A message to us based on the Bible readings:

  • Isaiah 58:1-12;
  • Psalm 112:1-9

In a way the message from Isaiah is a classic that many of us can relate to.  We say one thing and do another.  Us humans are a complicated and conflicted bunch.

As Bron communicated, this was at a time when the Jewish people were in exile, living away from their homeland and you could imagine them feeling aggrieved and maybe in anger that their God (Yahweh) had seemed to desert them.  This can be seen from Isaiah 58:3:

3‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
    ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
    and you have not noticed?’

And yet, despite the hardship of exile and the loss of their land they were apparently obedient, following the laws given to Moses and recorded in the Torah. Some of the people were seemingly trying to do what is right. See Isaiah 58:2

For day after day they seek me out;
    they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
    and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
    and seem eager for God to come near them.

However, there is a twist to all of this.  The reality (or actions of the people) to some of this apparent obedience is somewhat different.  From Isaiah, 58:3 – 5,

3b“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
    and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
    and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
    and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
    only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord?

How often do we as humans say one thing and do another?  Unfortunately probably more often than we care to think about.

Rather, God reminds the people what real obedience and doing the will of God is, paraphrased slightly from Isaiah 58: 6 – 7:

  • To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, 
  • To set the oppressed free and break every yoke
  • Share your food with the hungry; and
  • To provide the poor wanderer with shelter;
  • when you see the naked, to clothe them and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

God also reminds them how this is not a fruitless pursuit and commandments to follow mindlessly but that these acts will be rewarded, as recorded in Isaiah 58: 8-9, 10b -12:

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

10b then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
11 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.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

As Bron mentioned, these rewards start out being very individual or personal (verse 8) and then end with the whole community being rewarded (verse 12).

Surely words to live by if we act them out in our lives.

Yet something does and can hold us back.  Bron mentioned the Circle of Courage as shown here:

CircleOfCourage

More material on the Circle of Courage can be found here.

The concepts are from a secular viewpoint but can help us explain some of the things that we do as individuals and point to things for us to look at in our lives.  By investigating our own lives and modifying our behaviour, it may help us reach the point of generosity where we act out as individuals and as a Church community the words of Isaiah 58: 6 – 7.  From above, and repeated again, here:

  • To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, 
  • To set the oppressed free and break every yoke
  • Share your food with the hungry; and
  • To provide the poor wanderer with shelter;
  • when you see the naked, to clothe them and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

And to remind us that these acts of generosity, of following God’s word and representing God on earth have real meaning, we receive an abundance of rewards in return.  So by helping others we literally help ourselves.  From Psalm 112: 1-9:

Praise the Lord.[b]

Blessed are those who fear the Lord,
    who find great delight in his commands.

Their children will be mighty in the land;
    the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses,
    and their righteousness endures forever.
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
    for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.
Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,
    who conduct their affairs with justice.

Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
    they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
    their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
    in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
    their righteousness endures forever;
    their horn[c] will be lifted high in honor.