Tuesday after the Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Isaiah 58:1-14 (NKJV)
1 “Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.
2 “Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; They take delight in approaching God.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’ In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exploit all your laborers.
4 “Indeed you fast for strife and debate, and to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, to make your voice heard on high.
5 “Is it a fast that I have chosen, a day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
6 “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?
7 “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?
8 “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.
9 “Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 “If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday.
11 “The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
12 “Those from among you shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.
13 “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words,
14 “Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
Again the Lord confronts Old Testament Israel, this time through the prophet Isaiah. For what? They were designing their own external ways to serve Him—fasting in sackcloth and ashes and using the Sabbath Day for personal pleasure—while ignoring the service He actually called for in His Word. Then they were shocked and dismayed when God didn’t praise, thank, and bless them for their self-chosen, self-gratifying forms of worship. For this the LORD rebukes them and calls upon them to change their thinking and their ways.
We, too, in the New Testament must beware of self-chosen, self-gratifying forms of worship. God has told us in His Word the things that please Him, like trembling at His Word (Is. 66:2), and showing love, kindness, and faithfulness toward our neighbor in his need. These are the things God would have His people busy themselves with.
Even in showing such love our goal must not be to earn God’s grace and favor, as the Israelites were trying to do with their acts of worship. Indeed, true works of love and service can only flow from faith in the God whose grace has already been earned for us by Christ. As we confess in Article III of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, “The chief worship of the Gospel is to wish to receive remission of sins, grace, and righteousness.” Faith, which is born of God’s Word, and love which is born of faith—these are the ways in which God wants to be served and honored. In these the Christian will find true blessing.
We pray: Almighty and everlasting God, give us the increase of faith, hope, and love, and that we may obtain that which You promise, make us to love that which You command; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord. Amen.