Wednesday, May 22, 2024

2024.05.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 58

Read Isaiah 58

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Isaiah 58:1 say Isaiah is to be telling God’s people and the house of Jacob? Whom does Isaiah 58:2 say that they seek daily? What does verse 2 say that they delight to know? What does verse 2 say that they ask of God? Whom does verse 2 say that they take delight in approaching? What questions do the people ask in Isaiah 58:3? What does Isaiah 58:4 say are the reasons that they were fasting? What were they trying to make happen? What does Isaiah 58:5 say that they did to their souls when they fasted? What did they do to their heads? What does Isaiah 58:6 say that God wants their fasts to be like? What does Isaiah 58:7 say they should do as a result of their fasts? To whom should they bring their bread? Whom should they bring into their house? What should they do for the naked? If their fasts are like this, what does Isaiah 58:8 say will break forth like the morning? What will spring forth speedily? What will go before them? What will be their rear guard? Upon whom does Isaiah 58:9 say they will call? What will He do? To whom will they cry? What will the Lord say when they cry? What does verse 9 say are three things that people who trust in and worship God will take away? To whom does Isaiah 58:10 say they will extend their souls? Whom will they satisfy? What does verse 10 say will then come into the darkness? And what will their darkness be like? Whom does Isaiah 58:11 say will guide them continually? Who will satisfy their souls as in drought? Who will strengthen their bones? What does verse 11 say they will be like? What does Isaiah 58:12 say they will rebuild? What will they raise up? What will they be called? From what were they to turn their feet on the Sabbath (Isaiah 58:13)? Whose day is it? What were they to call a delight? What were they to call honorable? Whom do we honor when we delight in the Sabbath? Whose ways are they not to do on the Sabbath? Whose pleasure are they not to find on the Sabbath? Whose words are they not to speak on the Sabbath? What (whom!) does Isaiah 58:14 say that this kind of Sabbath-keeping will make them delight in? Upon what will this Sabbath keeping make us to ride? Upon whose heritage will this kind of Sabbath-keeping make us to feed? 

What peace does a true prophet proclaim? Isaiah 58 prepares us for the first serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these fourteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that a true prophet proclaims the peace of true religion, finding God in Christ to be the great good and the great delight, Who has given us a day to train us in delighting in Him. 

The nature of false religion, Isaiah 58:1–3. This chapter compares the false religion of the wicked who have no peace (cf. Isaiah 57:20–21) with the true religion into which the Servant brings His offspring. False religion that thinks that God owes us for making ourselves miserable by obeying Him (Isaiah 58:3). Such religion treats worship and obedience as miseries that we endure so that God will be satisfied with what we do. Doesn’t it frighten you, dear Christian, that these people sought God daily, and delighted to know His ways, and asked from Him ordinances of justice, and took delight to approach Him (Isaiah 58:2)… and yet the introduction to this entire chapter was a trumpet-blast announcement of their sin (Isaiah 58:1)?

The fruit of false religionIsaiah 58:4-5. If such eagerness for worship, and zeal for learning, and commitment to obedience can be condemned by God as wicked, how can we tell by the fruit of our lives if we genuinely belong to God or not? Thankfully, our passage highlights a fruit that comes from false religion: driving others hard, accusing others, speaking wickedly (Isaiah 58:9b). It turns out that if we consider God hard and demanding and uncaring with us (Isaiah 58:5), requiring us to manipulate Him by what we do (Isaiah 58:4), we will be hard and demanding and uncaring with others.

The nature and fruit of true religionIsaiah 58:6-12. But the Lord has given us His worship and law generously, giving us that which is for good and for joy—to free us precisely from that sinful mindset that belongs to our natures (Isaiah 58:6), and to turn around and be as merciful with others as God has been with us (Isaiah 58:7).

What’s the great difference between the two kinds of religion? One says, “look what great things I have done for God!” (Isaiah 58:3). The other says, “look what great things God has done for me!” (Isaiah 58:9a). Those who trust in the Lord and rejoice in His mercy and grace become those who are merciful and gracious with others (Isaiah 58:7Isaiah 58:10). Their lives become abundant not by the impressiveness of their effort, but by the continual work of God’s grace in them (Isaiah 58:8Isaiah 58:11). And God uses them to bring life and healing and strength to others (Isaiah 58:12).  Isn’t that what you would like, dear Christian? Which religion is yours?

The means by which the Lord trains us in true religionIsaiah 58:13-14. Now, what if we have discovered that our hearts are too much like the false religion and too little like the true religion? None of us appreciate God’s goodness and generosity as much as we ought to. None of us are merciful and gracious to others as we ought to be.

Enter one of God’s good and generous gifts: His Sabbath. There’s a wonderful “If-then” in Isaiah 58:13-14. It goes exactly opposite what many of us would expect. Apart from grace, we naturally approach Sabbath-keeping like Pharisees, thinking that good Sabbath keeping will show how much we delight in the Lord… we think that “If you delight yourself in the Lord, then you will turn your foot and call the Sabbath a delight.”

However, our passage says exactly the opposite: “If you turn your foot and call the Sabbath a delight, then you will delight yourself in the Lord.” In other words, every Sabbath is a heart-training day, a delight-training day. God has built into every single week a day that cures us just a little bit of the false religion, and grows us just a little bit in the true religion.

What are we to do on His holy day? Treat it as holy! In other words, treat it as His, not ours. There are particular places that He has for us to go (worship!), so we focus on going there instead of wherever else we would have wanted. There are particular pleasures (Him Himself in focused, direct fellowship) that He has for us to enjoy—pleasures that should obsolete and dwarf whatever else we would seek after. Even the type of conversations that we have are determined by the fact that it is His holy day.

We’re so convinced that our natural desires and pleasures are the best, that we don’t always feel like the Sabbath is a gift, but in moments when we don’t feel it, we need to trust what Scripture says. That’s a big part of the Christian life, isn’t it? Doing what God says is best, even when it feels to us like it’s not? There’s already a joy in entrusting ourselves to His wisdom, and the love in which He has given His good commands. It is sweet to submit to the Savior, to yield ourselves to Him who loves our soul.

But it is more than that. There is a promise here, and thousands of years of believers have experienced God’s faithfulness to that promise. The Lord teaches us that there is a mechanism here, and thousands of years of believers have experienced the truth of that teaching.

Oh, how delightful is the Lord, our life! Indeed, He makes us to ride on the heights. What is the heritage of Jacob our father? The Lord Himself is our inheritance! And every good and perfect gift that He provides in that relationship.

How does weekly Lord’s Day keeping turn you away from man-made religion to God-made religion?

Sample prayer:  Lord, forgive us; for we have treated You as a cruel Master, Whose Sabbath command rewards us for enduring misery. Forgive us, for our sinful view of You has resulted in our being demanding and cruel with others. Forgive us, for we have so often chosen our pleasure, rather than choosing Your pleasure. Forgive us, for we have not made good use of Your holy day, in which Your pleasures overwrite our own to train us in delight. Forgive us and conform us to Christ, by Your Spirit, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP92 “It’s Good to Thank the Lord” or TPH151 “Lord of the Sabbath, Hear Us Pray”

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