Isaiah 58:9-10 “If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
In this whole chapter the Lord is taking His people to task for their hypocritical religiosity. Like so many people today, they were going through the motions in church and ignoring God and those in need the rest of the week. There are some marvelous promises here, but they are conditional on expressing God’s character toward those less fortunate. I have completely lost track of how many times I’ve heard people “claim promises” from the Bible while completely ignoring the conditions God sets for those promises. The first part of this passage, from the second half of verse 9, is certainly overlooked. We don’t have a clear image of “the yoke of oppression,” but it would be forcing others to do what you want, with no regard to their needs. That is hardly uncommon. And then there are pointing fingers and talking about people behind their backs. Many churches are hotbeds of that sort of thing! I don’t know the Hebrew here, but the Japanese uses what is a fairly common expression that literally means “giving out your heart,” where the NIV says “spend yourselves,” on behalf of the hungry. Your heart has to be in it! We’ve all seen entertainers and even preachers who say really nice things, but they really aren’t nice to the people around them. That doesn’t qualify anyone for the blessings promised here! The Bible consistently calls for us to live out the things we say we believe. Jesus, Paul, James, Peter, John, all touched on this very pointedly. Faith is essential, but if it doesn’t express itself in how we live, then it is just window dressing that cannot save.
This is something I have struggled with all my life. I have known the facts of the Gospel literally from infancy, but living out the truth of God is a different matter. However, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) As I read the line which in Japanese says “satisfy the requests of the suffering,” I was reminded of my interaction with the patients in the mental hospital. They are suffering emotionally, and they make various requests of me. I am to exercise discernment and not give them something that would be detrimental, but I am not to resent the opportunity to serve Christ by serving these men. Today Cathy and I will be going to see a widow, and she is hungry for companionship and suffering in her grief and loneliness. We are to bless her and meet her needs as the Lord directs and gives opportunity, and we are certainly not to stop with her.
Father, thank You for the privilege of being a channel of Your love, grace, and blessing. Thank You for the new people You brought to the service yesterday. We know some of the needs of one and none of the needs of the other, but it was evident that they have needs. Help me lead the church in being a body of believers that really give our hearts to others, because it’s Your heart we are expressing. May people be touched by Your love through us and so brought to repentance and faith, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!