue our series on our vision statement at NRBC, the next component in the statement is ministry to the less fortunate. There are hundreds of scriptures that teach us that God would have us to care for those individuals that are among us, both in a church sense, and in a community sense. And in my devotional time on Mon morning, God had me reading this text. And since I was going to be at SuperWOW this week, and I would have the time that I normally have, I decided the Lord must be wanting me to preach from this text. In particular this chapter deals with fasting and the potential spiritual dangers of it, but we are going to look at it from a broader perspective of any sort of religious discipline or practice, with fasting as an example. And how that sometimes “spiritual people” use “spiritual things” as excuses not to live right, and refuse to live out our duty to help others.
C. Main thought: Our religious service amounts to nothing if we do not share our light and blessings
A. Indifference From God? (v. 1-4)
1. After Isaiah’s instructions to preach with all his might against the hypocrisy of the nation, and chiding them as if they were “a nation that did righteousness,” God gives the complaint of the people as a witness against them. It was probably Yom Kippur, and they were fasting (afflicting themselves), specifically, and worshipping, giving, praying, etc. in general and yet God was not acting on their behalf. They were accusing God of indifference toward them (“has not seen, nor knows”). But their attitude reveals that they did not have the proper motivation nor the proper manner in their service. They were using worship, fasting, etc. to manipulate God into doing what they wanted. This was what the pagans did, and many in our day do. They were not fasting AND making war on sin. And if their attitude didn’t show through in their accusations, they demonstrated it on Sunday’s (their Monday’s) by the way that they treated people. God says that they exploited the laborers and the less fortunate, fighting and treating others unfairly. God always intended his people to be a blessing those around them.
2. Gen 12:2-3, Luke 3:8,
3. Illustration: “God doesn’t bless us just to make us happy; He blesses us to make us a blessing.” –Wiersbe, I think about our fast last year for FCW, and how it seemed that God didn’t do what we prayed so fervently for Him to do, the Christian businessman who gives to missions generously, but refuses to pay his workers above minimum wage or offer any kind of benefits, tell about the church that was taking up money at the intersection in Ft. Walton Beach to feed homeless children.
4. We have a sense of entitlement. I share it with you. I sometimes ask, why are we not growing as fast as we would like? As if God owes us, or must bless, or is unjust in not blessing. And sometimes it is worse than that. We prostitute worship, prayer, bible reading etc. to get God off our backs, and get Him to do what we want. Do you ever protest in your mind when things go awry about how faithful you have been, and what you deserve? The only proper worship, fasting, prayer, etc. is accompanied by a spiritual warfare upon the sin in our lives. And it is evidenced on Monday as we treat our coworkers graciously and fairly, or on Monday evening when we are harsh to our spouses, neighbors, or children. Because the evidence of genuine faith is proper desire, and proper actions. This is the fruit worthy of repentance. Failure to live righteously disproves the validity of our devotion on Sundays. Or other days as we drive past the hitchhiker or the homeless man or the unemployed and look down and make degrading comments about them in the safety of our vehicles.
B. Genuine Service (v. 5-7)
1. God likens them to a bulrush that bows down to “worship” in the wind in humility, then springs right back up again when the wind is gone. Then He describes the things that He says would accompany the fast that He calls for in a seemingly abrupt subject change. He describes the fast that He wants and its results. He goes from the condition of their heart in worship to their actions toward those under them. And there is a link. Every one of these characteristics deals with the treatment of the less fortunate and the slaves. God says, if you heart is right, then your actions will be right, and then the needy around you will be fed, clothed, housed, and treated fairly. And he seems to indicate that they may fast to feed the hungry, house the homeless in their homes, buy less expensive clothing so that they may be able to clothe others. And to see the need and ignore it is even more reprehensible.