Isaiah 58 — Empty religion

One thing that God is not impressed with is empty religion.  We saw that in Micah 6, and we also see it here.

Here the Israelites complained to God,

‘Why have we fasted, and you have not seen it?  Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’  (3)

And if you had looked merely at their outward appearances, you’d might have thought that they had a case.  After all,

day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God.  They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. (2)

But God doesn’t just look on at our times of prayer, fasting and the other religious rituals we do.  He looks at our whole life.  And he told the Israelites,

Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.  Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists.  You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.  Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself?  Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?  Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?  “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:  to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?  (3-7)

In other words, God says, “In those moments you are praying and fasting, you seem so spiritual.  But those things are meaningless if the rest of the time you’re living for yourself.  There are so many people hurting around you, and yet you ignore them.  As long as you live this way, your fasting and prayers mean nothing to me.  But if you reach out to the people around you,

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say:  Here am I…Your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.  The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.  (8-11)

For many people, they are “Sunday Christians.”  They show up for church on Sunday, but live for themselves the rest of the week.  The Israelites treated the Sabbath the same way.  Even on the Sabbath, they did their own thing.  So God told them,

If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,  then you will find your joy in the Lord.  (13-14)

And that’s how we should treat our Sundays.  Not just as another day to live for ourselves.  But as a day to honor to God.

How about you?  Is your religion empty?  Or is your life filled with your love for God and for others.  God isn’t so interested in your religion, as he is in your love for him and the people around you.

What kind of religion do you have?


About bkshiroma

I'm from Hawaii, but have been in Japan as a missionary/English teacher since 1995. I'm currently going to a church called Crossroad Nishinomiya, an international church in Nishinomiya, a city right between Kobe and Osaka. Check out their website: 私がハワイから来ましたけど1995年に宣教師と英会話の教師として日本に引っ越しました。 今西宮にあるクロスロード西宮という国際の教会に行っています。どうぞ、そのホムページを見てください:
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