By Brooke Holt
“Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?” Isaiah 58:4-5
God’s chosen people, the Jews, were living in the promised land as Isaiah spoke these words. They had returned from exile and expected life to be as it once was – a life marked by God’s presence, provision, and blessing. Despite these expectations, they were facing a time of desolation – failed crops, famine, drought, internal and external strife, and a lack of justice. God’s people lamented their many challenges and inquired as to why the Lord was not listening to their cries, seeing their misery, and pouring out his blessings.
The Lord saw, heard, and knew their challenges. He also saw their many outwardly religious activities. Yet the Lord also saw underneath their performances of religion and into their hearts. What he saw was not faithfulness and a desire to know him but selfishness, greed, and injustice.
On a day set aside for fasting, these people did fast from food but not from wickedness. They quarreled among themselves and did not back away from a fight. They let everyone know they were abstaining from food as they wore their sackcloth and smeared ashes upon themselves. Outwardly, this was a sign of repentance, yet their hearts remained hard towards the Lord and towards each other.
While these people may have impressed themselves and one another with their fasting, God was neither pleased nor impressed. They sought to receive from him without desiring to know him and to live in a relationship with him. They wanted blessings without relationship.
Do you ever approach God in this way? Do you go to church, sing the songs, recite the creeds and prayers, nod throughout the sermon, and hug a few friends? That is good. The Lord wants you to attend church but what he wants even more is your heart. God is not impressed by your church attendance or even your tithe. What delights the Lord is a person who seeks to know, love, and live in a relationship with him each day.
A day that is acceptable and pleasing to the Lord is a day that you come humbly before him – confess your sins or your hardness of heart. Ask him to help you, to transform you by his Holy Spirit. Seek him and to be in relationship with him. Even is you don’t do this perfectly; God is so incredibly pleased. Every day, you have the opportunity to impress the Lord or to impress yourself and others. May you choose to impress the Lord today!
What is the condition of your heart today? You can tell by whose affirmation you are truly seeking? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Jesus’ great commission to his apostles after his resurrection was to go into all the world to preach, teach, and baptize in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. From the very beginning, baptism has been understood as the doorway into this new kind of family. Explore what Jesus expects of this new family that finds its origin and purpose in him. The baptized are called into a new life of faith. From passages in Matthew to the shining examples of faith in our passage from John, Waters of Baptism is a helpful resource for those seeking the sacrament of baptism or those who want a deeper understanding of their faith. This six week study will help us understand the importance of baptismal living.
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