Bible Studies
Written by Administrator   
Sunday, 29 May 2005

By Jim Jordal

Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out, when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, "Here I am."

Isaiah 58:6-9

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.

Prov. 14:34

In the first verse of Isaiah 58 God commands the prophet: "Cry aloud, spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet; tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins." This is no soft admonition against what we euphemistically like to call poor judgment, misbehavior, or social pathology. This is a powerful cry against glaring, open sin. God tells Isaiah in effect: "There is a time for softness and reason, but not now. My people have grievously sinned, and I demand that you speak out clearly and forcefully to identify this sin."

The context is that Israel has fallen into apostasy and religious formalism by emphasizing fasting, or fleshly denial at the expense of obedience to God's word. They take delight in approaching God through sacrificial ritual, but cannot understand why God fails to notice how they have afflicted their souls in their misguided efforts to please Him. In other words, they deliberately disobey God, then attempt to curry His favor through fasting and sacrifice. But this is not to be.

Shades of today! We do almost anything as individuals, churches, and nations to gain God's favor, except the one thing God wants above all else--simple obedience to His commands. We celebrate holidays (holy days), conduct worship, give of our treasure, share our time, pray for everyone around the earth--but refuse to follow God's commands. Whether our lack of motivation to obey God's will is caused by ignorance, willful rebellion, selfishness, or what is open to discussion, but I prefer Jeremiah's explanation that the people are ignorant because their shepherds fail to clearly confront them with the word of God. For this omission, spiritual leaders stand under Divine censure.

So just what is it that God wants from His people and their nations? His simple command, evident in thousands of Bible verses, is that we do exactly as Isaiah urges: loose the bands of wickedness, undo heavy burdens, break every yoke, free the oppressed, share food with the hungry, bring those cast out to our house, cover the naked, and do not hide our resources from our own people.

Contrast these Divine demands with what America's leaders actually do. Rather than loosing the bands of wickedness, political leaders reward economic oppression and injustice. Consider our tax system, which becomes more regressive each year. Or minimum wage laws, which fall further and further behind the cost of living as time passes. Or employment markets that replace high-paying jobs lost to foreign competition with entry-level service jobs, and then have temerity enough to brag about the high rate of job creation. And worse yet, the more CEOs achieve efficiency by sqeezing the last drop of blood from a declining work force, the higher their political and economic rewards.

Instead of undoing the heavy burdens and breaking every yoke as demanded by God, we create additional and even more onerous financial barriers to success. What was the purpose of the recently redesigned federal bankruptcy code except to further burden those cast aside by progress and the American dream? What will the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) do except further impoverish already destitute farmers and workers in poor Central American countries? And what will the recent airline bankruptcies do except reward gross mismanagement and lack of foresight by many airline executives and further imperil airline workers?

And what of God's demand that we share our bread with the hungry, cover the naked, and bring the poor into our houses? We take pride in massive charity drives and generous disaster relief such as the recent tsunami aid. But in actuality U.S. foreign aid totals only a few hundredths of one percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), much lower than the promises made by political leaders. And homelessness and lack of affordable housing remain serious problems, not because we cannot deal with them, but because we will not.

If you are worried over the moral sickness seeming to pervade this land, please consider the last portion of the passage from Isaiah. In return for our obedience in delivering the helpless, God promises that our "light shall break forth like the morning," referring to a developing sense of national morality and righteous ethics that will become readily apparent to the world. The result will be healing for our wounded society, Divine blessing in our national life, and the ability to call effectively upon God for aid in facing whatever issues arise.

The true path to national greatness lies not in awesome military power, far-flung empire, or national economic wealth; but in obedience to the word of God. What must we endure before we learn this lesson?

Scripture from the New King James Version. Copyright 1978, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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