Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode 132 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Isaiah 58 today and our focus is on that which enhances our prayers and causes our lights to shine brighter. We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Uttarakhand, India, Maharashtra, India, parts unknown, Bangladesh, London, England, Alberta, Canada, Monterey, California, Columbus, Ohio, Winston-Salem, North Carolina and Richmond, Virginia. Thanks for listening! Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\
It was a dark and stormy night. Actually, if I’m being honest, it was probably a calm and fair night. New Year’s Eve 2000 – my wife Janet was pregnant with our first child, Chloe, who would be born in February. Because she was great with child, we didn’t stay out late for New Year’s Eve like normal, we were home, and Janet got in bed before 11:30. I was hanging out with her, and she had fallen asleep, and was still asleep as 2001 approached. These were the days before smartphones with big screens that you stare at all the time, so I was just in bed reading a book. As midnight approached, I was inspired to pick up the Bible, and read it. This is the first and only time, as far as I know, that I remember reading Scripture as the New Year changed. I was reading through Isaiah for whatever reason lost to history, and I had arrived at Isaiah 58, and was reading this very chapter as 2000 turned to 2001. I remember this vividly because I’ve never been gripped by a Scripture that I was reading like I was gripped that night as the year changed over. It was as if the Words were blazing on the page. This passage was just branded on my soul – particularly the heart of God towards those in great need, and His promise to bless those who take care of those in great need. Let’s go ahead and read the passage so you can see what I’m talking about, and then we can discuss it.
Here are our verses of the day – they are worth repeating:
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Isaiah 58:6-8
Fasting is a voluntary weakness – whereby we give up something that we are more or less entitled to or allowed to have, such as food, for a greater purpose – such as to draw near to God. Fasting is good, and an important spiritual discipline. But God here broadens our understanding of what fasting is – going beyond the mere giving up food for a time and into the realm of giving up ourselves, our time, our possessions and our rights in order to take care of the homeless, those who need clothes, and the oppressed. When we do this – when we take care of the people that Jesus calls the “least of these,” then God promises us His presence, quickly answered prayers, the satisfaction of our desires and guidance from Him. These are amazing promises given here, and truly demonstrates God’s heart for those who are least in the world’s eyes.
Christians are called to be the light of the world, says Jesus, noting that we should not cover our lights. Isaiah 58 makes this promise when we take care of those in great need and those who are oppressed, “Then shall your light break forth like the dawn” I believe this is an indicator that the light of the gospel shines the brightest when it is accompanied by good deeds, especially good deeds aimed at the least in the world’s eyes. Jesus addresses this dynamic in the Sermon on the Mount:
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
and Peter alludes to this dynamic as well:
12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits. (1 Peter 2:12)
Good deeds and ministry to the least in the world’s eyes does NOT replace the gospel – this is the error that many liberal churches have made. Good deeds and ministry to the least ADORNS the gospel and causes the people of God to shine brighter and stronger in exactly the same way (but opposite) as hypocrisy causes the light of the people of God to be dull, tarnished and dim.
Let’s close with some brief words from Spurgeon on this passage:
Does God care for the externals of worship only? Is he satisfied with sackcloth and ashes, and the hanging down of the head like a bulrush? No!
Yes, this is true fasting before God;—not to demand your pound of flesh, and declare that you will have it; not to grind down the poor man to the last farthing; but “to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free.”
That is the kind of fast that the Lord approves,—to deny yourself that you may give to those who are in need.
That is, if you take away all oppression, all wrong-doing to men, all talking of falsehood and speaking vanity: “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning.”
What promises God gives to those who consider the poor and needy round about them! But if you shut your ears to the cry of the distressed, God will shut his ears to your cry!
C. H. Spurgeon, “A Lost Christ Found,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 45 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1899), 108.
Bible Memory verses for the month of May: Matthew 28:18-20 18 Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
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