Day 208 (July 27): Empty worship is false worship, sin separates from God, Justice comes from God not humans, evildoers will be dealt with, God’s words will give you words, all will see Jerusalem’s glory, tell everyone that the Savior is coming

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Isaiah 58-63

Questions & Observations

Q. (Isaiah 58:6-7): This fasting sounds much easier than not eating.  I don’t know if everyone who tries to fast goes cuckoo.  But, I do.  My blood sugar tanks and I can’t think straight until I get some good (healthy) food.  I know that’s not the point of these verses.  I’m just admiring them, because it would bring me much more happiness to help others than to be hungry.  And, more importantly it makes me happy to please God.  I think we have talked some about fasting.  But, I think we’ll talk more about it in the NT?  Speaking of helping others: I was helping a friend move tonight and it made me think about our movers.  Being in the Navy we have had three major moves.  So, we had some experience with movers.  They definitely work hard.  When we unpacked in Guam, the workers brought all of their lunch — and napped for 30 minutes afterward, I guess it’s a custom there, which actually makes a lot of sense.  The guys who unpacked our goods in Virginia asked for lunch.  We had never been told by the housing office to provide lunch.  We gave them a little leftover pizza we had, but we were kind of annoyed at the request.  Besides, we were busy with moving.  And, we know they were told to bring their own.  So, when we packed out the last time, I had inquired with other military families if they provided lunch for their movers.  They overwhelmingly said “yes.”  No, we weren’t expected to by the housing office, but these guys are working at lightening speed and trying to be careful and lifting a lot of very heavy stuff.  I think my friends said that if you treat them well, they’ll treat your stuff well.  So, that was my motivating thought.  But, then as we talked to them and asked them what they wanted to eat and drink, we joked and got to know them better.  We memorized their favorite drinks and got them at Sonic’s happy hour.  We had a great time with them over the three days it took to load the truck.  And, they truly did take care of our furniture.  But, that wasn’t the motivating feeling anymore.  It was that we were serving them.  And, they weren’t movers anymore, they were friends.  Besides, who is more important, the people or your stuff?  Can you imagine the people standing over them day after day scrutinizing their every move?  There are probably some who aren’t careful.  But, if you are kind to them, that’s showing them God’s love and it will reflect back.  My husband was sitting down with a couple of the packers over lunch and I think they were taken aback because they weren’t used to that.  But, when we found out their life stories, it was so rewarding.  They had been movers for a very long time, like 20 some years.  I can’t imagine working that hard for that long.  They drive across the country.  They hate working in the winter and unpacking when it’s freezing.  Talk about serving others!

A. What a fascinating story about the importance of fellowship and getting to know people.  It is easy to see why Jesus spent so much of His earthly ministry during service via meals.  You bring up a good point about fasting, and we will indeed talk about it in the NT, but Jesus makes a keen observation about fasting in the Gospels: the fasting is for afterwards.  We will learn what that means in due time.

Q. (58:10): When it says, “feed the hungry and help those in trouble.”  Besides the literal meaning, can the words have a loose meaning like use your talents to help others?  I have another thought on this too.  So many people think about climbing the ladder or checking off items on their bucket list.  But, what we should really do is know what the Bible says to know what God expects of us — that is the true road to happiness anyway — and listen to the Holy Spirit for guidance on what His plan is for us.  Is that accurate?

A. Yes, I would say that’s accurate.  First of all, though, don’t ignore the legitimate need of feeding those around us: many people do not have enough food to be comfortable, and feel a great sense of shame in asking others, including their church, for assistance.  So oftentimes the issue goes unaddressed.  The Spirit can indeed be a useful guide in helping to “find” those who really do need food but do not desire to be found.  Beyond that, however, caring for the needs of a neighbor is a blank slate: you can do with it as you desire, or as you feel God leading you.

Q. (58:13): Is this just for the Israelites because of the NT’s New Covenant or should we, today, follow this advice?  Occasionally, I get “lazy” on a Sunday and “skip” church.  Of course, I feel the guilt, mostly because I worry about what my husband thinks of me playing hooky.  It’s mostly because I have been so swamped in the week and I just need a day or a morning to sleep in — and God happens to be the one that I choose to delete from my week.  Is that bad?  (Doesn’t happen often!)  Also, I feel guilty for daydreaming during songs or group prayer at church.  I feel bad to be in prayer and I’m not focused.  When I pray by myself, I am normally very focused.

A. However we interpret it — Jews maintain the Sabbath is Saturday, Christians Sunday — the Sabbath is a gift to mankind and needs to be respected.  Christians are not “required” to, in the legalistic sense of the word, but I know from personal experience that if I skip a day of rest (note the irony of that statement, and also the way you phrased your question: you described being “lazy” on the Sabbath and not going to church), I am the one who suffers.  Our lives were given to us by God to be in a certain rhythm: six days of work, and a day of rest.  We like to think of ourselves as being “better” than this requirement because we take “two” days off from work, but many times our weekends are no less busy than our weekdays.  We rarely take time to be relaxed and enjoy God and family, but I think we all would be better off if we carved out a full day (or as close as we can manage) to do so.  It is not a requirement: it is wisdom from God that few people ever see!

O. (59:9): I like this verse: There is no justice among us, and we know nothing about right living.  That means we need to look to God for justice and the right ways to live.  We do not have it among ourselves.  Therefore, goodness comes from God.

Q. (59:21): “My Spirit will not leave them and neither will these words I have given you.  They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children …”  This verse is directed to Israel, but is it applicable for us?  I would think the verse means that He will give us the right words to say if we are walking with Him.  It’s like when you are thinking of something to say and you have: Option A) what your brain would think to say, and Option B) words that God puts on your lips — what I call my “God filter.”  Now that I understand more and more how I should walk with God, I don’t have to think as much about what the proper thing to say is, it’s just appears on my lips.  I think “why didn’t I think of that?”  I know the words are not my own, but I sound so much wiser.  Thank you, God!

A. Very interesting thoughts.  Though it will feel foreign to us — we tend to read the Bible as “insiders” — we as Christians should pay the closest attention to what Isaiah (and other prophets) are saying about God’s movement to OTHER NATIONS.  We are not of the tribe of Israel, so the verses about foreigners in the house of God is much more applicable to us than any verse about the word of God about Israel.  At this moment, the other nations of the world are on the “outside” looking in, but all that is about to change in the NT.

Q. (60:8-9): How does word get out about Jerusalem’s restoration?  I would think it would take awhile.

A. I think the answer to that will present itself, so let’s let the story unfold.

Q. (60): I am amazed that God is giving Israel all of this glory in light of all their disobedience and idol worship.  Vs. 19-22 sound like heaven, especially in the last line that says “At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen.”  Or, is it just talking about the restored Jerusalem?

A. It is talking about the Eternal Jerusalem in the Kingdom of God.  It is a vision of the final restoration of all things that centers around a renewed Jerusalem that will be God’s personal dwelling.

Q. (62:8): The thought of God handing over Jerusalem, the city of the beloved David, to enemies seems ruthless.  But, with all of the disobedience and defiance, they had it coming.  I bet it was harder on God than on them.

A. I will bet you are right.

Q. (63:1-6): I’m not sure what Isaiah is describing here.

A. Isaiah is using the image of winepress — a place where grapes are trampled and crushed to cause fermentation and make wine — and a warrior, God, who has tread the winepress of His wrath.  Note the color imagery: when you worked a winepress of what we call “red” grapes — which are really purple — you end up covered in purple/bluish pigment from the grapes.  In this image, the Warrior is covered in red (blood) from having crushed the enemies of God in the winepress of wrath.  This is actually the inspiring image and scripture for the first few lines of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, written during the U.S. Civil War.

Q. (63:7): This sounds like a proper prayer.  At Summit Orlando, we had a sermon on how to pray.  I still have the postcard that gives the directions, although I haven’t followed it even half-heartedly … yet.  But, I think it gives us a guide to build a prayer and enter God’s presence respectfully.  It’s in four parts.  But, the card doesn’t tell me if I read down or left to right, so I’m not sure of the order of the second and third part.  But, here it goes:

1) Adoration: God, I worship you because you are … (Psalm 8, 19, 23, 46, 95, 100, 148, Luke 1:46-55, 68-79.

2) Confession: I need Your forgiveness for … I need Your strength to overcome …  (Psalm 103:12, 2 Corinthians 5:17)

3) Thanksgiving: Thank You, God, for Your blessings.  I am so grateful for … (Psalm 103:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Luke 17:11-19)

4) Supplication: God, I know that no request is too big for You to handle or too small for you to care about.  I lift up these needs to You, trusting in Your plan … (Philippians 4:6, James 1:5, 4:2, 1 Peter 5:7).

So many times, I just jump to 4 if I need help.  That should be the last thing to include and know that You are asking, God is hearing and He does have a plan which will likely not be the same plan you have.  It will be better and like a surprise.  We seem to magically get money in the mail when we are wondering how we will pay insurance or something like that.  We look at it and just well up with tears.  It’s fun to see how God is going to surprise us.

A. You’ve got the order right: we begin with adoring who God is, confessing our sin, giving thanks for what He has done, and then asking Him to supply our needs.  This is hardly a “hard and fast” role, and our prayer lives should be conversational in nature, but I find that this method is useful for helping me keep “first things first”: God is the beginning of my prayer life, not my own needs.

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