Isaiah 58 – The Giving Tightrope

Isaiah 58 Bible With Theo Orange 70 Percent Dark Chocolate

Today’s ChocolateTheo Orange 70% Dark Chocolate

Today’s PassageIsaiah 58

Today’s chapter is about fasting. It comes as a response to Israel’s complaint: “Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?” (58:3). Remember yesterday, when God accused his people of forgetting him? Today, they’re all, “Nah, God, we remember you! We’ve been fasting and humbling ourselves! Come on, why are you ignoring us?”

God’s reply: motivation matters. He states, “Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist” (58:4). They’ve got one thing going on externally, but in their hearts they’ve got violent purposes. What good does it do to fast if you’re just trying to milk some favor out of God–if you’re fasting not to sharpen your focus on God and prayer but to get him to, say, smite your enemies? Isaiah identifies the purposes of fasting as follows:

  • To humble oneself before God (58:5)
  • “To loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke” (58:6)
  • “To divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house” (58:7)

Fasting is supposed to promote peace, first by drawing you closer to God, then by cultivating sympathy for the poor, and finally by actually physically making more food available for the poor.

I’ll be honest: I worry a lot about giving more than I have to give. I want to be generous, but I don’t want to bleed myself dry trying to help others. I don’t want to give to the point where I exhaust my resources or damage my capacity to give. Several lines toward the end of the passage spoke to me, and I’ll just quote all of them here:

And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. (58:10-11)

God calls his hearers to something really scary here: give yourself to the hungry. If you see a need, meet it. But if God is in fact infinite, and if he keeps his promises, then what is there to be afraid of? Here he promises to make sure that you don’t give out by giving. It’s terrifying to step out blindfolded onto the Giving Tightrope with nothing but words in your Bible telling you that there is a net. But it would seem that that’s what God expects of us. There’s nothing for it but to hit that “publish post” button and move on to the next place where God wants me to give myself today.

 

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