Isaiah 58- Living Prayers

So, I have to preach tomorrow. I haven’t done this for about two years, and I am nervous. As of late, I am usually hiding behind a guitar. All in all, I am very excited about this… I think I got the preacher bug in my system, and I don’t know the remedy. Anyways this is the sermon:

Isaiah 58:8-9 “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. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.'”

This is what we need, what we desire. We want to see God moving in us, working around us… we hunger to see our “Light break forth like the dawn…”; for God’s life and power to break through into our lives in a dynamic and active way. We want this passage to be true and real here and now!

So, what is it going to take to see this happen?
Vs. 8 begins with “then”, implying that something must occur for all this to happen. So we look earlier in the passage to find the key to unlocking this awesome action of God. Look up at vs. 6, “Is not this the fast that I choose:…” All throughout the Bible fasting has been a powerful means that God’s people employ to effect heavenly change on the earth around them. Daniel fasted to seek answers form God about Israel’s time of exile (Dan 9:1-3). Ezra fasted as he confessed the sins of Israel and made intercession for them (Ez 9:5-6). Jesus fasted before He Began His public ministry (Matt 4:1-2). Israel would fast in nationwide confessional times, before battles, to remember times of their history… God’s people have always used fasting to seek the face of God and to see His hand move mightily.

It is not a magic formula though, and it is definitely not some means to twist God’s arm or prove out worthiness… in fact, Isaiah 58 is God calling His people to task for their misuse of prayer and fasting.

58:1-5 “Cry aloud; do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God. ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD?”

Israel knew the motions, they knew the words, they knew how they were suppose to act. They even fooled them selves into thinking that they were doing as God wanted. “Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD?” I would. When I think of a fast I think of humbling ones self, showing contrition and sorrow for sin, seeking God, petitioning the throne of heaven… what else would a fast be?
Israel had it down… but it was external action, and their hearts gave them away. There self-deception was so complete God had to shout for them to even see they were wrong. Their self-denial was for their own selfish reasons, as if they could manipulate God into thinking that they were righteous and deserving of His favor. Days that were to be dedicated to prayer were full of quarrels and violence; they made a good show of humility yet proudly exalted themselves and even oppressed their workers as they worshiped and prayed.
They had the actions down, but didn’t have a heart that sought God truly!
God had told Israel to fast; He had commanded Israel to humble themselves and seek Him.

Joel 2:12-19 “‘Yet even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents from punishing. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber. Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep and say, ‘Spare your people, O LORD, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, “Where is their God?”‘ Then the LORD became jealous for his land and had pity on his people. The LORD answered and said to his people, ‘behold, I am sending to you grain, wine, and oil, and you will be satisfied; and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations.'”

So what Israel was doing wasn’t the issue; it was why they were doing it that was an issue. God said “…rend your hearts and not your garments.” In other words, let it be an inward reality, not just an outward showing. We need to understand God’s reasons for calling His people to fasting. We need to see where God longs for our hearts to be when we seek Him. Don’t let you self be fooled into thinking that you are righteous just because you pray with conviction and passion. Don’t think that we have met with God because sang some songs and felt moved. God desires truth on the inside that is lived out in every area of our everyday lives!

Isaiah 58:6-7 “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? 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?”

God wants His own to act in such a way that people are shown Love; He wants His people to effect the hurts around them with action. This is truly humbling your self: to be a servant to those in need. This is what God did for us when Jesus (the Messiah!) came. This is what God truly wants from us. In fact, Jesus said that all of Gods word to Israel (the law and the prophets) is summed up in two statements:

Mark 12:28-31 “And one of the scribes came up and…asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Love God and Love each other: you can’t have one without the other. (Don’t believe me, read 1 John 2:1-11 and get back to me.) Our love for God, our seeking God and delighting in His ways is displayed and thus proven by how we treat the needs around us. This is the hinge that our light breaking forth like the dawn hangs on.

Isaiah 58:6-14 “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? 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? 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. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called ‘the repairer of the breach’, ‘the restorer of streets to dwell in’.
If you turn back your foot from tredding on the Sabbath, from doing your selfish pleasure on my holy day, and then call the Sabbath ‘a delight’ and the holy day of the LORD ‘honorable’; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

This passage speaks every thing we hope for.
“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. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’… And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called ‘the repairer of the breach’, ‘the restorer of streets to dwell in’.”

When I think of a life in Christ, a rich, deep life lived full of God and his light, this is what I think of. I need healing. I desire to know the Glory of the Lord keeps me safe, that He fights for me. I want God to answer my call. I need to be strengthened and refreshed. I want to be known as “the repairer of the breach”;I want to see people made right with God and with each other. I long to see the light of God shine forth in my life like the dawn. We need lives like this! If the world is ever to know hope, they need us to live this passage out to its fullest reality!

This is not some self indulgent spirituality! This is not a sterilized life, that can somehow cut yourself off from every thing and every one to draw close to God. No! This is life among the pain, the hurt, the need of ourselves, our family, our church, this state and the world. We live among the broken so that we can be active agents of the light, life, love, and power of God almighty! This is the Fast that God loves… this is righteous people seeking the face and favor of God… This is the only true religion in existence!

James 1:27 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

You want to please God? Act; live your life in such a manner that when God moves you are open and ready to be one of the vessels He moves through!

This is what we are preparing our selves to be: both individually and as a church. You see, it’s not enough to sit around and plead with God for something to happen. Nothing will come of our inaction. Now don’t go thinking that I am saying it is up to us to do God’s work. He is perfectly capable of doing everything he sets out to do; but He has given us an awesome place as friends and servants, and that means that our lives should be about the things that God’s life is about. To be stained by the world is to take on it’s mentality: a mind set of self. If you can walk by someone you know is hurting and in need and not wish to see something happen in that life, you are thinking like the world. We need to know compassion the way Jesus know it.

So, we walk a fine line: we can’t expect God to move just because we pray and fast: we need to have our hearts in the right place. And if our hearts are in the right place we will act in accordance with our prayers, for who are we to ask God to do something we won’t do ourselves. It is so much different to know our weakness and limitations and to seek God to do what we can not. But don’t pretend like God is a slave of ours, doing things so that we don’t have to. Think of people and situation that need Gods touch… people and places that are broken, hurting, dark… Now, think if how you pray for them, the things you want God to do, because only He can. Now, honestly answer this question before God: is there anything you can do to be a part of God’s work in these lives? If we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, commissioned by Jesus, and obedient to the Father, what can stop us from actively being about the Work of God as we pray and fast to see the hand of God do His incredible thing?

So we embark on this spiritual journey together. Don’t think any of us are alone, and don’t be fooled into thinking any one of us can do it on our own. If we are going to be agents of God’s grace in lives and situations around us, we need each other. We need to carry our concerns for one another before God, and listen to what He whispers, for He will tell us how to be about His work. When you think of a way to encourage someone, do it, because Lord knows we all need encouragement every day! If you feel great concern for someone, pray, call them and ask what is going on… if you can’t talk to them, or even if you can, call someone else to join you in prayer. If we are going to be a people of prayer, we need to do it… prayer needs to be a natural rhythm of our personal lives and our church life. But more than a “good Christian duty”, we should pray because we care… and because we care we need to act. For each other, for our families, for the body of Christ, and to see God’s will here on earth. Let our lives be living prayers and: “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. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’… And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called ‘the repairer of the breach’, ‘the restorer of streets to dwell in’.”

  • Steven

    This is a good message. I have just read certain fasts in “Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough” and am resolved to one to over come certain sin that has me in bondage. I started yesterday. I pray and have not heard or felt anything. To be honest I am really not into it as much as I thought I would be. I rationalize that God is waiting to answer to make sure my heart is in the right place and truly seeking Him. Some truths have come to light after reading your post. My heart is not in the right place. I am “asking God to do something that I cannot do myself.” That is something I knew, but didn’t. It really comes to light when someone puts it there in front of my face. Thank you for the encouragement.

    Steven

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