July 19 – Today’s Readings – Isaiah 58-60 and Psalms 19
The first verses of Chapter 58 have to do with religious people who are seeking God – Isaiah 58:2-3 reads, “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. ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?”
These people were praying, fasting, humbling themselves, bowing their heads, lying on sackcloth and ashes – They were outwardly very fervent in seeking God. They did things that only the most devoted individual might do in order to have the favor of God. God’s response however was to comment on their lifestyle or lack of true “religion”.
Here are the action or lifestyle words I highlighted in the next few verses: “to loose, to untie, to set free, to break every yolk, to share your food, to provide shelter, to clothe the naked, to not turn away, to do away with the yolk, to do away with the pointing finger and malicious talk, to spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry, to satisfy the needs of the oppressed, to call my Sabbath a delight, not doing as you please”.
These actions are very unselfish, and outward focused. There isn’t much said about the popular Christian theme of; “It’s just me and Jesus” or how about; “If I read the right book, I might be more successful” No, these words in Isaiah are all about looking out for other people – doing unto others, as you would have them do to you. It’s amazing how we can often find the New Testament right in the middle of the Old.
“And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-5)
Its only as we give ourselves to the Lord and to others that God sits up and takes notice. True religion then, is to live a life that is first focused on God then on others. God multiplies His blessings in our lives because He knows we will use our belongings and gifts to be a blessing to others.
God doesn’t seem to listen or respond to selfishness the way He responds to selflessness. We grow up in God when we become a blessing – if we are not a blessing, then we haven’t grown up yet. Everywhere we go and in everything we do our goal should be “Lord make me a blessing”. This is true fasting and devotion.
1. Give another example from Scripture where words from the Old Testament revealed the heart God and represent the same principles spoken by Jesus Christ.
2. Give an example from Scripture where God spoke a New Testament truth to you through the Old Testament.